Equipping Families of Children With Hearing Loss With the Power to Choose

By Hearing First Team October 15, 2015

"Hearing First" | listening and spoken language, powering potential, mission

Advances in hearing technology and early intervention have redefined what’s possible for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. As parents envision the future they want for their baby and choose the approach most likely to get them there — they need access to complete information about the options and outcomes. Learn how informed choice helps families make the best choice for their child.

No one knows your baby quite like you do. No one is more familiar with your baby’s rhythms and routines. No one will better distinguish her hungry cry from her sleepy cry. Some days it may feel like there’s a lot that you don’t know about your baby yet — but ultimately, no one will be more committed to that child than you are.

For many families, the news that a child is deaf or hard of hearing can come with a world of unknowns. With 92% of children with hearing loss born to two hearing parents, there may be no family history or familiarity with options or outcomes. Confidence that you know what’s best for your baby may dip as you wonder what life will be like or what the future might hold.

Feeling somewhat overwhelmed and uncertain is normal in such new territory. Fortunately, there are professionals out there who can provide you with the information and guidance you need to discern what is best for your baby.

One of the most important (and most immediate) considerations for parents of a child with hearing loss is to envision the future they want for their child. Knowing this will guide you in choosing a communication approach that will best position you and your child for that future. Many parents find information on communication approaches to be conflicting and confusing, making it a difficult task to select the best option for their little one. Thinking about what you want for your child will help you get started. Here are 4 common questions we hear from parents facing this decision:

1. Who is best qualified to make decisions about my baby’s intervention?
Believe it or not, you are! When it comes to the decisions about your child’s hearing loss that will need to be made — you are your baby’s best advocate. Professionals, other parents, and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing may all have strong feelings about the best way for your baby to learn and communicate. But ultimately, these are not their decisions. These are your decisions. As parents you have the right and responsibility to decide the best course for your baby. Envision the future you want for your child then take the steps that will lead to best achieving that future.

2. How do I know if I’m making the choice that is best for my child and family?
The best way to make sure you are making the best choice for your baby is to insist that you be given access to complete information about the outcomes that are possible today. It’s okay if you don’t feel fully qualified to review this information and make this choice. Consider sitting down with a qualified early interventionist who can discuss today’s outcomes and your options without bias. Learn as much as you can about the different communication outcomes, consider what best fits your unique circumstances, and then trust your instincts.

3. What is informed choice?
Informed choice is the process of choosing from options based on complete and accurate information. Getting started on the option that supports your vision for the future is important, and you deserve a strong understanding of all the options available to your child. Sometimes parents are presented with limited choices because the professionals supporting them are not aware of what is possible for children with hearing loss today — or because there are preconceived notions about the correct course. We believe that as your baby’s parent you will make the best choice when you can make the most informed choice.

4. How do I get all the information I need to make my decision on where to start?
Making the decision for your child will require access to timely, unbiased, relevant, and culturally sensitive information. Where can you find that information?

  • Start by talking to a qualified professional. A qualified early interventionist or a professional with expertise in Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) will discuss the choices your family will need to make and talk about communication approaches. That person should listen to your concerns and get to know your goals for your child. A professional partner will use this understanding to help your family make the choice that is best for your child. Click here to find a qualified LSL practitioner in your state.
     
  • Next, gain insight from others who are experiencing the communication option that you are leaning towards. It’s always helpful to talk to someone who has walked a mile in the shoes you’re considering wearing! If LSL is an option you’re considering, groups like the AGBell Association and InfantHearing.org may be able to connect with other parents.
     
  • The Internet has its value, but know that many families find information online may be biased, conflicting, or confusing. A quick Google search may be a standard practice for parents hoping to learn about their child’s hearing loss, but be mindful of the credibility and consistency of the sites you visit. Organizations may use different terms or express opposing points of view. If you can navigate those challenges, you may find blogs and virtual communities with useful facts and personal experiences.

Time is of the essence.
Whatever approach you choose, it’s important to act quickly for the sake of your baby’s early brain development. Information gathering takes time, and time is especially precious when making this important decision for your child’s future.

Once you have chosen an approach for your child, find the most qualified professional possible for the communication option you have chosen and move along that journey as quickly as is possible. We believe that if parents are given complete and accurate information, more children will have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We have developed a guide to help families evaluate if Listening and Spoken Language may be right for their baby.

"Hearing First" | listening and spoken language, powering potential, mission

About the Author

Hearing First Team At Hearing First, we want all children to benefit from the availability of newborn hearing screening, the advances in technology, and the early learning services in their communities. We want all children to have the opportunity to take advantage of access to sound – a critical building block for future success.