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Gael Hannan on Parenting with hearing loss…

Being a mother has been the most wonderful relationship in my life but, in many ways, the most challenging.

As I waited for my son to be born, I felt that my role as a mother was to give him three things: love, safety, and the communication skills to help him make the most of life’s opportunities.

I knew I would absolutely succeed in the first one; I already loved him with a mother’s fierce intensity – to the moon and back. But I worried that my severe hearing loss would cause problems in the other two areas, safety and communication.

How would I hear him crying in the night? What if I couldn’t hear him burp – would he blow up? These and other practical concerns made me reach out for the first time to other people with hearing loss. At a hearing loss conference, I met a woman with a severe hearing loss similar to mine. As she held her six-month-old baby in her arms, she told me that I could do this. Having hearing loss didn’t have to mean danger for my child. She convinced me because her child seemed to be thriving – and this was her fourth.

Joel was born in 1995, so the big change for me was a master visual alerting system beside my bed that told me whether the doorbell or phone was ringing, if it was time to get up – and if the baby was crying in his room. It worked almost as well as the Hearing Husband jabbing me in the ribs to tell me that Joel was wailing. It was the start of a new life with technology.

The second change was a shift in my self-view as a person with hearing loss. Exposure to the larger hearing loss community helped remove a silent, secret shame about a disability that caused me to struggle in many situations. A huge weight lifted from me, one that I hadn’t even realised was pushing me down. Joel’s birth introduced me to the greater world of hearing loss; my concerns for my child’s well-being ignited a passion for hearing loss advocacy that still exists 25 years later.

As he grew older, the wonderful inventions of texting and FaceTime helped both of us survive. He was proud of my work in hearing loss and I’m proud that I’ve helped raise a man who is one of the best communicators I know. In fact, if we are talking and I turn away briefly, he will wait until I turn back to him.

Hearing loss causes communication challenges in the parent-child relationship. But, like any roadblock, they can be managed and overcome when there’s enough love, patience, support and communication strategies in place.

From the Ida Institute