How To Explain Deafness/Hearing Loss To Children
As a mother, the thought of needing to explain to my children about deafness/hearing loss never once crossed my mind.
I assumed that the knowledge of deafness/hearing loss would come naturally as they were raised by Deaf parents strictly in American Sign Language. To my surprise, that did not happen.
From a young age my daughter, Coral believed that her parents could hear her. She would yell for us from another room. Sometimes, we happened to go to wherever she was by coincidence and sometimes we didn’t. She never really ask questions about that.
Until she got older, she never gave relying on paper and pen, our phones, gestures and sign language to communicate with others a second thought. She didn’t question why we rarely used our voices to speak with others. However, that does not mean our house is quiet. It is super loud. We are LOUD even when we sign, especially during an intense conversation. Just like other households, there is plenty of noise.
Coral doesn’t know of a different way to live, because this is her life.
When she got a bit older, I reminded her frequently that if she needed something from her parents, she needed to go to us instead of shouting our names.
She could tap on our shoulders, stomp on the floor, flick the lights, wave her hands at us or go right in front of us.
Coral agreed and she did all of those. At the same time, it didn’t really resonate with her to only do those I suggested. She continued to shout our names or made noises to get our attention as well.
I remember when she started questioning my hearing ability.
On a regular basis, I told her that I can’t hear her if she did this or that. As an example, we pretended to talk through toy phones. She told me to go to a different room with my toy phone. I informed her that If I did that, I wouldn’t be able to chat with her because I can’t hear her. Another example, she played her favorite song and sang along with it. She waved at me to join her and I told her I couldn’t hear the song. However, I could pretend to sing along! Over time, my hearing loss resonated with her.
She started asking about what I could and couldn’t hear. She tested my hearing ability by doing a variety of things.
Her favorite game to play is to talk/whisper in my ear and ask me if I could hear what she was saying. Another favorite game of hers is to place a noisy toy right by my ear to see if I heard that.
Now, Coral is five years old, she knows that her parents are Deaf. She knows her little brother is hearing just like her. She also learned that they are CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults). She loved to test my hearing ability from time to time but she no longer yells to get my attention.
Throughout the journey, I realized that it was not simple to explain to young children the whole concept of hearing and deafness.
I am not sure exactly why that concept is a bit difficult to understand. Maybe it is because deafness is a hidden disability. It is not something that is clearly visible to the people around you like a missing limb.
I learned that I had to be creative with helping Coral to learn about deafness/hearing loss when she was younger. I tried looking it up online yet I did not find much information available. So, I thought I’d share some tips from what I had learned through my journey. Maybe these tips would help you to explain deafness/hearing loss to your children, your children’s classmates, or whomever you need to explain to.
Teaching children about deafness and hearing loss may be a challenge but it is worth it.
Children would gain an understanding of what is involved with a deaf person and everyday issues he/she may go through on a daily basis. It would help them appreciate the differences.
It would also educate them that children or adult with hearing loss are not that different from them. Deaf children and adults have the same interests such as a favorite cake flavor, playing silly games, or laugh at the same funny facial expression.Children learning about deafness/hearing loss helps to normalize the sight of people chatting in sign language, hearing aids, cochlear implants, an FM unit, a sign language interpreter, hearing dogs, and so on. Click To Tweet
I know that what worked for my daughter may not work for yours, therefore I am adding a number of suggestions along with some books from Amazon. I am actually ordering some of these books for my family to read! Since the sight of deaf people and ASL is normal in our household, we do not need to implement things to encourage Coral to grow accustomed to them. So, these books could help your children with that.
There is also one more book that I would love to get for my family! It is called BOY and it is being sold by Usborne Books. I’ve heard AMAZING things about this book! Buy this book from your local Usborne Books consultant.
- Young children love to play games so why not let them learn about hearing ability through a game?!
One game could be having your child wear earplugs, a headphone or just simply holding their hands over their ears. Have your child turn around against you. You could say something behind their back and wait for their response. Turn them back toward you and explain that you can’t hear even without covering your ears.
- Educate them about how hearing works and show them the anatomy and the physiology of the ear.
If possible, obtain hearing devices such as old hearing aids, cochlear implants or an FM unit and have them physically touch and manipulate the devices.
- Show them some Youtube videos of what hearing loss and the hearing devices sound like to deaf/hard of hearing people like this or this.
There are plenty of videos online with hearing aid, cochlear implant, FM unit or just hearing loss stimulation. You could also share videos of sign language interpreters interpreting an event, a concert or a video.
- One of the most common questions I got from children is, “Can you hear me if I SPEAK LIKE THIS?” “What about NOW?!”
You could have your child do something really loud behind your back and discover that you could hear that! Explain that some people could hear some things while others can’t. Play that game back and forth and experiment with different noise levels!
- Teach your children how to sign and explain to them about people who rely on sign language to communicate.
I would have children pretend to chat with me by waving their hands and making up signs. This is a great time to start teaching them some signs to use as they are understanding the concept of using their hands to communicate.
Oftentimes I meet hearing people who had fond memories of doing songs in sign language or fingerspelling the alphabet as a young child.
Sometimes, they said it was inspired by a deaf or hard of hearing classmate. These people have a better understanding of deaf people and their culture. Almost everyone I’ve met knew of someone with hearing loss (a relative, an old classmate, a celebrity, a football player, and so on).
Let’s help your children to have the same fond memories about deafness/hearing loss and sign language!