by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A concerned mother asked:
Our audiologist has said our 6- year-old daughter might benefit from using an FM receiver in the classroom since she is almost deaf in one ear. My husband and I are unsure if this is a wise course. If we introduce hearing devices early in her physical development (she is only in Grade 1), are we preventing her brain from learning to compensate for hearing loss in one ear? Will we make her dependent on a device unnecessarily, or are we sparing her from years of frustration and lost learning opportunities? Thank you so very much for your advice.
If your daughter had a bad eye, would you prevent her from wearing glasses so she could learn to live with the good eye compensating for the bad one, or would you have her wear glasses to help her see the best she can, even though she would be dependent on glasses for the rest of her life?
I think you know the answer. The same applies to ears. Let her use any and all devices that help her hear better, and thereby avoid making things unnecessarily hard for her. It is hard enough coping as it is when you only hear in one ear.
In fact, several studies have shown that children with single-sided deafness do poorer academically in the classroom than their hearing peers. Thus you want to get her all the help you can so she can perform at her real “mental” level, rather than at her lower “hearing” level.
She will have plenty of opportunities to learn how to cope with single-sided deafness in her everyday life. For example, if she sleeps with her bad ear up, she won’t hear the alarm clock, or you calling her to wake up. If she learns to sleep on her other side with her bad ear in the pillow, then she will be able to hear anytime in the night with her good ear.
When riding in the car, she should sit with her good ear towards the center of the car—not to the window. This way she will be much better able to hear what people are saying in the car. Similarly, when walking with friends, she should walk to the left of her friends (assuming her left ear is her deaf ear) so her good (right) ear is towards them. Little things like this can make all the difference in her ability to hear and understand in everyday situations.