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Kids with hearing loss get their own super 'hearo'

Contributed by | Friday, November 7th, 2014

Kids with hearing loss now have their own super hero, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Ronald Hoffman, the director of the Ear Institute and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

Dr. Hoffman and his team, along with the Children’s Hearing Institute in New York, partnered with a division of Marvel Comics to create

Every kid deserves a super hero. Thanks to
Dr. Ronald Hoffman, his team and the
Children's Hearing Institute, children with
hearing loss now have a super hero to call

their own.

Sapheara, a super hero who has cochlear implants. Sapheara fights alongside Blue Ear, another super hero who wears hearing aids.

“We wanted the pediatric patients to really revel in the experience of having a super hero all their own,” said Melissa Willis, executive director of the Children’s Hearing Institute in New York.

Dr. Hoffman, an ear specialist and surgeon, said he’s seen a lot of kids bullied for being different in his 35 years of working with kids with hearing loss. The comics, which have story lines designed to educate children about hearing instruments, will be distributed to approximately 150,000 children in New York. Hoffman said he hopes the comics will “enlighten children” and “promote tolerance and decrease bullying.”

Children and hearing loss

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 2 or 3 of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with hearing loss in one or both ears. More than 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents. As of December 2012, approximately 38,000 U.S. children have received cochlear implants.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), there are four ways hearing loss impacts children:

  • It causes delays in speech and language development.
  • Speech and language delays cause learning problems and interfere with academic achievement.
  • Communication difficulties lead to social isolation and poor self-concept.
  • It may have an impact on vocational choices.

The earlier hearing loss is identified and treated, the less of an impact it makes on a child’s development. That’s one of the main reasons hospitals perform hearing screenings on every newborn. If a hearing loss is detected, the parents are connected with hearing healthcare professionals and social service advocates in their community.

What to do if your child is bullied about his hearing loss

Children who wear hearing instruments are often the target for bullying by their peers. As many as 30 percent of children in grades 6 through 10 have been bullied; those with differences such as hearing aids or eyeglasses are twice as likely to be targets.

So how can you help your child deal with a potential bully? In a July/August 2012 issue of Volta Voices, Krystyann Krywko, Ed.D. gives parents tips for helping their children become more resilient to others who bully them about their hearing loss.

  1. Be aware of your own feelings about your child’s hearing loss. Children are perceptive and may internalize negative feelings, inadvertently making them believe there’s something wrong with them.
  2. Talk about friendship. Make sure your child understands what a friend does and what they don’t do. Invite your child’s friends to the house and be aware of how they play together and talk to each other.
  3. Help them develop appropriate responses. Teach your child a few key words and phrases to help her explain her hearing loss to others. Keep the responses simple and age appropriate.
  4. Build friendship skills. Practice social skills, such as making small talk, complimenting others and using appropriate body language.
  5. Help your child discover their talents. Acknowledge their abilities and discuss how these talents contribute to social groups.
  6. Make connections. Look for opportunities for your child to develop friendships with children who have normal hearing as well as those with hearing loss in and outside of school through a variety of groups and activities.
  7. Make a plan. Research shows that children who reported and discussed bullying with an adult were better able to deal with the behavior than those who didn’t. For that reason, help your child develop a plan to deal with bullies. If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you, identify another adult who would be willing to listen and take their concerns seriously.
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