Advocacy for Children with Hearing Loss

Jane Madell
September 9, 2014

Parents and others who work with children with hearing loss feel the need to advocate for the children. However, the most important part of advocacy is learning to advocate for oneself.

When children rely on others to advocate for them, they do not feel powerful. But when they are capable of advocating for themselves they feel good about who they are. They feel competent.

Even very young children can learn some self-advocacy skills. It is important to develop self-advocacy skills early. If a child does not do so at a young age, it becomes more difficult to gain these skills later on.



Pre-school children can learn to put technology on and take it off. They can put it into the “hearing aid box” where it will stay overnight. They need to be taught to recognize when the equipment is not working and to report it to an adult. They can be encouraged to ask for repetition when they do not hear or understand what is said.



By kindergarten, children should recognize that they hear better when they are closer to the talker, and they should be encouraged to move closer on their own. A kindergarten child should be able to ask for specific help if she does not understand: Please repeat, please speak louder or slower, etc.


First grade

By first grade, children should be able to let the teacher know if the FM system is not working, and should be able to use a pass mic to improve their ability to hear other children. They should understand the different parts of the hearing aid, cochlear implant, and FM system and be able to talk about what they do.


Second grade

Second graders should be able to report situations where listening is difficult, to recognize when something does not make sense, to begin to use communication repair strategies, and be able to perform basic troubleshooting.


Third grade

By the time they are in third grade, children should be able to develop self-advocacy strategies for difficult situations. They should be able to explain to the teacher how to use the FM system, and to have become better able to discuss when there is a communication breakdown.


Who teaches self-advocacy skills?

Everyone who works with a child with hearing loss should participate in advocacy training. Parents need to wait for children to answer and encourage them to ask for repetition. When the earmold comes out or the hearing aid falls off, we need to help the child make the repair and not do it for them.

We need to ask children if they heard what we said and understood it. If they say “no” we need to ask them what they are supposed to do when they do not understand, and encourage them to ask for repetition or clarification rather than just asking to have the statement repeated. When I ask a child a question, parents frequently jump in and repeat the question to the child “Jane wants to know…..”

That is not helping. It’s true that a child will definitely have an easier time listening to a more familiar voice, but he really needs to be able to communicate with a lot of people. It is a team effort. We all have to work on it.


More information about self advocacy can be found at



  1. Gael Hannan

    Learning to advocate for oneself is the most important “hearing loss skill” a person can learn. Teachers of students with hearing loss must make this a priority as kids are still leaving high school expecting someone to tend to their needs. It’s a shock when they go to university or start a job and find that “people don’t give me what I need”. Thanks Jane.

  2. School audiologist in Wausau WI, Dr. Nancy Propson Puetz, teaches her students how to use the hearing loop in their John Muir Middle School auditorium, how to use one for TV and how to find loops in other public places. For teaching her students to become better self-advocates Dr. Puetz was awarded the Wisconsin Audiologist of the Year award by the Wisconsin Speech, Language and Hearing Association.

  3. Parents and children have different responsibilities in the area of advocacy. Parents must decide things like school choice, mode of communication, when technology changes are required, but children need to advocate for themselves in many situations. Children need to report problems with technology, not wait for someone to notice. They need to speak up when they do not understand in school or in a play situation. They cannot wait for parents to do that for them or they will not be able to manage in school. Parents and audiologists can occasionally disagree about technology, such as selecting the appropriate hearing aid or CI, or about other matters. The responsibility of the audiologist is you give parents the information that they believe is correct. Parents then have to make the final decision. I know very few audiologists who would not do what was best for a child for fear of loosing a sale. Audiologists, especially when children are concerned, do what they believe is best.

  4. Thank you for this informative article. It is so important to teach our children to self-advocate from a young age. Recently when my son had a substitute teacher for a few weeks I realised that she was not making use of his FM system. In this I saw an opportunity to encourage my 7 year old to start self advocating in the classroom, the next day, he walked into class, connected his FM system and handed the trasmitter and microphone to the substitute – this has become his daily classroom routine and he now understands that it is his responsibility to ensure that his teacher’s use his FM in class since I am not as school with him and well, he needs to advocate for his needs.

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