Acknowledging the needs of children with mild hearing loss…

I was surfing, and found a post about a recent study and article, called: Effect of Minimal Hearing Loss on Children’s Ability to Multitask in Quiet and in Noise“.  The full text in a PDF format, and more info can be found here: http://lshss.asha.org/cgi/content/abstract/39/3/342
The abstract reads:

Effect of Minimal Hearing Loss on Children’s Ability to Multitask in Quiet and in Noise
  – Brittany McFadden, Andrea Pittman, Arizona State University, Tempe

Purpose: The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of minimal hearing loss (HL) on children’s ability to perform simultaneous tasks in quiet and in noise.
Method: Ten children with minimal HL and 11 children with normal hearing (NH) participated. Both groups ranged in age from 8 to 12 years. The children categorized common words (primary task) while completing dot-to-dot games (secondary task) in quiet as well as in noise presented at 0 dB and +6 dB signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs). It was hypothesized that the children’s progression through the dot-to-dot games would slow as they encountered more difficult listening environments. This hypothesis was based on the theory that listeners have limited cognitive resources to allocate to any combination of tasks.
Results: The dot rate of both groups decreased similarly in the multitasking conditions relative to baseline. However, no other differences between groups or listening conditions were revealed. Significantly poorer word categorization was observed for the children with minimal HL in noise.
Conclusion: These data suggest that children with minimal HL may be unable to respond to a difficult listening task by drawing resources from other tasks to compensate.

I found this article very interesting… a little discouraging… but, mostly I am glad that this is being researched and that the needs of children with mild hearing loss is being acknowledged. >
The article mentions:

In fact, several studies have reported that children with minimal HL experience many of the same difficulties as those experienced by children with more severe HL (Davis et al., 1986; Kenworthy et al., 1990).  Unfortunately, there remains a prevailing perception among physicians, parents, and teachers that the consequences of minimal HL in childhood are likewise minimal.

That last sentence rings very true for me. I was guilty of it myself.  For years I believed that my son was “ok”. Better than “Ok”, and that his hearing loss wasn’t a “real” issue. Can you say, “Denial” ?.

Actually, it’s more than denial.  It’s called “Positive Coping”.  
I learned about that also when my son was in third grade and I suddenly realized that he really did need some help. I read more about it in articles like “hard of hearing children: STILL OVERLOOKED” – and realized that was exactly what had happened with my son. I read the following:

“The Double Edge of “Positive Coping”
Responding parents also described important positive coping abilities that they and their children had developed. The interviews showed parents’ acceptance of their child’s hearing status and their attachment to and admiration for their children as unique individuals with talents and endearing characteristics. These children are meeting and surpassing their parents’ expectations:

  • “She’s a wonderful, outgoing little girl. She’s got lots of personality and a strong love for animals…She’s a wonderful kid and I think deafness is part of her personality.”
  • “She’s very outgoing, on the go all the time…She’s always very bright, very seldom sad…She’s basically the light of my life… coming along very well.”
  • “He’s very energetic and active and a real good singer. He’s got a wonderful personality, likes other kids, and he’s a character. People really enjoy being around him. Loves…vehicles and anything he can take apart and explore, loves the outside. “

Paradoxically, the positive coping skills developed by hard of hearing children sometimes contributed to their difficulties. These children typically communicated very well in one-on-one and face-to-face interactions, and their good lip-reading skills tended to mask the extent of their hearing loss, lulling parents and teachers into believing that they understood more than they did.”

Yup.  That was what happened with us alright!  
I didn’t even realize my son COULD read lips until third grade when I found out he was reading them constantly and was really pretty good at it!  I was so wrapped up in what a great kid he was… how smart he was…how GREAT he was doing… that I didn’t realize what his hearing loss really entailed or that he needed some help. 

I suppose all parents want to think their children are “just fine”.  Fortunately, I think most parents also have a stronger need to help their child if they are struggling with something – to take care of them. 

We can’t do that, however, if we don’t first accept there is a problem? Or two or three. Because really, the “problem(s)” are not just my son’s hearing loss, but also my own (and others) misunderstandings, the “system’s” that don’t work, and much more.  Once problems are identified and acknowledged, we then need to strive to understand them, and find out what needs are there,  and how best to meet those needs. 

We can’t rely on doctors, teachers, and schools to tell us what our HOH children need (unfortunately).  Nobody will ever know our child like their own mother can.   And, if we don’t know beans about what their exact issue is  – then, we sure as heck better try to educate ourselves and learn about it.  Only then can we help educate our children, and those that play a part in our lives (teachers, friends, family).   We must advocate for our children with the hopes that someday they can advocate for themselves.

I’ll get off my soap-box – but, I wish somebody would have told me all that when my son was first diagnosed with a hearing loss.  Then again, it’s just common sense, isn’t it?  I mean, don’t we ALL have issues to deal with? And, isn’t the first step in dealing with ANY issue or problem to first acknowledge there IS an issue?

Live and learn… and live some more… and learn some more…

I hope Brittany McFadden and Andrea Pittman continue their research and continue to bring these issues out in the open.

debcny

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13 Responses

  1. Fantastic article–thanks so much for visiting my place and for your comments–it’s always so good to connect with other people who have walked a similar path.

    Would love to have you as a guest post over at my place some time. We had a similar experience of slapping the hearing aids on 4 of 8 and thinking this would resolve everything–ha. I have a similar passion to inform parents about hearing impairment in children and am so thrilled to see your site.
    Here’s another post about 4 of 8
    http://www.octamom.com/search?q=frame+by+frame
    about our recent evaluation.

    I look forward to checking back here–thanks again!
    Blessings!

  2. SO glad to make your acquaintance!! I’m adding you to my blogroll right now, and I’ll be back to read through all your posts. At this point I can definitely say AMEN TO THAT, SISTER!! Especially this: “Paradoxically, the positive coping skills developed by hard of hearing children sometimes contributed to their difficulties. These children typically communicated very well in one-on-one and face-to-face interactions, and their good lip-reading skills tended to mask the extent of their hearing loss, lulling parents and teachers into believing that they understood more than they did.”

    Girl, I could go on and on. But alas, too much to do and not enough time to do it in!! Have a great day!!!

  3. Octomom –
    Hello! THanks for the visit and kind words. Sounds like you have some really good people working with you to help 4of8. That is awesome. I felt so much better once I was able to get in touch with the right people… I saw your other post too, with 40f8’s story. Amazung. They do teach us a lot, don’t they?? ;)

    kathryn,
    Thank you also for stopping over and the nice comment. I hope you do come back. I don’t have too much up here yet.. but, hope to add more soon. Like you said – never enough time! =)

    debcny

  4. OMG!!!

    I am sitting here in shock with myself as I realize that I am (be it completely unknowingly) using “positive coping skills” with my daughter. She has a profound unilateral hearing loss and wears a BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid).

    I know from her teachers and schoolwork (she is in Grade 1, mainstreamed and not on an IPP), that she is doing well, but I also know in my heart of hearts that in the future (i.e. jr high and high school) that she will more than likely run into problems (either academically or socially) that we really won’t know how to deal with. I am now hoping that we are not putting too much pressure on her to succeed in spite of her hearing loss, and we don’t miss the signs that she is struggling.

    My eyes and mind have been opened thanks to this article. Thank you.

    ~Michelle Symes

  5. Hi Michelle =)

    Thanks for your comment. I checked out your website a little bit, and your daughter truly is gifted, amazing and beautiful! I could relate to much of what you wrote about when she first started hearing things. We went thru similiar experiences when AC got his first HA’s.

    “Positive coping” isn’t really a bad thing, unless we do it so much that we don’t recognize when there is an issue… sort of going in to a denial of sorts. I don’t think it’s a matter of not putting too much pressure on them to succeed – but more just trying to understand what they need to succeed, and then trying hard to advocate and ensure they receive it.

    It wasn’t until 3rd grade that AC seemed to start struggling a little. I mention on our background page (https://hearmehearmenot.wordpress.com/background/):

    “I even found an article that talks about how 3rd grade is a common time for kids with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss to start having more problems in school – due to “more complex verbal instructions, and less visual clues”. Makes sense -”
    See: https://www.msu.edu/~huffma23/

    Using the FM sytem is crucial for AC at this point. He probably should have been using it all along in school… as it increases his hearing the teacher dramatically. But, the school wasn’t going to give it to us, until we pretty much demanded it. And, on their behalf, they really didn’t know much about hearing loss or what he needed either. How could they when he was the only kid in the school who had mild-moderate hearing loss?

    Your daughter surely won’t have the exact same issues… or maybe they will start later. Maybe never!? Who knows?! But, it helped me a lot once I stared learning what were “typical” issues, and what to look out for.

    Anyway – hope you check out some more info here… or elsewhere… and keep in touch.

    Take care,
    debcny

  6. It is good thing that somebody started research on this.
    Otherwise, many of us would have overlooked it and become unaware of our children’s predicament.

  7. Does unilateral hearing loss fall under the category of minimal hearing loss, if not, under which category does UHL fall?

  8. rizwana – hello. =) thanks for visiting, and my apologies for my delayed response. I am not an expert on UHL, but, I would think it would depend on the degree of hearing loss in the affected ear – regardless of whether hearing in the other ear is “normal”. I like this chart for a quick explanation on the degree of hearing loss:
    http://www.phonicear.ca/resourcefiles/DegreeOfLongTermHearingLossToPsychosocialImpactAndEducationalNeeds.PDF

    I don’t have too much info on UHL – but, it mentions in this article: rticle: “http://www.handsandvoices.org/articles/tech/minimal.html

    “How does a unilateral or mild loss affect hearing? Hearing only with one ear makes it extremely difficult to know where sound is coming from, and to know who in a group of people is doing the speaking. Background noise, especially noise which is coming from the “good” side, often masks important auditory information. Very mild sensorineural losses may make it difficult to hear the softer, higher frequency sounds in speech. While this may not be a huge problem for an adult, it may interfere with a child’s ability to learn language in the first place. English has a number of such sounds which are grammatically important, such as the /s/ used for plurals and possessives and the /ed/ of the past tense. ”

    Also – you may be interested in the comments that were posted on https://hearmehearmenot.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/mild-hearing-loss-or-add/, from another mom who has a child with unilateral hearing loss. If you scroll down, there was some back and forth about it… and some other links posted that might be helpful…

  9. my daughter has mild moderate hearing loss… i am crying a lot… can’t help…

    • Asha, I’m sorry you are having a hard time. The initial shock IS hard to take, and of course none of us want our child to have to struggle or deal with any kind of “loss”. Please keep in mind that this article and many of the “scary stats” out there pertain to kids who have hearing loss and it is NOT addressed.

      How old is your daughter? and, when/how did you find out? Is her hearing loss part of another condition and what type of hearing loss While it is hard, it is great that you at least now know and can make sure she gets what she needs. She doesn’t have to be one of those “scary” statistics…

      Matter of fact, this blog is very much outdated – and I would like to say that my son, AC, is now 14 years old. He’s in his Freshman year of high school and he is doing just fine. Better than fine. He’s GREAT. He plays cello, guitar, runs Cross Country, is active in Scouts, AND is in all accelerated classes… getting mostly A’s…. and, yes, he wears hearing aids and uses the FM in school.

      As time goes on, we see his hearing loss as not so much of a problem as it is just a part of him that needs to be taken into consideration and somewhat managed.

      I hope this website helps… please feel free to vent and visit here…

  10. thanks deb… she is only 11 weeks old.. we go for a sedated abr next week.. she has mild sloping to moderate on high frequencies.. i worry a lot about her every single second… i want her to go to a regular school and have a normal childhood like how we did.. thats all that i want,, i want her to achieve academically… i dont want her hl to stop her.. we haven’t broken the news to anyone yet.. i am scared how to do so… i dont know.. i really don’t.. ur blog is comforting.. god bless u and AC…

  11. she passed her right ear in the newborn test, but not left.. the next day she passed left ear and failed the right.. then we went for another in 2 weeks where she failed the test both ears.. she had a diagnostic abr which showed mild moderate loss.. her readings are 25,35,45,60 in both ears…

  12. Asha – It’s ok. You have a right to be upset. I was too initially. This is your baby… and, of course, as mothers, we want them to be perfectly fine. I get it. I think I went through a bit of a mourning period myself back then… like mourning the loss of that “perfect” child or something. But, the truth is – there is no “perfect” child… or scenario. Every child… ALL of us – have our issues… difficulties… whatever.

    Please know that your daughter still CAN do all of those things you mentioned! My son is mainstreamed, and is doing great. I know of kids who had more severe hearing loss, and decided to attend school for the deaf – and they are ALSO doing great. It boils down to finding out what will be best for her – which will be an ongoing and continual process, first for you, and then for her. But, her hearing loss does not need to define her… it’s just one part of what will make her the wonderful child she is and will be.

    Actually, I don’t think hearing loss… or being Deaf… will stop anyone. It’s only when it’s ignored, or misdiagnosed, or not understood, that it becomes a problem. Which is why they started screening newborns… to nip those problems and “scary stats” in the bud. Your daughter has the wonderful advantage of knowing from the start about her hearing loss. You can find out, and then make sure she gets what she needs from the start. We have the advantage of technology and so many resources now available that help… and you have TIME on your side with this early diagnosis. She won’t have to struggle as many undiagnosed children have in the past – being accused of “not listening, or following directions”, and failing as a result… or whatever. You can make sure she hears/sees/feels every “I love you” from you and be proud of exactly who she is.

    I’m sorry for rambling… it’s been so long since I went through when we first found out about AC.. but, it all still comes back so fast when I think about it… but the bottom line is, I want you to try not to worry so much… and to know that it’s ok. She’s ok.

    You might find useful info and links in the comments on my other post: https://hearmehearmenot.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/hearing-loss-effects-difficulties-stats-ohmy… and, if that, or anything else you find on this blog helps in anyway – I am glad.

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