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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Parents and Their Deaf Children: The Early Years

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WARNING SIGNS, IDENTIFICATION, AND REACTIONS TO A CHILD’S HEARING LOSS

Warning Signs
Many of the minority parents reported that their first suspicions of hearing loss emanated from a home test such as pot banging or vacuuming or from suggestions of family members or caregivers. For example, one parent’s babysitter suggested that the child was slow to speak. The following couple described their initial suspicions:

Wife: We called him, and I told him he’s lookin’ at the TV and I’m calling his name, when he was 2½. He didn’t want to turn around.

Husband: I got a pot, and I banged on it, and he didn’t respond. (Interview 2)

Another mother reported this incident:

Well, it was between 7 and 9 months. Umm, something dropped in my room, and I felt he should’ve, it should’ve startled him. So he was laying on my bed, and when I laid beside him and I said something in his ear, and he never responded. So that was my first, I had never ever suspected that he was hearing impaired. I always thought up until that time that he was a hearing child. (Survey 17)

Yet another mother explained the efforts the family made to get her child’s attention:

As far as the hearing part went, um, the only way we could get his attention is if we pounded on the floor . . . and then it would gather his attention, and he would turn around and look at us to see what we would want. But, uh, yeah, it, I think at 11 months, we finally said that something definitely is wrong, and we went and had him checked out. (Survey 76)

Identification
When the parents contacted their medical or audiological professionals about their suspicions of hearing loss, the actual identification of the hearing loss was sometimes delayed because the professionals told them that they were “overly worried” or “paranoid” or that reliable hearing tests could not be performed on young children. A dismissal of parents’ concerns by medical professionals was common among White and minority respondents alike. Although it is not unique to minority parents, this experience is important for understanding how and why many children with a hearing loss are identified quite late. The national survey results indicate that the age at identification was significantly later for Hispanic (27.2 months) and Asian Pacific (26.8 months) children than it was for Black (20.6 months) or White (21.4 months) children. One mother de-scribed her experiences this way:

So I took him to the pediatrician, and he said, “No, there’s nothing wrong with him. You’re just a worried mom. This is your first child, and you know, you’re paranoid.” And I kept taking him back and kept saying the same thing, “I think something’s wrong with his hearing.” I would do my own little hearing tests around the house. I’d bang pots and pans together. Sometimes he would respond, and I would think, “Oh, OK, he can hear.” Then other times he wouldn’t respond. But anyway, I kept taking him back to the pediatrician, and finally he said, “To make you happy, I’ll send you to a specialist.” And he sent us to an ENT [ear, nose, and throat specialist]. (Survey 185)

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