Having been told the news that their child is deaf, parents may find they have lots of questions and assumptions about what a hearing loss will mean for their child, both now and in the future. This is perfectly normal and there is no such thing as a silly question.
Are you worried about whether your child will play sports, go to school, have friends, learn to read and write, have a job and get married? There’s no need, because if your child is deaf and no other health problems, they will almost certainly be able to do all these things – if they want to!
“Our first encounter [of an individual who was deaf] was very reassuring; it gave me hope for the future. My aspirations for my child could still be fulfilled even though she had this disability.” Parent of a deaf child
We’ve broken down our FAQs into categories to help you find what you’re looking for more quickly. Click on the topic below to see some common questions and answers.
- Hearing devices
- Technology and products
- Play and leisure
- Financial support
- Where to find support
After my child had been identified as deaf, I felt like I was in shock. Is this usual?
All parents react differently; they may experience a range of emotions when they discover that their child is deaf. Some parents may experience feelings of guilt, sadness, isolation or anger, or have a fear of being unable to cope. Some parents, especially those who are deaf themselves, may feel happy because they and their child will share a common language and culture.
If your child has recently been identified as deaf, click here to visit our page My baby has a hearing loss for guidance on next steps. If your child has been identified as deaf later in childhood, or they have late onset deafness i.e. because of an illness, visit our page Later identification of deafness.
I’m worried that I won’t be able to communicate with my child, and that they won’t be able to communicate with me.
Learning and wanting to communicate is something that occurs naturally in all children. Being deaf can make that process more challenging, but with the right support, commitment and encouragement from both families and professionals, deaf children can learn to communicate as effectively as other children.
Q. How do I make a decision about what communication method to use?
There are a variety of ways in which deaf children can learn language and develop communication, whether through spoken language, sign language, or a combination of both. Different professionals may hold differing opinions about what is ‘the best way’ and you may find yourself getting conflicting advice and guidance depending on who is giving it.
The reality is that there is no one way which works best for all deaf children and all families, and it is also the case that sometimes, depending on circumstances and needs, different approaches work well at different times for the same child and family. The important thing is to remember that there are no ‘wrong’ choices and the ‘right’ choices are those that work best for your child and your family.
Q. What can I do to help my child when I’m communicating with them?
Whatever communication method or methods you and your family have chosen to use with your child, our 11 tips for communicating with a deaf child apply to all.
Q. Do all deaf children use sign language?
No, some do use sign language, but remember there are lots of ways to communicate. Every deaf child is different and will want to communicate in the way that works best for them and their families.
Q. Can all deaf children lipread?
Lots of deaf children pick up this skill in time without ever being taught, but becoming an expert lipreader takes a lot of concentration and effort that can tire children. Only about 30% of lip patterns are recognisable, and a lot of it is guesswork.
Click here for more information on Communication.
Will my child need support at playschool, nursery or school?
Education settings must take steps to make sure that your child can access the playgroup, nursery or school and achieve and learn like any other pupil. The amount of support that your child receives will depend on their needs. You should be involved in any decisions about what support they receive. Providing that they receive the right support, NDCS believes that all deaf children should be able to make the same progress as any other child.
One key person who often provides support is a Teacher of the Deaf, who are usually based in the local authority specialist education support service for deaf children. They will also provide advice to teachers and other key staff and work to promote your child’s language and communication skills.
The education section of our website provides more information about education support for your child in the early years, at school and in college. It outlines the steps that you can take to make sure your child gets the best possible education, as well as your rights under education and disability law.
Q. What types of education settings are there for my deaf child?
There are a wide range of different education settings including comprehensives, academies, free schools, special schools, independent schools and so on. Some settings are ‘mainstream’ which means that they cater for all children, whilst others are ‘specialist’, including special schools for deaf or disabled children. Our factsheet Different types of schools for deaf children provides more information on the different types of education settings that your child can attend and key differences between them.
Q. How do I decide which nursery or school to send my child to?
Choosing a nursery or school can be difficult for any parent, and it’s important that you make sure that the nursery or school you choose is a school where your child is happy and can achieve their potential, and where teachers and other staff have high expectations for your child. Our factsheet Which school for your deaf child? gives some suggestions for questions you can consider to help you chose a nursery or school.
Sources of information
- School information reports. By law, these should include information on facilities and how they support pupils with special or additional needs.
- Ask for a copy of the Government’s inspection report. In England, inspections are carried out by Ofsted.
- Local groups of parents of deaf children. For example, parents at your Local Deaf Children's Society may have a child at the school that you are considering, and may be able to give you an idea of how their child is supported.
- Visit the schools yourself with your child, and see exactly what communication methods they use, and what support and facilities they have available.
- If you live, in England, the Local Offer, on your council website, should provide information about support and provision for deaf children in your area.
Can deaf children hear everything ‘normally’ with their hearing aids in or cochlear implants on?
Hearing aids can help by making the sounds children need to focus on louder, and cochlear implants create electrical signals that are carried along the hearing nerves and interpreted by the brain as sound. These devices are very helpful for some deaf children, but it doesn’t mean they can hear in the same way as a hearing child. Remember that a deaf child still needs your help in communicating clearly and effectively.
Q. On a recent visit to the audiology clinic, I noticed that some of the children had different types of hearing aids to the one my child wears. Why is this?
There are several different types of hearing aid, but their primary function in most cases is the same – to amplify sound. The aids pick up sound signals through an in-built microphone and make them louder. Most children will have behind-the-ear hearing aids, but some children are given bone conduction hearing aids or bone conduction hearing implants (BCHIs) . The audiologist has a duty to provide the most appropriate type of hearing aid for your child. This will depend on your child’s level of deafness and their age.
Click here for more information on Your audiology service.
Q. My child has been given a hearing aid, but keeps taking it off. How can I persuade them to wear it?
This is very common, especially in babies and very young children. Read our page for tips on Getting your child to wear their hearing aids.
Q. How do I care for my child’s hearing aids? I don’t know how to change the batteries, change the tubing or clean them.
Your audiologist should show you how to do all these things, so do make an appointment to see them again so they can go through it with you, but we have also created some tips and videos to help you.
Q. I have been told that my child may be suitable for a cochlear implant. What is it?
Cochlear implants provide a sensation of hearing to children who have permanent severe to profound deafness and cannot hear the full range of speech sounds with hearing aids. This means that they may be able to hear some sounds, but they cannot hear some of the sounds that make up human speech. A cochlear implant is different from a hearing aid. It has two parts – one part is worn like a hearing aid, the other is surgically implanted.
Click here for FAQs on how to care for your child’s hearing aids.
Technology and products
Can deaf children enjoy music and TV?
There are lots of deaf children who love music, and who enjoy TV just as much as hearing children. Some can hear the music very well with help, others may not hear the music fully but enjoy the vibrations. There is technology available to help your child to better access music, for example Bluetooth devices which use wireless communication technology, can be used with hearing aids, cochlear implants and bone conduction hearing implants.
Click here for more information on How deaf children can enjoy TV, music and use iPads.
Q. Can deaf children use the phone?
Lots of deaf children like to talk on the phone. Special amplified phones are available to help them, or others use text messages, textphones and other devices. More people are now using video-calling such as Skype and Facetime too.
Click here for more information on Deaf children and using the phone.
Q. Can I get help to buy special equipment for my home?
Social services may be able to help you purchase equipment for your child. They will assess your child’s needs and may be able to provide you with appropriate equipment, such as a textphone, loop system or flashing doorbell etc.
Contact the social services department of your local authority for more information, or visit our page on Free equipment and products for deaf children.
Click here for more information on Technology and products.
Play and leisure
My parents want to buy some new toys for my child – what do they need to bear in mind?
Although sound-based toys may be difficult for some deaf children to use, deaf children will happily play with all toys – there is no reason to try to find toys that are especially made for deaf children.
Q. I’d like my child to meet other deaf children. What can I do?
There are often a number of play schemes provided by local education services, local groups and deaf clubs. This can be a good way for deaf children to meet other deaf children from their local area. For more information, contact the leisure services at your local council.
There may also be a National Deaf Children's Society Local Group in your area. Joining your local group can be a good way for your child to socialise with other deaf children, and for you to meet other parents. Most groups organise activities and hold a regular playgroup.Click here for more information on Local Groups.
We also run regular sports, arts and outdoor events for deaf children, young people and their families.
Click here for more information on our events.
Q. When my child is older, will they be able to go on holiday or travel on their own?
Yes, travelling alone or with friends is a great way for a deaf young person to increase their confidence, make new friends and learn about the world. It can also bring specific challenges, but we’ve put together some tips to make sure their trip goes smoothly.
Click here for Travelling tips for deaf young people.
Is my child or our family entitled to any benefits?
There are a variety of benefits available for a family with a deaf child, or for deaf young people.
Click here for more information on Financial support including:
- welfare benefits
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Other sources of funding, including charitable support and Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
Where to find support
No one has told me what happens next. Where can I go for practical support?
Healthcare professionals (GP, ENT Consultant, Audiologist)
When you are first told that your child is deaf, it is often difficult to take in everything the GP, ENT consultant or audiologist says to you. If you have not been offered another appointment, try to arrange a meeting with the consultant or audiologist again. You may find it helpful to write down questions as you think of them, and take them with you to your appointment. Your family doctor (GP) or health visitor may also be able to give you further information and tell you about local support services.
When your child is identified as deaf, the hospital should make a referral to your local education service. The education service will arrange for a Teacher of the Deaf or early years support worker to visit you in your home. Their role is to support you, your child and the rest of the family. They will try to answer your questions, discuss communication and offer practical support.
You may want to ask your local social services department to make an assessment of your child's needs. Social services may provide equipment to help your child at home. They may also be able to help you to find family sign language classes, and introduce you and your family to deaf adults. They could also give you help and support with welfare benefit claims.
Chatting with other parents who have been through similar experiences can be really helpful. Visit our Parent Place forum or ask a question on our Facebook page.
Local groups are a great way to meet other families of deaf children. They run a number of social events and activities, provide support to parents and carers and give deaf children the chance to meet outside of school.
Our Freephone Helpline is open Monday to Thursday 9.30am–9.30pm and Fridays 9.30am–5pm to answer your questions. You contact the Helpline by calling 0808 800 8880, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by taking part in a Live Chat www.ndcs.org.uk/livechat.
Family information events
We run free information events for families with deaf children, including ones for families with children who have been identified as deaf in the last 18 months.