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How Emotions Impact Hearing Loss | What Parents Feel The Most.

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Teach-babies-sign-langugeHearing Loss Is Devastating To Any Parent

The Impact Of A Child’s Disability Is Emotional To All

Parents are often told, after recently completing a child testing diagnostic process, that “you have the same child that you went into the testing booth with – it’s just that you’re looking at him/her differently now. By this I mean that the ‘problem’ at this time is the parents problem, not the child. For the parents, it’s a grief reaction; the impact of hearing loss is devastating! They’ve lost the child they thought they were going to have and the life they expected to live.

How Emotions Impact Hearing Loss | Baby sleeping

Baby born with hearing loss

This will invoke for the parents many feelings of loss. For the child, there will be feelings associated with the hearing loss, but these will not be one of loss as almost all children with hearing loss have never heard normally or have no memory of hearing.

These children have little or no concept of what they’ve lost. In the past, I’ve compared the parental loss to a death, but I have begun to see that this is no longer accurate.

In a death, there’s finality to the grief, there’s a burial and life can go on, albeit with pain and loss. With hearing loss the grief is chronic, lived with 24/7. The child is a constant reminder to the parents of this loss.

No matter how well adjusted the parents seem to be to the reality that their child has a hearing loss, there will be trigger events that remind them of the loss and those initial feelings of pain and sorrow return.

Triggers can be as simple as a birthday party or the anniversary of the original diagnostic evaluation. What seems to happen after the initial pain of the diagnosis is that parents learn to live in a bubble of “normal” hearing loss and adjust to understanding that hearing loss is a disabilty of their child. So they go on each day trying not to think about it.
The trigger events remind them just how abnormal their life really is and what they’ve lost.

Newborn Screening


With the advent of newborn screening the diagnosis of hearing loss is, in most cases, going to be before the child is three months of age. The very early diagnosis seems to be a mixed blessing.

In a recent study at Emerson College, parents of children with hearing loss were asked if they would have liked to know at birth, if their child had a hearing loss. The majority answered “yes” (83%) and gave some of the following reasons:

  • We could have offered earlier amplification or sign language, how-emotions-impact-hearing-loss-what-parents-feel-the-most/instead of silently moving mouths;
  • Because I would have had more time to give the very important communication she missed for two years;
  • Only because of a better understanding

Those parents who said “no” (17%), they would not have liked to know their child was hard-of-hearing, gave the following reasons:

  • I guess I was glad that I knew at 2 days so we could get started on what we needed to do, but I missed having the bonding time;
  • Parents need to bond with the infant before getting swept up in the issues of hearing impairment.
  • Not knowing immediately gave us (Mom and child) a time to bond normally, but I’m also thankful to have found out before 6 months;
  • She was too sick. Knowing at birth would have been too depressing.

My experience with parents is that those who found out that their child had hearing loss at birth, are grateful that they found out so early; but regret that they didn’t have time to enjoy their baby.

They had to hit the ground running and couldn’t delight in their newborn. It seems to take a while for the early diagosed parents to recognized their loss.

At first, gratitude for the early start dominates their thinking. It’s only when they have time to reflect that they realize what they’ve lost.

Parents with a later diagnosis often felt guilty that they had taken so long to get started and did not always appreciate the time spent thinking of their child as normal hearing.

They think of this as wasted time. I often assure them that they got a great gift in that they had this time to enjoy their child. The consensus among parents is that the most desirable time to have found out their child had a hearing loss was after three months and before six months.

Unfortunately, most screening programs are not designed to detect hearing loss after three months of age because of the difficulty of locating parents of newborns after they leave the hospital and the expense of setting up equipment in every pediatrician’s office.

Much training and effort needs to be continuously expended to provide audiologists and hospital personnel with not only the technical skills to diagnose hearing loss in very young infants, but also to develop the skills to support the infants of the parents at an emotionally vulnerable time.

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Author:Ronald Kennedy

Ron attended the Art institute of Chicago in 1980 and Harold Washington College in 1997. He graduated from Malcolm X College in May, 2000 majoring in 'Hearing Loss in America' and 'Children with Hearing Disabilities Around the World' (Ron has another interesting website, https://lovefolks.com regarding Love, Dating & Relationship). A Graduate of Malcolm X College in 2000 with an associate's degree in applied science, Ron also worked with the 'Chicago Area Autopsy Service' which is affiliated with the Medical Examiners Office, near downtown Chicago. The service covered all the local and suburban hospitals when reports of a death is called in.

6 responses to “How Emotions Impact Hearing Loss | What Parents Feel The Most.”

  • Allie July 12, 2018 at 10:02 pm Reply 

    Hi Ronald, Thank you for this article it is very interesting to read how different people deal with finding out their children have hearing difficulties.
    I have a small child and currently everything seems on track in terms of her development but as a parent you always worry.
    I was struck in your article by the comments about not wanting to know about a disability until the babies are a bit older so they can bond normally – I can see how this is true but it seems sad because I would hope that you can bond just as well with a baby with hearing difficulties as without.
    Do you have any tips for parents in these situations?

    • Ronald Kennedy July 13, 2018 at 3:53 pm Reply 

      Hi Allie, and thank you for finding some value in my post. Concern is a very common and natual feeling displayed by parents regarding their child’s development in life. If your child is born without any disabilities, Thank God for that (many parents aren’t so lucky.)

      I feel parents don’t want to face the truth regarding the difficult challenges which lie ahead when it boils down to disabiities. That’s why they delay things. To answer your question: Recognize problems and situations that first occur and hande it. Get an early and better understanding of your child’s heath development. This, in turn, will make communicating and bonding (regardless of being hearing impaired or not) much easier down the road.

  • Danette July 15, 2018 at 8:55 pm Reply 

    I very much appreciate your sensitivity to parents in this situation. Whenever a child has some sort of disability, the parents experience unique and difficult emotions. Thanks for pointing out the need to recognize this and to offer support.

    I’m curious — how did you first become interested in learning about hearing loss, particularly in children?

    • Ronald Kennedy July 16, 2018 at 5:52 am Reply 

      Hi Danette, thanks for checking in. When a devastating illiness hits a family regarding their child, the response and reaction are usually the same, but still to some degree different. Some respond quicker than others, then others may keep postponing things until the situation is untreatable. (Those are the ones who can’t face reality). In regards to your question, I studied this subject in college after seeing friends with disabled children struggle with treatment and support. There were also individuals on my job with hearing disabilities.

      In addition, my stepdad’s hearing went and my mom was very slow to recognize this. This bothered me. Again, everyone is different to respond within their given situation.

  • Kevin E Beasley July 24, 2018 at 11:50 am Reply 

    Very informative information regarding child hearing loss. Glad to know that someone cares and is investing in a parent’s response to this otherwise devastating issue!

    I have never considered what it might be like to experience the hearing loss of a child.

    Did you have a child with this problem? How did you become so knowledgeable?

    Thank you…

    • Ronald Kennedy July 25, 2018 at 6:34 am Reply 

      Thank you my friend Kevin for checking in. Issues such as deafness in children should be addressed more vocally because I feel there’s not enough info out to educate parents in a more detailed manner.

      I thank the Good Lord my children came out fine, but some friends children didn’t. I’ve done my research and found about 2 to 3 out of ever 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears. More than 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents. I’ve worked with partially deaf parents in the work force as well. 

      Over the years, in all different areas, I noticed folks signing to each other with children in tow. So I studied ‘Hearing disabilities in America’ (along with other subjects) and earned my Associates degree. This is how I became interested in this subject.

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