Good communication is a vital parenting skill, and is key to building self-esteem, empathy and mutual respect. Listening to your child gives them a sense of security and helps them to feel their needs are important. For any parent, being an active listener can be difficult at times; for hard of hearing parents, even more so. The good news is that there are a number of strategies that can help. Father’s Day is right around corner, and in honor of this special day, here are some communication tips to help keep you close to the little ones in your life.
Communication issues for hard of hearing parents
Seventeen percent of adults in the US have some degree of hearing loss, according to the Deafness Research Foundation. Many of these people are parents, and–as the greatest amount of hearing loss is found in the 60 to 69-age group–many more are grandparents. What kinds of issues do hard of hearing parents face?
We now know that untreated hearing loss affects not only the person who is hard of hearing but also their family members, who may feel frustration, anger and sadness at how difficult communication with their loved one has become. These are particularly common emotions in adult children with hard of hearing parents. Studies show that treating hearing loss with hearing aids can re-open channels of communication and help to repair damaged relationships. But even for parents and grandparents who wear hearing aids, issues will arise that need to be addressed. In their article “Young Children in Families with a Parent with Hearing Loss”, authors Deborah Wolter and Kathleen Quinn note a few of the most common ones, including:
-A low level of dialogue between children and their hard of hearing parents
-Hard of hearing adults relying on older children to interpret for younger kids
-Failure to hear a baby or toddler crying at night, and to be able to identify the cause
-Difficulty understanding a child’s soft voice
-Whining, frustration and tantrums when children cannot get the adult’s attention
-Children leading parents, or relying on gesturing and pointing instead of talking
Strategies for understanding:
Eye contact, gestures, and closeness
If you are hard of hearing, you will need to teach your little one techniques for talking with you so that you have the best chance of understanding each other. Face-to-face communication should always be the first option: ask your child to tap you on the shoulder and say your name loudly and clearly before speaking to you. Kids are great at eye contact, so take advantage of it! You and your child should get in the habit of staying close and looking at each other’s faces while speaking. And though you don’t want to rely exclusively on gestures, a simple smile, nod or pat on the shoulder will help your child to feel that you are fully present, and you understand and appreciate them.
Technology that can help
Sometimes face-to-face conversations aren’t possible, such as when children are sleeping or playing in a different part of the house. In these cases, other assistive hearing technologies can be useful, in addition hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Parents who are concerned about not hearing the cries of their baby or child at night can invest in a vibrating or flashing monitor that can alert them to any sounds coming from their child’s bedroom. Other devices include a bed-shaking alarm system and a wearable band monitor that can light up, vibrate or both. If you are curious about what kind of baby monitors are available for the hard of hearing community, check out this list of the best baby monitors for deaf parents, here.
In a car or noisy restaurant, when loud background noises muffle the sound of your child’s voice, a frequency modulated (FM) system can be helpful. The FM system loop can be attached directly to your hearing aids; your child will wear a microphone receiver. If your child needs to tell you something in the car but you don’t have an FM system, try to wait until you are fully stopped at a stoplight to respond.
Trained hearing assistance dogs can be a great addition to a household with a hard of hearing parent. These canine helpers are specially trained to alert you to danger or when your child needs your attention, and can also assist with balance if needed.
Make time for quietness
Talking is important, but so is silence. As a hard of hearing parent, you need to take time out of every day to give your brain and ears a break from the task of listening. This essential time away to rest and recharge your batteries (and maybe your hearing aid batteries too!) will help you to be an active listener the rest of the day, without getting too worn out. Let your kids know in advance, and if possible take this break at the same time every day–kids love routines! Tell your children you are taking your hearing aids out, and if they need your attention they can tap you on the shoulder or write you a note. Older children with their own phones can send you a text message.
At other points in the day, quiet all surrounding noises and give your children your undivided attention. Turn off the TV and avoid phone calls and other distractions. Your kids (or grandkids) will love having your full focus on them, and filling this time with imaginative play, games or stories will allow you to connect and communicate with them on many levels.
At Hearing Health, we provide comprehensive hearing services, from tests to hearing aid fittings. Stay connected with your loved ones by contacting us for a consultation today. From all of us at Hearing Health, we wish you a Happy Father’s Day!