How technology helps my deaf child cope with his hearing loss

With 12-year-old Alex’s teenage years approaching, mum Lynn’s discovered technology that’s helping him become more independent.

Lynn tells us more

Although Alex has been deaf since he was a toddler, the move to secondary school brought new challenges. With a new building, new teachers to meet and friends to make, Lynn didn’t want Alex’s hearing to be a barrier to him becoming independent.

“Alex lost his hearing through meningitis,” Lynn reports. "It took nine months for him to recover and he had to learn to do everything again. We’d been used to Alex hearing everything we said, responding to sounds, and developing clear speech. When that was taken away, we found it hard to adapt to his needs.”

Photo of Alex, his mum Lynn and dad Phil on the sofa.

"He would just go into his own world"

During Alex’s nine-month recovery, Lynn and dad Phil realised that he wasn’t hearing them – he wasn’t responding to things as he did before and had become a much quieter boy. “He would just go into his own world,” Lynn remembers.

“He’s still a quiet boy now. Lots of Alex’s classmates at school had never seen hearing aids before meeting him, so he’s often the centre of attention when he doesn’t want to be.

“He’s profoundly deaf in his left ear and has a high frequency loss in his right ear. He has some residual hearing on the right side, and uses a hearing aid in that ear to maximise what he has. It’s hard for us to know exactly what he hears, but in a loud room with lots of people he struggles. He’ll nod politely, then turn to us and ask what’s going on,” Lynn says.

"He uses us as a comfort blanket to help him keep up"

Many families find their child’s move to secondary school a difficult time and the Hodsons were no different. “At primary school Alex had the same teacher for everything. The move to secondary school was a bit daunting for us as everything was new.”

The transition prompted Lynn and Phil to research any additional support for Alex. “Alex will be 13 this year and we don’t want him to have to rely on us for everything. In group situations he uses us as a comfort blanket to help him keep up, and we’d like him to need us less and less. That’s where our discoveries in the world of technology have helped. 

“We knew Alex wasn’t getting as much enjoyment out of watching TV as he could, and we wanted him to be able to talk to his classmates about programmes they’d watched, that kind of thing. Tom and Jerry and Mr Bean used to be his favourite TV programmes – mainly because of the lack of talking. He could easily follow them. He also loves things that are visual and action-based, like James Bond and sports. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t have enjoyed other things – he just couldn't access them independently. He'd always ask us what was going on, which was frustrating for him.”

Photo of Alex watching television with his TV Listener

"The products we’ve discovered mean Alex can be more independent with everyday things."

That’s when Lynn came across NDCS’s Technology Test Drive, which loans products to members so children can try them out before families commit to them.

“When we realised that such a thing as a TV listener existed, we thought we’d try it. We’ve been amazed – it’s been brilliant for Alex. Geography is one of his favourite subjects and we’re thrilled that he’s now able to enjoy David Attenborough shows and other educational programmes. Watching TV is a much better experience for us all.

“Alex uses other technology too – his school has a Soundfield system and he has a radio aid, which he finds really helpful in class; and a ‘shoe’ that plugs into his hearing aid. The shoe means he can use a lead to connect his iPod or mobile phone to his hearing aid, just as if he were using earphones. It helps him feel the same as other children his age.
Photo of Alex pointing into the camera

Looking back on how far they’ve come, Lynn's proud of Alex's increasing confidence. "Now he tells us what he wants and if something doesn’t work for him. We do often wonder what life would be like for him if he hadn’t lost his hearing. Would he find group situations easier? Would he be more confident? But there’s lots of support out there for him, and we’re going to do as much as we can to prepare him for a happy, independent future.”

Want to try out the latest technology to benefit your child? Become an NDCS member and you can take advantage of lots of free services and support, including our Freephone Helpline, weekend events for families, and of course, our Technology Test Drive.

Please post a comment below if you'd like to share your family's experience of using technology.

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