Some children who have a hearing impairment have another disability too. There are early intervention services specifically for infants and preschool children with hearing impairment and other disabilities. These children and their families will need support from a team of professionals, not only those who specialise in hearing loss.
Building communication and language skills
If your child has a hearing impairment, he might use spoken language, sign language or a combination of sign and spoken language to talk. These are called communication modes.
Even with the best technology, learning to communicate with spoken language for children with severe or profound loss is really hard work, takes many years and doesn’t always succeed. The most important thing for your child’s development, and for your relationship with your child, is being able to communicate. Delaying this while waiting for your child to become a good hearer and speaker is a risk.
Some children find it hard to learn spoken language, so manual signing or sign language will be the best choice for these children. But this doesn’t mean that only children who find it hard to learn spoken language should learn to sign.
In fact, many families choose to teach their child to both speak and sign, regardless of whether the child can use spoken language. If this is your family’s choice, you and the rest of your family need to learn sign language too. This is because the best way to support language development is lots of parent-child interaction, which can happen only when you speak the same language.
You can ask the health professionals who are caring for you and your child for more information and support to learn sign language.
Listening devices to help your child
If your child has a mild to moderate hearing impairment, there are special devices that can help her hear spoken language. And when she can hear spoken language, your child can start learning to use language herself.
The right type of device for your child will depend on what type of hearing impairment he has and how severe it is. These devices, called amplification devices or assistive listening devices, include:
The more severe your child’s hearing impairment, the less benefit she’ll get from hearing aids. Children with more severe hearing loss might benefit from cochlear implants.
Your child might use one device, or a combination of devices listed above. Using a combination gives your child more opportunities to hear sounds because each device does a slightly different job. Your child might also use these devices in combination with spoken language and sign language.
Most children with hearing impairment use assistive listening devices on both ears.
Early intervention services for children with hearing impairment
The earlier you find out your child has a hearing impairment, the earlier he can begin therapy and have language to communicate with. It also means you and your family can get advice and support as soon as possible, giving your child the best start in life.
It can be hard to know what to do when you first find out your child has a hearing impairment. Through early intervention services, you can work with health professionals who’ll help you learn how to spend time with your child in ways that support her development.
The team of professionals who might be involved in supporting you and your child includes audiologists, speech pathologists and special education teachers.
Learning as much as possible from your speech pathologist and audiologist will help. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Forming a relationship with these professionals means that they can continue to work with you and your child as he grows and becomes more independent.
If you need more information about hearing impairment, good places to start are:
Children learn the most from the people who care for them and with whom they spend most of their time. When you learn some tips for playing, connecting and communicating with your child throughout the day in ways that encourage her hearing and development, it can help her a lot.
Services and financial support for children with hearing impairment
Many services and supports can help your child achieve his potential. But finding your way through the disability services system can be tricky. Our Disability Services Pathfinder can help.
If you live in a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) trial area and your child has a confirmed diagnosis of hearing impairment, your child can get support under the NDIS. The NDIS helps you get services and support in your community, and gives you funding for things like early intervention therapies or one-off items like hearing aids.
If you don’t live in one of the NDIS trial areas, your child can get funding under the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative. If your child is eligible for the NDIS, she’ll be moved over when it becomes available in your area. Read our NDIS and Better Start FAQs for more information.
Looking after yourself
Although it’s easy to get caught up in looking after your child, it’s important to look after your own wellbeing too. If you’re physically and mentally well, you’ll be better able to care for your child.