Those of us who work with children with hearing loss have learned good skills about identifying hearing loss, fitting technology, and developing speech and language. There is not very much in our professional training about providing support for children and families, or understanding the communication difficulties of our young patients. If we are going to help these kids be successful we really need to look at the whole child.
Social issues are common for children with hearing loss
Children with language delays can do well socially until about the middle of 2nd grade because early play is very physical. After the middle of 2nd grade language becomes a really important part of play activities. Games have directions which children have to understand. They need to understand idioms, sarcasm, and facial expressions. And they need to be here in noisy places. If children don’t have the skills, they will have difficulty having friends.
Audiologists have to work on being certain that children are hearing well enough and that speech perception is good – not an easy task. Therapists have to work on building language but also work on being sure children have idioms, sarcasm, and talking about facial expressions.
But let’s talk about what happens. Children and adolescents with hearing loss experience lower rates of peer acceptance, higher rates of peer victimization, social isolation, and loneliness. Children with hearing loss are less proficient at making and maintaining friendships compared to hearing peers.
With early identification, and better technology, language is improving for children with hearing loss. But we still have to remember that language is critical. And all of us need to remember that this is an issue. We need to be sure that we all check language every time we see kids. Therapists need to test more than language age.
Audiologists need to check more than speech perception and basic language. We need to ask about friendship. Ask about bullying. Get a sense of happiness. And then act on it.