You already know how important it is to
fill your child’s life with language. You want your child with UHL to clearly
hear all the songs you sing, the stories you share and the snippets of
conversations that make up your family life. As hearing parents, the things we
take for granted are not always easy for a child with UHL. But you can take
some steps to create an environment at home that will make it easier for your
child to listen.The three main barriers to understanding
speech for anyone with a hearing loss are:
- Distance from the sound
- Background noise
Distance from the sound
Loudness and pitch of sound, as well as the
distance from the sound, are all important in our ability to hear. Children
with a hearing loss will have a reduced hearing range. Your child may have difficulty understanding
what you are saying when you are talking from a distance.Fortunately, much of our communication with
young babies is done at close range – they are usually only an arms length away
as we cuddle, play and attend to their needs. You do need to be aware of the impact of
distance on your growing child’s listening ability. When you call from the next room for your
child to put away the toys and they do not do it, they may not have heard your
request. This is one of the dilemmas of being the parent of a child with a
hearing loss – have they not done it because they couldn’t hear properly or are
they being disobedient?
We all know the experience of trying to
make out what someone is saying to us in a bar or a rock concert. We know the
person is talking to us and we can probably catch a few words and get the gist
of the conversation. We probably know something about the topic and can use our
knowledge and experience to understand what is being said. And we are hearing
with two ears.
Background noise is a problem for all
children and anyone with a hearing loss. Young children are unable to ‘predict
from context.’ They have limited vocabulary and experience and can’t fill in
the missing pieces as adults can. For children with normal hearing, their
ability to understand sentences in noisy environments does improve through the
early childhood years. They reach adult levels of speech understanding in noise
in their teens. Children and adults with a hearing loss will always find
background noise challenging.
What can you do?
Homes with young children are noisy places.
It is part of the fun of having children! But there are times when limiting the
background noise can make it a lot easier for your child with UHL to learn and
understand what is being said.
- Read to
your child in a quiet environment and make sure their hearing ear is
closest to you.
- Turn off
the TV/radio/music at mealtimes. Sit at the table together and chat.
cleaners, washing machines and lawn mowers all make it very difficult for
your child to understand what you are saying to them. Be aware of this if
you are giving them instructions or warning them about something.
Families spend a lot of time in the car and
these can also be difficult listening environments for the child with UHL.
- If you
are chatting to your kids in the car, turn off the radio and wind up the
windows. Your child with UHL should be sitting with their ear with the
hearing loss closest to the window.
- If you
are listening to music or a talking book, wind up the windows.
Reverberation is the persistence of sound
in a room after the original sound has stopped. A room with ‘good acoustics’ is
designed to reduce reverberation and makes it easier for understanding speech.
Reverberation time is used to measure how quickly a sound decays. Reverberation
time depends mainly on the size of a room or space and the surface materials
used in the room. An empty bedroom with wooden floors has a longer
reverberation time than when the room has carpet, furniture and curtains.
What can you do at home?
Reverberation is usually more of a problem
for children in the classroom than at home. However, contemporary homes with
open plan living, timber floors and blinds on the windows are not the easiest
listening environments for anyone with a hearing loss. Soft furnishings that
absorb sound will reduce reverberation and make listening and understanding
easier at home.
are better than hard floors
are better than bare windows or blinds
Small things can make a difference in
improving the listening environment for your child at home. Reducing noise and
reverberation will help your child to listen and understand speech and
participate fully in your family’s life.
Disclaimer: This website is for general information only and is not intended as a substitute for independent professional advice.