Fighting Back Against Hearing Loss Bullying
Even if you weren’t bullied for having hearing loss as a child, odds are you know somebody who was. Hearing aids of the past tended to be clunky and highly visible, making students who wore them easy targets for cruel jokes and name-calling. While today’s hearing instruments offer a discreet and technologically advanced solution to hearing loss for all ages, many young people still face mistreatment for their condition. In fact, some studies suggest that of the 30 percent of students in grades 6-10 who have been bullied, those with disabilities such as a hearing loss are nearly twice as likely to experience bullying.
Over time, such bullying can lead to self-esteem issues and other insecurities about their hearing that can harm a child’s development. If your child has indicated that they are being teased at school or elsewhere, read on to learn how to build their confidence and give them tools to stand up to their bullies.
Most common signs of bullying
The signs of bullying for someone with hearing loss are not that different from those exhibited by those who are bullied for other reasons. If you notice any of the following behaviors or changes, it may be time to talk with your child about their hearing loss:
- Sudden drop in grades or overall lack of interest in school
- Displays of sadness or aggression after a conversation or phone call
- Remarks that feel inconsistent with their personality
- Decreased drive to participate in family or school activities
Have an open dialogue
If your child is being made fun of at school, there is a high likelihood that they are ashamed and may not want to talk about it. Paying attention to your child’s behavior will reveal changes in mood and sociability that may be linked to bullying. It is important to discuss the realities of their condition and determine whether they are being treated fairly.
Once your child opens up about certain comments or insults that have been made, you can try and explain what the bully’s perspective may be. Perhaps they don’t understand what makes your child different or have not learned what is appropriate behavior in the classroom. Be sure to stress that the issue lies with the bully, not the child, and that they should not feel embarrassed.
Discussing bullying at home won’t solve the problem, but it always helps to be honest with your child about their concerns and to show that they can feel safe discussing their hearing loss with you. In order to give your child a chance to defend themselves, try to come up with a system of coping methods that will help them deal with possible bullying situations in advance. This can include teaching them new phrases and vocabulary words about hearing loss so that they can explain their condition to others without feeling flustered or confused.
Know your child’s friends
Because of a desire to fit in with a group, many children may have experienced bullying and not even be aware of it. You can monitor your child’s friendships by asking them what they do or talk about when they are together and listen for any potential warning signs. If possible, try and invite your children’s friends over and watch how they interact. When a hearing loss is severe enough, a child may not recognize social or facial cues among their friends.
If you notice that the friendship feels unfair or one-sided, speak with your child about how a healthy friendship works and what an unhealthy one looks like so they can recognize the situation for themselves. You can also role-play with them to help them differentiate facial expressions, tones of voice, and body language.
Help your child discover their passion
Every child has a unique talent waiting to be discovered. By working with your child to develop a skill or passion early, you can boost their confidence and provide a sense of accomplishment. By finding success in a hobby, sport, or other activity, children will recognize that there is nothing that they can’t do because of their hearing loss, an attitude that will carry any child far in life.
Learn about hearing loss together
The internet and local libraries are great sources for materials related to hearing loss. By showing your child that there is an entire community dedicated to hearing loss, they will see that they are not alone and learn about all the amazing things people have done despite their condition. You can also go online and watch video blogs created by people with hearing loss to learn their stories and how they cope with bullying. The more your child understands hearing loss, the less they will see it as a hindrance.
Fight bullying in your community
If you support ending bullying and challenging the stigma against hearing loss, you can spread the word by sharing this campaign started by a mother with hearing loss with other parents in your area. You may also want to speak with your child’s teachers at the beginning of the school year to let them know about their needs. By starting a dialogue, you can help make your community safe and accessible for everyone regardless of ability.
Speak with a professional
We hope this list will be helpful as you prepare your child to face the world. If you have additional concerns about what your child’s hearing loss might mean for their future, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to discuss available treatment options and better understand your child’s condition. Our online locator will help you find a professional in your area at no cost.