So the first tips on setting up a communication rich environment for your little one come down to the home, and setting everything up to be as ‘acoustically friendly’ as possible. Not all of these tips will be relevant or practical for everyone in an ideal world, but they might give you some ideas to think about to make things easier for your child with hearing loss. So here it goes, communication tips for the home…
- The most obvious tip here is eliminate or reduce background noise in your home that makes it harder for a deaf child to hear. Avoid the radio or television being on when it’s not being watched. On another note, if you use speakers for your stereo or the television, avoid turning up the bass, as this can make sounds even more muffled. Perhaps if there is a noisy conversation going on in another room in the house, you could close the door while you speak to your little one. Consider appliances like the dishwasher or washing machine; if they are making a noisy racket, shut the door so your child can focus and hear you properly.
- This one can be tough but try to put in soft furnishings wherever possible, especially if you have high ceilings in your home. Echoes and reverberations do not make for the best listening environment for a child who already suffers from hearing loss. Pick curtains over hard blinds, carpets and rugs over wooden, tiled or marbled floors, and whether your husband likes them or not: cushions, cushions, cushions… It all helps!
Think of Light
- Even if a child only suffers from a mild hearing loss, they will likely learn to lip-read and depend on facial expressions to an extent to help understand and/or contextualise what you are trying to communicate. Having strong light behind you can make it uncomfortable and difficult for a deaf child to be able to see your face or gestures. Try not to sit with your back to the light, so for instance, avoid having sofas placed in front of windows, or strong down lighters directly behind common areas where you play or communicate with your little one.
- Especially if you are teaching your child sign language, visual cues are highly important for developing good communication skills. Avoid clutter that can distract your child from what is going on so they can focus on your gestures and lips as you speak. When it comes to sign language, this tip can also be useful in choosing less fussy and more simple clothing.