As a parent raising children and teenagers with hearing loss, you’re bound to encounter some challenges. Remember you’re not alone! We know people who have been there, along with industry experts, who would be happy to share their thoughts and advice. So if you’ve got a question, send us a message and we’ll be happy to help you out!

Sad Child

Q. “My 15 year old daughter just doesn’t want to wear her hearing aids. What can I do?”

Your teenager’s decision isn’t an uncommon one. It’s true that young children may choose to not wear their hearing aids or use assistive technologies, but this is most often a question of physical discomfort (i.e. they aren’t yet “used” to using/wearing them), or they may be navigating through the earliest stages of building their autonomy. However, the teen years can be fraught with dozens of mini-meltdowns, personality crises and similar hormone-related crossroads.

Parents aren’t necessarily without reason to worry when their kid decides to leave their assistive technologies in their locker; the stats on the life challenges and health-related difficulties facing people who are deaf/HH can be startling. One 2007 study from the Canadian Family Physician noted several barriers in access for deaf/HH people to health care and education, while noting that, in some cases, assistive technologies can play a big role in improving your kid’s chances to be well, happy and successful in an unaccommodating world.

So what to do? Take away the Xbox? Not quite, says Norah-Lynn McIntyre, the executive director of VOICE, an advocacy organization for deaf/HH children and their families: “Often what we see is that when children become adolescents, they don’t want to be perceived as being different from their peer group; anything that centres them out, they will shun. Ideally, the kids have to understand and appreciate the benefits of the technology on their own.”

However, if your kid clamps up to no avail, one option is to seek help from a social worker or trusted counselor. The point here is to open up a space where your child can talk about how they feel about themselves, and to promote environments where they can feel successful, welcome and happy.

Suffice to say, that environment might be outside of school, at least for some. Many parents of deaf/HH kids speak about the importance of their kids knowing other kids with similar issues. Another strategy is to encourage extracurriculars – a multitude of studies on youth success, whether they are deaf/HH or not, emphasize their importance in building the foundation for a confident, fulfilled teenager.

“If the child has an activity that’s theirs, where they feel they can shine and boost their self-esteem, it can make a world of difference,” says McIntyre, whose daughter found horseback riding to be her time in the sun. “If’s often in those places outside of school, that can be far more supportive and nurturing, where they can find community.”

Navigating “difference” as a teen can be painful, and at times feel insurmountable. However, the vast majority of kids return to their assistive technologies. Instead of worry, offer your teen a little support, encouragement and understanding.

*If your child is struggling with their identity, and coping with their hearing loss, there’s lots of help available. Here are some organizations offer specialized counseling for children and youth with hearing loss, or can refer you to someone that can help in your region.

VOICE – Offers advocacy and parent support, as well as a network of active parents for support.

The Canadian Hearing Society – A variety of services including counseling, referrals, language development for children, etc.