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Raising a deaf or hard of hearing child

7-minute read

Key facts

  • If your child is deaf or hard of hearing, it's important to get the right care as early as possible so they can reach their full potential.
  • Early interventions may include specialist assessments for a hearing device, learning to use signs and expressions to communicate with your child and making your home a good listening environment.
  • You can help your child communicate by teaching them Auslan (Australian sign language).
  • Learn to advocate for your child to help them get the support they need.
  • It's helpful to meet other parents of deaf or hard of hearing children to get support and learn about their experiences.

What do 'deaf' and 'hard of hearing' mean?

If you are raising a child with hearing loss, here are some terms you might come across and what they mean:

  • 'deaf' (with a small d) is used to describe people with the physical condition of not hearing.
  • 'Deaf' (with a capitalised D) is used to describe those who use Auslan (Australian sign language) to communicate and who identify as members of the signing Deaf community.
  • 'Hard of hearing' is used to describe people who have developed hearing loss in late childhood or adulthood, or who have a mild or moderate hearing loss. Some people prefer the term 'hearing impaired'.

Why might my child be deaf or hard of hearing?

Hearing loss in infants and children can be present from birth — for example, due to a genetic cause or a problem during pregnancy. It can also develop later in childhood — for example, due to a severe infection or an injury. Sometimes there is no known cause.

Whatever the reason, if your child is deaf or hard of hearing, their treating team will help you learn how to best care for your child.

How will I know if my child is deaf or hard of hearing?

Newborn hearing screening is available free-of-charge to all babies born in Australia. It is usually done before you go home from hospital. If the screening test shows that your baby might not be hearing, you will be advised to have more testing done.

Some hearing problems aren't picked up on the newborn screening test, or develop later in childhood. Talk to your doctor to arrange a hearing test if you are worried that your child isn't hearing well or has delayed speech and language development.

How can I support my deaf or hard of hearing child?

It's important to get the right care as soon as possible to help your child reach their full potential.

Early intervention

Early intervention means starting a range of treatments as soon as possible after you find out your baby is deaf. The sooner these treatments begin, the better opportunity your baby has to learn language, communication and social skills. This will help your child participate effectively at home, school, in the community, and when they grow up, at work.

Your child's early intervention health care team will include a range of health professionals, such as a doctor, speech therapist, audiologist, social worker and specialist teacher.

Interventions may include:

  • assessing whether your child could benefit from a listening device
  • teaching you how to use facial expressions and gestures to communicate with your baby
  • helping you recognise your baby's cues
  • helping to make your home a good listening environment
  • introducing sign language to the whole family
  • helping you feel confident in your role as a parent
  • monitoring your child's progress as they grow

Auslan (Australian sign language)

Auslan is the language used by the Australian deaf community. It has its own grammar and language rules. Learning Auslan can help your deaf or hard of hearing child communicate with others.

You can help your child learn Auslan by:

  • introducing sign language to your baby at a very young age
  • making use of sign language lessons, books and websites
  • using Auslan in your daily life
  • encouraging your whole family to learn sign language
  • Learn more about Auslan and how you can learn to communicate using sign language.

Listening devices

There is a range of listening devices available, depending on your child's level of hearing loss. These include cochlear implants and hearing aids. A hearing aid makes sounds louder, while a cochlear implant sends sound signals directly to your child's hearing nerve.

Talk to your child's treating team about which device is most suitable for them.

Becoming your child's advocate

Learn to advocate for your child — you may need to speak up and negotiate to get your child the support they need. As your child gets older, you can teach them to advocate for themselves.

You can make other people aware of ways they can support your child — for example, by giving a presentation about hearing loss to your child's class or sharing tips for including your child in sport.

DeafNav can help you learn to advocate for your child. DeafNav is a resource portal that can helps you access support and connect with the Deaf and hard of hearing community.

Planning for school

There are several schooling options for deaf and hard of hearing children. You might want to visit some schools and meet the staff. It can be helpful to talk to other parents of deaf and hard of hearing children about their school choices.

Your choices include:

  • a mainstream school
  • a mainstream school with a specialist unit
  • a specialist school for children who are deaf or hard of hearing

The right school for your child is the one where you and your child feel included and supported. You can help your child feel more confident about going to school by visiting the school with them, talking about school, helping them find activities they enjoy and maintaining a positive attitude.

Being part of the deaf community

Show your child that they are part of a large and vibrant community of deaf and hard of hearing people that participates fully in all aspects of life.

Your child may want to make friends with other deaf and hard of hearing children and participate in activities with them.

What support might I need as a parent?

Learning that your child is deaf or hard of hearing can feel overwhelming and scary. It can be very helpful for you to meet other parents of deaf or hard of hearing children. Through sharing your experiences and learning about living with hearing loss, it can be easier to find hope and confidence for the future.

Resources and support

Deaf Children Australia can provide mentors, support groups and information to help both you and your family.

Check out Aussie Deaf Kids for information and support.

You can also contact Pregnancy Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 for more information and support.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2023

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