Frequently Asked Questions
As parents of deaf and hard of hearing children ourselves, we know you will have many questions as you begin this journey. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions.
What are my next steps, having just found out that my child is deaf or hard of hearing?
If you are a parent just starting on your journey, you may be confused about your next steps. The Minnesota Department of Health’s Early Hearing Detection & Intervention (EHDI) program has developed a “road map” to guide parents who are unfamiliar with what lies ahead.
While you may feel overwhelmed, with the right care, your child will develop language and communication skills. Your child’s development may be delayed, however, without immediate action. The “road map” clearly outlines resources and programs available to you, doctors and professionals that you most likely will want to involve in your child’s care, and each step you will need to take over the next year to ensure your child’s development.
My child is deaf or hard of hearing in one ear only. Should I be concerned?
Unilateral hearing loss presents unique challenges. Children with unilateral hearing loss are ten times more likely to develop learning difficulties when compared to children with typical hearing in both ears. It can be difficult to distinguish and locate sounds and track conversations in groups. They can miss noise and voice cues around them. The result can be delays in language development, learning problems in school, and misunderstandings in social interactions.
There are many online forums and groups that offer discussion from families with children with unilateral hearing loss as well as industry professionals. A Yahoo group, Hands & Voices Unilateral Hearing Loss, is moderated by Hands & Voices parents.
Where do I find other families like ours?
Minnesota Hands & Voices is a rich, diverse community of families. Meet and share experiences with other parents, children, and siblings at our networking events and educational workshops. Our FOCUS newsletter will keep you informed of these opportunities and many others in the community.
School personnel may be able to connect you with other families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing within the same school district, where social or educational activities may be available.
Minnesota Hands & Voices’ Parent Guides are eager to individually introduce families to one another. Contact your local Parent Guide for more assistance.
Where can my family find adults who are deaf or hard of hearing?
Meeting adults who are deaf and hard of hearing can have a huge impact on the self-esteem and positive self-identity of a child who is also deaf or hard of hearing. Families can benefit from enrolling in a formal program to meet adults one-on-one to explore a variety of communication opportunities, use of technology and assistive listening devices, and even to learn American Sign Language and about Deaf Culture.
Families can learn more about events in our FOCUS newsletters.
How can I make sure that everyone, including my child who is deaf or hard of hearing, is including in our family gatherings and social events?
Seeing your child left out at family gatherings or other events, if after you’ve tried your best to include them, can be hard. Here are just a few tips to make these types of gatherings easier for your child:
- Involve your child in planning and preparing for the event, including how to make it more accessible. It’s very important to make sure your child is comfortable with any suggestions or changes.
- Tell your child who will be at the event ahead of time. Explain relationships.
- Let your child bring a favorite game to share with other kids. He or she will already be familiar with the game, won’t need the rules explained, and will be comfortable playing it. You may need to explain the game to the other kids, as well as how to get your child’s attention.
- Consider bringing along a tablet, laptop, or notebook so that your child can make a game out of typing or writing a conversation. Apps for smartphones can translate spoken works and text.
There are many other tips and suggestions for making gatherings easier for your child. Download a copy of our document, Holiday Tips for Family Gatherings, which includes tips for including a guests who is deaf or hard of hearing at your holiday gathering that you can share with hosts.
What is Deaf Culture and where can I learn more about it?
The American Deaf community values American Sign Language as the core of a culturally Deaf identity. Through ASL, members are given a unique medium for personal expression, a spatial and visual language that does not require the use of sound and emphasizes hands, faces, bodies and eyes. Members of this community share a common history, values, morals and experiences. Deaf individuals come from diverse backgrounds and influences, and as a result that variation is reflected in the community. Different types of sign systems are used to varying degrees, and the Deaf community welcomes this variety.
You can learn more about Deaf Culture at Hands & Voices.
How do I communicate with my child?
The decision as to how to communicate with your deaf or hard of hearing child can be complex.
Parents new to this journey may need additional assistance in determining what works best for their child and their family. Help is available through professionals, parents, adults who are deaf or hard of hearing themselves, and others.
Additional information is available:
Communication Considerations A-Z™ from Hands & Voices
The Book of Choice, which includes these considerations, is available for loan through the Minnesota Hands & Voices Lending Library, made available to families of young children newly identified as deaf or hard of hearing, and available for purchase through Hands & Voices.
Communicating with Your Child from Beginnings for Parents of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
How can our family learn sign language?
Most experts agree that the best way to learn sign language is from a native sign language user. Many resources exist to support ongoing skill development, including the Minnesota Hands & Voices Lending Library.
Additional information is available:
- Communication Considerations: American Sign Language from Hands & Voices
- Communication Considerations: Signing Exact English (SEE) from Hands & Voices
- Resources from the Minnesota DHS Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, including class listings
The following online dictionaries include helpful videos and more:
What is Cued Speech?
Cued speech is a visual mode of communication in which mouth movements of speech combine with “cues” to the make sounds (phonemes) of traditional spoken languages look different. Cueing allows users who deaf, hard of hearing, or have language/communication disorders to access the basic, fundamental properties of spoken languages through the use of vision.
Learn more about Cued Speech:
The Hands & Voices Communication Considerations A-Z™ is a valuable resource for questions about communication.
How do I understand my child’s audiogram?
An important first step toward becoming a good advocate for your child is to understand his or her hearing level. An audiogram is a visual display, or graph, of how well your child hears, and displays the results of a hearing test. Your child’s clinic audiologist can provide details about your child’s level of hearing and how it will impact speech perception.
This animation is helpful in understanding the components of an audiogram and the information it provides.
Questions You May Want to Ask Your Child’s Audiologist is a helpful document from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that you can bring with you to audiology appointments.
It may also be helpful for parents or siblings with typical hearing to explore different demonstrations that simulate what your deaf or hard of hearing child experiences.
To have a better understanding of unilateral hearing loss, listen to the video Virtual Barber Shop, a simulation of getting a haircut at a barber shop, with no video footage or images. Wear headphones, find a quiet place, close your eyes, and listen. With both headphones, you can detect distance, location, and background sounds. After listening with both headphones, remove one and listen a second time.
What financial resources exist for assistive technology?
Assistive technology, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, can be a considerable expense for any family. The Minnesota Department of Human Services Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHS) provides information about assistive technology, and financial assistance may be available. Contact DHHS to learn more.
Many local resources exist for financial assistance for hearing aids and other services. DHHS provides a list of organizations as informational only. None of the organizations are endorsed by DHHS.
How do I know if a cochlear implant is right for my child?
Considering a cochlear implant for your child is a deeply personal decision. Some families would never entertain the idea, others actively seek this option, and others may feel conflicted. It is very important to gather input from experts, such as your child’s audiologist, other families, adults who are deaf or hard of hearing, and other trusted sources. Not all children are candidates, and many factors should be considered.
As with choosing how to communicate with your child, only your family will know if the decision is the right one. Minnesota Hands & Voices staff can connect you with implant centers as well as other families and adults that have explored this option.
Where do I find help for working with my child’s school?
You will have many questions as your child journeys from pre- and primary schools to middle school and high school – and beyond. You will also be faced with many decisions. Minnesota Hands & Voices believes that you, as a parent, know what’s best for your child, and we can guide you to the resources that will help as you make these decisions.
One important Minnesota resource is PACER Center. The mission of PACER is to expand opportunities and the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents. PACER focuses on educational rights, with programs addressing special needs for all stages of childhood and all disabilities. PACER offers staff support, publications, workshops, and a wide variety of programs.
The Minnesota Resource Center: Deaf/Hard of Hearing, part of the Minnesota Department of Education, is a statewide resource providing information and resources to help families and educators meet the educational needs of Minnesota children and youth who are deaf or hard of hearing.
For articles and information about education for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, please visit Hands & Voices.
Visit the articles library at Hands & Voices for more information about these and other topics.