Parent-child connection is the strongest among all relationships. From the moment of birth parents start providing love and attention to a child. Even though children at very young age do not understand the point of communication, it is important they feel it, therefore parents try to interact with them from the very beginning. From this interaction and communication children develop spoken language, and all the other development later on. But what happens if a child has a very poor or no ability to hear? How do they interact or communicate? How do parents take this event and cope with the fact? Well, some people adjust to hearing loss very well, whereas for some, momentum of acceptance seems to be a lifetime experience.
As a degree of hearing loss varies, the treatment is also different. There are different kinds of technological devices that increase the level of hearing; such as cochlear implants and hearing aids, there is also sign language as a method of communication usually for those who have no hearing at all. Some individuals benefit from hearing aids and develop spoken language, but individuals with basically no hearing usually undergo the surgery of cochlear implants for enhancing the ability to hear. Hearing aid or cochlear implant, the process of learning to hear is time-consuming and requires a great deal of effort. Parents have to go through unbelievable experiences, they have to make crucial decisions and in some way risk their decisions.
Below is the video that gives a brief idea on the importance of communication in hearing impairment as well as the obstacles parents of hearing impaired have to overcome for achieving ”success”. Of course it’s hard to generalize the whole topic from this brief video because of the limited number of interviewees, but the video serves the idea of reflecting what is said and written in this feature.
Karina Olsson tells a story of her deaf daughter and the obstacles they experienced due to her unexpected deafness. As Karina explains it, the idea of knowing nothing about the ”obstacle” her child had faced was terrifying at first: “We knew Lisa wouldn’t be able to hear and we knew nothing about deafness”. Since they had to choose a method of communication, the process started with number of tests, Lisa consequently received hearing aids, though she did not benefit due to the strong hearing loss, deafness.
Accordingly they had to choose sign language as a method of communication; though it was time-consuming they learned and started to sign. Shortly after Lisas diagnosis, Karina learned about cochlear implants, she became very interested and kept intensive contact with cochlear implant team. Eventually Lisa received a cochlear implant surgery on one ear, which turned out to provide the greatest result for her. Today Lisa talks very well, although they used signing language at the beginning, as Lisa received a surgery they’ve started to interact with spoken language as well.
When it comes to a decision on education, in Karinas case she was against the idea of letting Lisa go to integrated school. As she explains it, Lisa would need a full time assistant there, and as a parent she tried to protect her from further difficulties at school. Regarding the risks of decision making according to Karina there is no right or wrong, there is only an instict of a parent: “I still don’t know if I made the right decision of not letting her go to integrated school, but you never know, or how can you?”, she adds.
However, the story of George Akin was different from Karinas. Although his sons’ – Alexanders hearing loss was also unexpected, they have learned about it when he was three years of age. “It was completely unexpected and as you might guess, it was totally devastating”, he said.
The hardest decision for the family was to make a decision, cochlear implants or hearing aids. As Alexander has a severe hearing loss, he was a good candidate for a surgery. Although the family didn’t want to rush into the decision, delaying the surgery was also risky, because the earlier the surgery is performed the better the results are.
Eventually they’ve risked and decided to start with hearing aids with an intensive auditory verbal therapy (AVT). AVT is focused on spoken language and listening to sound, without any signing language. After six months, Alexander’s spoken language was almost at the same level as of an average hearing childs’. And after a year and a half he was already speaking two languages fluently, as a regular bilingual child. According to George and his experiences the final success depends on the degree of childs’ hearing impairment as well as on the cognitive development of a child, “but with an effort from the family and childs’ co-operation, everything’s possible”, George added.
According to Berth Danermark, a professor of sociology, although hearing impairment does not necessarily includes the lack of communication, the method of communication is very important. As Danermark states, the lack of communication triggers isolation and eventually it causes further psychological complications.
So in the end, every situation and problem is different, but what matters most, is to gather the strength, accept the problem, move on and achieve the success. Let’s hope everyone succeeds the way Lisa and Alexander did.