The majority of children with hearing loss have parents and siblings with normal hearing. Because the family’s hearing is normal, understanding and empathizing with the child that has hearing loss may create a challenge. New research indicates that engagement by the family of a child with hearing loss is vital to early development and academic success for the child.
Accepting that a child has a hearing loss is the first step in family engagement. Parents of children with hearing loss often ask themselves questions such as:
- Will my child have any friends?
- Will they be able to succeed academically?
- Is independent self-care possible?
- Can my child find a spouse or a job?
These are valid concerns and certainly not unusual. It is essential that these parents share their experiences with parents who have met with similar struggles. It is also vital that these families be active participants in the hearing healthcare of their child.
The literature indicates that early intervention with children with hearing loss improves outcomes. Although this is a huge step forward, it is not enough according to a recent study. According to the findings, family engagement is an indicator of a child’s development. Various research has determined that the families of children newly diagnosed with a hearing problem lack information and support. There are a few reasons for this problem including:
- A lack of education in the best ways to encourage family involvement
- Family engagement is not part of the provider’s clinical goals for the child
- Health care complexity and low resources which make it challenging to support methods of improving family engagement
Hearing healthcare providers, understandably, spend a large portion of their time addressing hearing loss and the ways to treat it. Going forward these providers need the knowledge to engage families in the process.
Family Support Is Critical
The success of a hearing device such as a hearing aid or a cochlear implant depends upon the level of support the child gets beyond that of the clinical setting. Any stressors and limited financial resources that the family may endure directly impacts the level of engagement. The study authors believe that the solution is a multi-disciplinary team that understands the needs of the family and provides early interventions that directly align with those needs to improve family engagement. These interventions will lead to better treatment outcomes for the child with hearing loss.
Hearing healthcare teams that include a variety of practitioners work together to find areas of concern, and then construct a plan of care to address those problems. Interventions may consist of individual or group therapy, mentoring, and family activities.
Families of children with hearing loss have difficult questions and may find it challenging to understand the needs of their hearing-impaired child. Research is addressing the possible reasons for limited family engagement and is seeking to find solutions. It is clear that family engagement is vital to a hearing-impaired child’s development.