Hearing Loss and Preschool Confidence

star-wars-hearing-aid-retainersHearing Loss at Preschool Age

Since getting his hearing device fitted years ago, I thought I had a lot of ‘ears’ conversations with our boy covered, but hearing loss and preschool confidence seems to be proving a different and new challenge. Every Christmas since our son, Brandon, has had hearing aids, I make him a specially themed hearing package of his favourite characters, shows and colours. He loves his hearing aids and wears them all of the time, but this year, things seem to have changed a little…

The Hearing Package

This year, aside from How to Train Your Dragon, Brandon’s big thing has really been Star Wars, so I figured I’d make him a Star Wars children’s hearing aid package. I was so excited. BB8, R2D2, stormtroopers, Darth Vader… he was going to love it!

Christmas Eve, opening up the present, I watched with anticipation… His response, ‘Oh, I thought I was getting a proper present.’ As much as he enjoyed looking through the characters and choosing them, as much as he treasures his hearing aids and can’t bear to be without them for any amount of time, his attitudes towards his hearing loss are changing.

Preschool Worries

The truth is, since our little boy has turned four and is going to preschool, most things are changing. He’s learning more, socialising more, and his attitudes towards his hearing loss and his ears are definitely very different to last year.

Since September when he started his new preschool, every day when he gets ready, he has chosen which retainer set he wants to wear. His keyworker asks to see what he has and he’s excited to show her. He enjoys the attention and talks about which are her favourites.

But today when I asked him if he was going to show her, I got a slightly different, less excited response. ‘I want to show [her], but not the boys. A little boy pulled out my ears.’  Many children with hearing loss enjoy  attention from the teachers, but don’t want to be noticed as different by the other kids – and he doesn’t want them to notice his hearing aids and especially not to touch them. It was tempting to feel panicked and even annoyed, but the truth is I figured my response would likely have far more of an impact on him than the actual event…

Over the last few months, stories of preschool have been riddled with descriptions of what he couldn’t hear and worries about whether others have heard him. ‘I like my dinner but I can’t hear with the music on’, ‘I can’t hear the teacher when she’s talking to everybody.’ ‘I don’t like the hall because I can’t hear anybody.’ 

Any advice? 

I have almost no advice on how to give children confidence in wearing hearing aids around other children, especially as we’re still only just at the start of Brandon’s journey from childhood to adolescence. 

But as worried as it makes me to see that his feelings about his ears and his hearing loss are starting to be inextricably linked to other children’s opinions of him, that might not be a wholly bad thing. He is growing up and starting to care about the other children more – he wants them to see him as part of their group, because they are his friends, and he doesn’t want to miss out on hearing everything that’s going on because he enjoys the environment. Those things are all important and in many ways, actually positive.

So when Brandon tells me about his preschool day, I smile and tell him to make sure he tells a teacher if anyone takes out his ‘ears’ or the music is too loud, and I tell him that of course other children will want to look at his hearing aids and retainers, because they’re awesome! I assure him that it’s brilliant he’s making friends and that I’m proud of him.

But after all this, admittedly, I walk away and secretly stew over everything for days on end, because that’s what pretty much all parents do… 

If you are a parent of a deaf child and have any advice you’d like to share on how to promote confidence at preschool, it would be much appreciated. Feel free to leave any comments below.