Communication Considerations for Parents of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children
On this page:
hearing impairment affects not only a child who is deaf or has a hearing
loss, but also the child’s family, friends, and teachers. For hundreds of
years, people have debated the best ways to develop communication skills and provide
education for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
Here are a few points upon which scientific and health professionals, educators,
and experienced parents commonly agree:
Why should my newborn’s hearing be screened?
The earlier that deafness or hearing loss is identified, the better the chances
a child will acquire language, whether spoken or signed. A hearing screening can
be an important indicator of deafness or hearing loss in a child. For this reason,
all infants should be screened while still in the hospital or within the first month
of life. But children who do not pass their screening need to go for a follow-up
examination. The follow-up examination includes precise audiological testing that
confirms the extent and type of hearing loss. It also allows parents, health professionals,
and teachers to determine the best intervention strategy for the child. The term
intervention refers to the different steps that families can take to overcome communication
barriers caused by a hearing loss. When intervention is introduced early, the child
can take advantage of the unique window of opportunity during the first few years
of life when a person acquires language, whether spoken or signed.
Each child is unique
Each child is unique. It is important to understand the full nature and extent of
a child’s hearing loss or deafness. It is also important to understand how
each family member and caregiver will communicate with the child. Get to know the
services that are provided in your community for children in preschool and elementary
Should I optimize any residual hearing?
Optimizing residual hearing may be advantageous. Children may benefit from hearing
aids or cochlear implants. This is a decision that you should discuss with your
child’s healthcare providers and other professionals who work with deaf children
and language development.
Explore your options; work with professionals
Exploring the options and, if possible, working with professionals in teams can
be beneficial. Your child may visit a pediatrician, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose,
and throat doctor), an
audiologist (hearing specialist), and a
speech-language pathologist (specialist in speech and language disorders).
Some otolaryngologists and audiologists are specially trained to work with infants
and children. They are referred to as pediatric otolaryngologists and pediatric
audiologists. Ask each professional to inform other professionals who work with
your child about your child’s visits. Coordinated care can be a big help to
you and your child. Many parents find it useful to include educational and social
service professionals on the team.
Interact with your child often
Parents should interact often with a deaf or hard-of-hearing infant. All of the
caregivers in your child’s life should interact with him or her as much as
possible. You can do this by holding, facing, smiling at, and responding to your
infant from the very beginning. Children need love, encouragement, and care from
their families and caregivers.
Work with your child’s teachers
Teachers who are experienced in working with deaf and hard-of-hearing children can
help parents understand how to improve long-term outcomes for a child. Talk to your
child’s teachers. Get to know the educational system your child will be entering
and the services it provides for children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Organizations and federal agencies can provide helpful information to families of
deaf or hard-of-hearing children. Consult the resources below, and see what information
they can provide. Several offer differing perspectives on the best way to develop
the skills and talents of your deaf or hard-of-hearing child. Many of these Web
sites are updated frequently, so you may want to bookmark them on your Web browser.
Where can I get more information?
NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations that can answer questions and provide
printed or electronic information on communication considerations for parents of
deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Please see the list of organizations at
Use the following keywords to help you search for organizations that are relevant
to communication considerations for parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing children:
For more information, additional addresses and phone numbers, or a printed list
of organizations, contact:
NIDCD Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Toll-free Voice: (800) 241-1044
Toll-free TTY: (800) 241-1055
Fax: (301) 770-8977
NIH Publication No. 00-4393
Updated October 2002