Sunday, March 14, 2010

Part Two: Hearing Aid Stigma

Today's post is the second of a three part series based on the research paper, Are 1 Million Dependents with Hearing Loss in American Being Left Behind?  By Sergei Kochkin, PhD; William Luxford, MD; Jerry L. Northern, PhD; Pam Mason, MED; and Ann Marie Tharpe, Phd.  Last Sunday's post, the first of the series, covered denial.

According to the research paper, "about a third of parents" said their own embarrassment or their child's embarrassment kept them from pursuing hearing aids for their child.  Written responses from parents articulated the feeling that hearing aids are "really only for old people" and hearing aids are "ugly" and "too noticeable".

There is a stigma associated with wearing hearing aids.  People that notice the aids assume my daughter is completely deaf.  I've witnessed well meaning adults that slow their speech or dumb things down when they're presented with a kid wearing hearing aids.  These misunderstandings are easy to remedy.  A person only needs to talk to Julia for a few minutes to realize she is neither deaf nor slow. 

I know that there might be teasing because of Julia's hearing aids.  There might also be teasing because she has curly hair or likes to wear dresses.  Kids pick on other kids.  All we can do as parents is to give our children strategies to deal with criticism.  It's not a great strategy to ignore an educationally handicapping disability so bullies have one less thing to tease about.

A better response is to educate your family and your child's classmates about hearing aids.  Give your child the confidence to explain their hearing instruments in a matter-of-fact way.  Let them know that they are in no way limited by their amplification. 

Remember that doing nothing about even a mild hearing loss will adversely affect your child's performance in school.  That has its own stigma to worry about.

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