How necessary is it to help family members adjust to hearing loss in the family? The answer: very. You want to involve family members when a child experiences hearing loss. Even a mild loss can lead to many difficulties that a child may need help with. This means you should actively involve grandparents and other adults as well as your child’s siblings. While siblings may start off as playmates when they are young, they will become many more things to each other as they age and develop.
An article by the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities says, “It is an important concern to any family that the nondisabled sibling adjust to the sibling with a disability. It is important because the nondisabled child's reactions to a sibling with a disability can affect the overall adjustment and development of self-esteem in both children.”
The truth is that often brothers and sisters can be overlooked when parents are trying to determine who needs help adjusting to a child with a disability such as hearing loss. It may be assumed that they will just adjust on their own or that it will not be a critical issue. However, children with a disability such as hearing loss can powerfully affect their brothers and sisters and it is very important to help their siblings adjust. It can be difficult for children to adjust suddenly to a new brother or sister who may require a large portion of family energy—from time and money to psychological support—because of his or her condition.
So, how can you help your child’s siblings adjust to hearing loss?
Your children may not fully understand what you mean when you tell them that their brother or sister has a hearing loss (and the younger the child is, the harder it can be for him or her to understand). However, they will definitely notice and understand if you are anxious or upset, and will be affected by and react to your mood. Likewise, your ability to be upbeat and optimistic will also impact your children and encourage them to react the same way.
Every child will react differently, but the age of the siblings will play a part into how they adjust to hearing loss in the family—and, of course, responses will continue to change over time. Younger children may be confused or angry, or may even mimic their sibling as they try to adjust to hearing loss. Elementary-aged children may feel ashamed or embarrassed—or even guilty because they do not have hearing loss. Older children may be more aware of outside responses and could initially have a more negative outlook. They could be more future-focused and wonder what their sibling’s future will be like. In general, school-aged children may be uncertain about how to deal with personal and possibly hurtful questions about their sibling’s hearing loss. The most important thing is that their parents are as open, honest, and instructive as possible. Help them be aware of the questions or reactions they may face, and help them come up with ways to respond to those things.
We hope this information has been helpful to you. If you have any concerns about helping your child’s hearing, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.