by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A mother wrote,
My 3 year old daughter has profound hearing loss in both ears. She is currently using digital hearing aids and has therapy regularly. Lately, we have discovered that she has lost more hearing in her right ear, and has stopped responding on that side.
I am at a total loss on how to proceed at this point. Her lack of hearing has now affected her speech. I’ve read about cochlear implants, but I am not sure if CIs would be a good option, or even whether she would be eligible for a CI.
You have written that you have a severe loss, but in spite of that, you went to school and earned a couple of doctorates. Please teach me what I can do to make my child’s life better. I want her to have a future.
Of course you want your daughter to have a future, and with a caring mother like you, she will have!
The first thing you should do is check out whether you can get a more powerful hearing aid for her right ear if that will help. If not, since she has a profound hearing loss in her left ear, and hears little or nothing in her right ear, she is very likely a suitable candidate for a cochlear implant. This is something you should investigate now while the hearing regions in her brain are still “plastic”. If she gets a CI soon enough, she will likely develop her hearing (vocabulary) and speech almost normally.
In the meantime, you can teach her how to successfully cope with her hearing loss. There are many coping strategies. One important coping strategy, and one I used all though school, is speechreading (previously called lipreading). I learned to speechread on my own by always watching the faces of whomever was speaking, whether my parents, siblings, friends, classmates, teachers, etc. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on the floor staring up at people—trying to speechread what they were saying.
To make speechreading possible, when you talk to her, always get close—within a couple of feet—face her and speak slowly and clearly so she can speechread you. Make sure that anyone talking to her does the same. She needs to see what they are saying.
Don’t expect her to hear/understand you if you are close and facing her. It is also important to have adequate light when you are talking with her so she can clearly see to speechread. Obviously, talking to her in the dark is out.
Another coping strategy I used was reading. I was a voracious reader and used to read 3 full-length books a day PLUS do my homework all through middle and high school. That way I learned a lot from books that helped make up for the things I missed in school and in social situations. (My hard of hearing daughter was also a voracious reader while she was growing up.)
You also should investigate the many devices that are available to help her hear better, and the devices that can warn her about things going on around her (fire alarm, doorbell, phone, etc.) Assistive devices can generally either work alone, or with the t-coils on her hearing aids. Such devices are most useful in difficult listening situations such as in noisy places, or when she is at some distance from the speaker.
One short, easy-to-read book that will help get you started in the right direction is Talking with Hard of Hearing People—Here’s How to Do It Right!