SOCIALIZATION FOR HARD OF HEARING KIDS AND ADULTS

In our Summer Speech and Hearing blog earlier this month, we touched a little bit on the importance of socialization for hard of hearing kids during the summer months. We wrote:

“One of the most important things to keep in mind is socialization. For hard of hearing kids especially, summer month socialization is crucial. Allowing kids to retreat from interaction is comparable to suddenly stopping exercise after 9 months of near constant workouts. When the new year starts in September, you don’t want your kids to have to play catch up to a level they had already achieved.”

One thing we didn’t mention is how socialization is just as important for hard of hearing adults.

First things first, though: what is socialization?

Socialization is probably what you think it is. It’s interacting with people and attending events. Socialization is for everybody. People diagnosed with a hearing deficit, however, sometimes have a tendency to withdraw. But to withdraw can often impede hearing even more. No matter how severe your hearing loss, not letting your hearing impact who you talk to and where you go is crucial.

Why? What can you do?

The more you talk to people, the more you’ll be able to exercise your ability to understand, to hear in noise, and to acclimate your hearing-hearing aid comprehension in various environments. It may not be easy going, not at first, but just like running a marathon, the more you practice the farther you’ll go.

Socialization is important for the brain, which is why most socialization articles online deal with hearing impaired kids. A growing brain needs stimulus. But any brain, regardless of age, is always changing and adapting. Challenging your brain, your comprehension, is important for any age.

Development wise, however, socialization may be more important for kids. The Success for Kids with Hearing Loss website has a good section about social issues for hard of hearing children. It goes into some important specifics, starting with how hearing impaired children’s social communication skills often develop more slowly than their peers:

“Social skills are typically learned by children with little effort starting at a young age. These skills are shaped by children watching others and having other people react to their behavior. How we learn social skills is based on very subtle cues, such as facial expression, body posture and quiet auditory cues. Because of their smaller “listening bubbles” children with hearing loss do not pick up language and the subtle aspects of interactions going on around them as fully as their peers with typical hearing.”

Further, adults can always push themselves to socialize, and though support systems are recommended (friends or relatives to make the “exercise” easier), an adult has more individual control over what they do or don’t do than a child often does. Socialization for kids often falls to the parents to enforce. School provides built in opportunities, but these need to be supplemented with outside activities and maybe speech therapy. This is especially important during the summer months, as we touched on briefly above.

There are no set rules for how you should strengthen your hearing through practice. The important thing is to understand the time that it will take, and the ability you have to adapt.

Links and Tips

Socialization Tips for Noisy Get Togethers
For Parents: How do I socialize my hard of hearing child?
Socialization for kids, from Oticon
My Hearing Loss Experience, a personal blog about hearing loss and socialization