The CHOICES Delaware team is proud to have launched Iwantmybabytohear.com, a resource for parents of children whose infant or child has recently been diagnosed with hearing loss.
This site is designed to help parents like you understand the 21st century medical process of identification and treatment of hearing loss in infants and children that allows for the development of speech and language.
Because of your child’s condition you will be confronted with new medical terms related to testing of hearing, descriptions of different kinds of hearing loss, and the need to visit individuals of different medical subspecialties. You will be asked to consider the educational direction that will be most supportive of your hearing impaired child’s eventual speech and language development.
We have aimed to use the simplest most straightforward explanations of all of these concepts so you can better understand what your doctor has told you, and be better prepared for visits with hearing health experts. We hope that this information will dispel some of the pain you are feeling around the discovery that your child has a hearing loss.
Let us start by saying that you and your child are lucky you are living in the 21st century! As recently as 30 years ago there was little that could be done to help a child with severe to profound hearing loss, other than learning sign language and attending a school in which all instruction was conducted in sign language. The Deaf community graciously extended its arms to generations of children like yours.
In recent years, technology has allowed for earlier detection and treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids, speech therapy and cochlear implants. These early interventions have allowed the great majority of children with severe to profound hearing loss to develop speech and language and to eventually attend regular schools. Early treatment means speech and language development will occur and have a direct impact on educational performance. How? Listening skills allow you child to sound out words, which leads to spelling ability and to reading. Reading in turn leads to vocabulary and concept development. In a mainstream school with listening and spoken language skills your child can achieve his potential as limited only by his intellectual ability and not his ability to hear.
Thirty years ago your child would have been sent to a sign language school for the deaf where achievement levels are very low, partly because English is a second language. Sign language used for instruction is the first language. Sign language does not offer the ability to sound out words in a way that promotes spelling, reading and vocabulary development.
Because 30 years is a relatively short period of time, shorter than the careers of many people working in medicine or deaf education, it is possible you will encounter individuals with dramatically different views about what courses of treatment and what type of education you should be planning for your child. It is unfortunate and unfair for you, a vulnerable parent who desires only to provide the best possible for your child, to be caught between persons or institutions with opposing views. You live in the 21st century and deserve 21st century treatment.
In the 21st century hearing loss treatment is directed by medical doctors and supported by education specialists. If you want your baby to hear, to develop spoken language, and to achieve his intellectual and career potential you will need to make critical decisions in tandem with your doctor and other hearing health care professionals now. These professionals include medical doctors who are specialized in the treatment of pediatric hearing loss, audiologists, speech and language pathologists and educators who have special training in techniques for developing listening and spoken language skills in hearing impaired children using hearing aids and cochlear implants.