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My advice for parents new to deafness

Published Date: 29 Feb 2024

Almost six years ago, my husband and I became the luckiest couple in the world when our gorgeous daughter Isabelle was born. With her shock of dark hair and eyelashes to die for, we were complete.

Fast forward a few weeks – we were sat quietly in a darkened room with our tiny baby covered in sticky pads and wires linked to the computer. An audiologist was working slowly and methodically to test her hearing levels. When it was confirmed she was severe to profoundly deaf, I’ll be honest, it felt like the floor had been taken from under me. Would hearing technology help? Would she ever speak? Would she need to sign? What about school? Spoiler alert – she’s now five, doesn’t stop talking, and we recently found out she is exceeding age-related expectations in all subjects at her mainstream school.

But in 2018 this was all unknown. I’m sure I’m by no means alone feeling this way at diagnosis, particularly if there’s no history of deafness in your family. For me, it honestly felt like a period of grieving. All this despite being deaf myself with a strong positive identity. It hits differently as a parent. This only lasts a short while though, then life carries on!

In 2021, we had Groundhog Day again with our son Jack. This time though, none of those previous emotions came to the surface. I was confident he would be absolutely fine.

It’s this hindsight I’d like to share for parents new to deafness. I wish I could have told myself back then what support was available, that every child’s journey would look different and that that’s OK. To have reassured myself that regardless of the outcome our daughter was perfect just the way she was.

With this in mind, if this is you, congratulations on your new arrival! Please don’t fall down the black hole of worry for too long. Remember to enjoy them – they’re only small for such a short while. Your beautiful bundle is here, and they know no different. Cuddle them, breathe in their gorgeous baby smell and take it one step at a time.

Our Teacher of the Deaf was my first beacon of hope. She arrived on our doorstep and confidently told us our next steps and has been our backbone ever since. Lean on your ToD – they may run groups where you can meet other parents, and this is one of the best remedies when feeling wobbly about it all. Reassurance, advice and eventually friendship from those who get it. I marvelled at the one- and two-year-olds running around at these groups saying their first words whilst I had little Isabelle on my lap. It gave me a glimpse of the future.

There are a lot of choices to be made when in this position as a parent. Some choose to embrace the Deaf world, embedding themselves in signing and the culture that comes with it. Others choose an oral pathway with technology. We went for a little bit of both and include signing as part of our daily lives to support speech, particularly in noisy environments and when our children aren’t wearing their devices. I’m also acutely aware devices can fail, and signing gives us more communication options. These are the choices that are right for us. It’s not a one size fits all, and when new to deafness, this can feel like a minefield. Talk to others, join social media parent groups and, of course, seek support from the National Deaf Children’s Society.

Ultimately, your child has you. You are their greatest tool, fiercest advocate and best supporter. Yes, there are more questions, more forms and more challenges for us, but we still have their first steps, that first wobbly tooth and all the usual milestones. You never know, that little bit extra might just be the making of you.


Nicky and her husband Ross are parents to Isabelle (5) and Jack (2). Isabelle is profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants, and  Jack is severely to profoundly deaf and wears hearing aids. Nicky is severely deaf herself and wears a hearing aid.