How To Parent When You Have Hearing Loss

“Remember to face me when you talk to me.” “Can you speak a little bit slower?” “Please move your hands away from your mouth.” “Come here if you need to talk to me, I can’t hear you in another room.” “If I can’t see you, I can’t hear you.”

I sound like a broken record, even to myself. But what is my alternative? I need to teach my children how to speak to me so I can hear them. It’s not an easy task.

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This is not a new battle — my children are now 13 and 11 — but it is an ongoing one. They will remember some days, and forget other times. They are clear communicators for one sentence, but turn away for the next. It can cause sadness and frustration on both sides. I wonder why they can’t consistently speak so I can understand them, and they get annoyed that their nagging mom cannot hear them. It is a struggle, especially when they wave their hands at me in frustration and say, “Never mind.” That really gets my goat.

Maybe my expectations are too high. It is difficult for most adults to alter their speech patterns on a regular basis, why should I expect this from children? But on the other hand, childhood is the time when learning is easiest, and new habits are being formed daily. They have learned how to hold a fork, dress and bathe on their own, and many other things. Why can’t they learn to speak in a loud and clear voice so I can hear them? Some questions have no answers.

So what can I do to remain a patient and loving parent, while coping with the added frustration of hearing loss? Here are my tips. Please share yours in the comments.

1. Take care of yourself: Like they say on the airplane, “Put your own mask on before assisting others.” I practice yoga and meditate regularly to keep my body and mind as strong as possible. This helps me tackle the hard work of hearing and allows me to better manage my frustration.

2. Be persistent: Parenting is all about repetition, so this is not any different. I remind them and remind them and when they forget I remind them again. Keeping your voice neutral and calm during the reminders is critical, but not always easy.

3. Encourage them: Notice when they do something to help me hear and compliment them for it. Positive reinforcement can go a long way.

4. Forgive them when they fail: We all fail from time to time. Remaining angry is useless. I work on this one every day.

5. Pick your battles: You can’t expect perfection so use your reminders wisely. This will cut down on message fatigue, where they just tune you out.

6. Schedule important conversations: If there is something particularly important to discuss that isn’t timely, don’t take it on when you are exhausted at the end of the day. Wait for a time when you have better stamina.

7. Set boundaries: When your children are angry or upset, ask them to calm themselves first and then speak. Not only is this an important life skill, but it will also aid the communication immeasurably.

8. Practice: My children and I play lipreading games every so often. Not only does it perfectly illustrate my “I can’t hear you if I can’t see you” mantra, it is also fun.

9. Don’t forget to laugh: A joke can lighten a tough situation and set the stage to try again. Sometimes mis-hearings are pretty funny too.

10. Repeat what you did hear: This lets them know what part of what they said was unclear, lessening the amount they need to retell.

11. Keep your eye on the prize: Better communication with your children is the primary goal, not that they follow some specific formula for talking to you. Stay flexible and ask them what they think might work.

The good news is that children are very accepting. One day I asked my children if it bothered them to have a mom with hearing loss. They looked at me like they didn’t understand the question. It is all they have ever known.

Readers, how do you teach the children in your life to communicate with you?

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28 thoughts on “How To Parent When You Have Hearing Loss

  1. Funny… I misread the title of this article at first, and thought it was the children who were hard of hearing, not the parent! My son is hard of hearing, and I am constantly saying all of these things to him, to help him learn how to advocate for himself (and also I hate hollering from room to room in any case).

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  2. Thank them for helping me to hear them! I am so grateful when my children (who are now 23 and 26) make sure I hear them and help me hear others. They are compassionate and understanding and I let them know often how much I appreciate their assistance. I also make sure that I am doing everything I can to assist our communication, like using an FM system when it is appropriate. Thanks for writing a great article!

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  3. Yes I too went through a period of my son getting frustrated when I didn’t hear him.. He is a now a teacher and I can honestly say that his experiences with me have helped him to be a more understanding and compassionate teacher. On another note, I too love yoga but I can’t always understand the instructor( when my eyes are closed). How do you manage? Thanks

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  4. Shari, my child rearing days are long long past. However, the same wisdom applies to the relationship I have with my partner-in-life, who, like the child finds herself in that same situation. A child can be expected to learn a behavior and incorporate it into his/her lifestyle, or in a particular situation – as in when communicating with the mother or father. At least that seems plausible.:-) An adult (I am learning) can not be expected to overnight change their manner of speaking or speaking habits. My guess is that were you the fly on the wall here you would be amazed to discover that what goes on here is much like what goes on in your own home. My advocating for what I need in order to hear effectively does not stop at the door. The CI and now the Nadia Link HA are leading edge technology, but it still takes two to tango, so to speak. Patience, practice and persistence will never go out of style. Thank you for your advocacy.

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  5. Thank you for writing so clearly on these important methods. One I’d like to add is that I encourage my children, spouse, friends and others to address me first before they start speaking, that way I can be attentive and listen well when they are trying to communicate with me. This is important for me since my hearing loss is total on one side, and almost total on the other but it makes it unclear where the voice is coming from, since I have no ‘balance’
    and I have to look to see who is speaking before I can ‘hear’. Sometimes I have lost the first part of what they tried to say.

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  6. Thank you very much for your great article. Most of my children have grown and left the house, but they certainly have learned to ‘hear’ for me and see my ‘confusion’ when I am in a group setting and repeat for me something worth repeating. 🙂 Yes, there is always hope. One other comment would be that I stressed for them to get my attention by touching or waving or even calling my name (not yelling) before they start to speak. This way I can give them my full attention and not lose the first half of what they were trying to say.
    Thanks so much for your advocacy.

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  7. I’m no longer in my parenting young children days–mine are grown–but my husband is experiencing hearing loss and your tips are so helpful for me. Like your children, I sometimes get frustrated when he doesn’t seem to understand me and when he seems to be angry at me for “raising” my voice–which I do because he hasn’t heard me. It is a delicate balance and our grandchildren (whose voices are reedy thin and hard to hear even by the non-impaired) have a hard time adjusting. They don’t live near us so visits are occasional and the reminders–face me when you speak to me, etc–are that much more difficult to instill. But we’re all learning and getting better at it. We human beings learn to adjust.

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