Listening Fatigue is Real: 4 Tips To Support Parents At Home

Listening Fatigue is Real: 4 Tips To Support Parents At Home

When raising a deaf or hard of hearing child, it's essential that we as parents understand the impacts of listening fatigue on our kids and the mental exhaustion that comes with constantly having to listen and understand speech.

Children with hearing loss (who wear devices) are essentially receiving sound through an artificial pathway where background noise and changes in their auditory environment cannot always be adequately filtered. Due to this, a lot of deaf children find themselves relying heavily on lip-reading to access conversations, which, contrary to popular belief, is not an effective communication strategy and actually contributes more to their overall fatigue!

Listening fatigue is real and for deaf and hard of hearing children it can lead to decreased communication and engagement, cognitive overload, emotional dysregulation and even physical fatigue.

So.. for us as parents, it's important to recognise the signs of listening fatigue in our little ones and take steps to prevent and reduce it as best we can throughout the day.

Not sure where to start? Let me help.

Here are four simple strategies that I recommend to families who are trying to establish a more comfortable and accessible home space for their deaf child (and consequently, for all members of the household as well!). Read on to find out more.

 

1. Reduce manageable background noise.

washing machine button

 

Background noise can be overwhelming for young children with hearing loss and is generally the main culprit of listening exhaustion. 

Environmental noise that may contribute to a deaf child's fatigue can be anything from ceiling fans to traffic noise and even other children's chatter within the home. Paediatric hearing aids particularly, are unable to completely compress louder sounds in the child's environment, so these still remain louder and can cause distress if the child is exposed to them over a period of time. So what can we do at home to reduce background noise?

  • Consider your overall home environment and complete an acoustic audit of the main areas (Here is an easy-to-use acoustic checklist I have created for parents to support the process, which includes simple recommendations too!)
  • Relocate loud appliances and move them away from common areas where you read or converse with your child regularly (washing machines and dryers can contribute more than we know to the noise levels within the home!)
  • Minimise reverberation and echo considerably in common areas by using sound proofing panels under rugs and furniture around the home. These panels from Sonic Acoustic are my pick (as they are portable and diverse in their use!)
  • Add additional wall and ceiling soft furnishings, such as quilted decor, to reduce reverberation and support a quieter listening environment.

 

2. Implement visual schedules, communication tools & languages.

man signing to deaf child hearing loss

 

Deaf and hard of hearing children generally have a heightened visual sense and awareness and rely on their visual environment to better understand the world around them. So, some things we can do at home include:

  • Incorporating visual supports such as picture calendars and schedules for everyday routines.
  • Installing visual home systems such as flashing doorbells and fire alarms and vibrating bed systems to support their independence and access to their environment.
  • Ensuring captions are always on during media viewing.
  • Implementing visual communication strategies and most importantly, a signed language, to help reduce the reliance your child needs to have on their auditory environment and support their overall language development.

NOTE: If you are interested in learning a signed language for your deaf or hard of hearing child, I strongly recommend seeking a Deaf educator with the cultural and linguistic understanding of the language to teach you and your family.

In Australia, there are many educators to support Auslan in the Home virtually, including Just Auslan, Auslan In The West and MyAuslan. As well as a range of Deaf-created resources and websites, including Auslan Hub, Auslan Signbank and a new favourite of mine, SignHow!

 

3. Allow device & sensory breaks when needed.

child with hearing loss and hearing aids

 

Listening fatigue is accumulative and can quickly become overwhelming without a lot of warning, so it's important to allow your child breaks from their devices or from loud environments throughout the day. The more mini-breaks we can provide, the less 'big feelings' and emotional dysregulation moments we will see at the end of the day. Additionally, providing our deaf children with choice and flexibility with their devices also supports their own self-advocacy skills and ownership over their devices and how they wish to use them. 

Some simple things we can do?

  • Carve out hearing device-free time for an hour or so in the day and encourage the family to go "voice off" (using sign language only) to provide a break for your child and support the family in practising their sign language skills. I like to do this in the morning and during dinner time.
  • Reduce directed / structured play and routines and allow more child-led and free play opportunities at home, where they can control the pace and activity more.
  • Provide a quiet and cosy hub that allows your child to rest their brain and recharge after being in a loud or overstimulating environment. This can help reduce fatigue and prevent burnout. (I love this Sensory Bubble from Amazon, which has blockout features and reduces sensory overload!)

4. Use assistive technology when in noisy environments.

roger microphone wireless communication system

 

As mentioned before, not all hearing devices have the capacity to filter or reduce sounds in louder environments in the same way a natural ear system would.

However, technological supports such as wireless microphone systems and sound field systems can be very effective in ensuring a clear speech signal for deaf and hard of hearing children, even in these environments, and can significantly reduce their exhaustion throughout the day. 

Although many families are not offered these devices until their deaf child is older, I believe they can be useful for younger deaf and hard of hearing children as long as they are used correctly. I strong encourage families to discuss these options with their audiologist and advocate to get this technology in place sooner rather than later. Through my Parenting Mentoring & Advocacy Package, I can support families in understanding how these systems work and train them in using them correctly and effectively with their deaf child.

 

So, how do we know when our deaf child needs a break?

Well for older kids, they can generally tell you when they've had enough and hopefully they have the self-advocacy skills to do this well!

However, for babies and toddlers who may not be able to communicate this yet, there are signs we can look for. Generally these signs will come later on in the day, however each child's thresholds and behaviours will be different. So for parents, it's about tuning in and taking stock of what they are communicating with you. 

These signs could include:

  • Unusual emotional dysregulation
  • Pulling of ears
  • Sudden undesirable behaviours (I.e. biting, hitting, kicking, throwing food)
  • Screaming, crying or being defiant 
  • Refusal to look or listen
  • Shaking of their head
  • Banging hands over ears
  • Consistent removal of devices
  • Having sleepy eyes or lying down

Being able to recognise these behaviours and taking action quickly, can prevent the child from hitting a state of absolute overwhelm and showcasing behaviours that are harder to diffuse. 

 

Bottom line

Listening fatigue in deaf and hard of hearing child is very real and significantly impacts our child's ability to focus, engage and simply enjoy their day to day experiences. A calmer, quieter and more visually supportive home environment can make a world of difference for our deaf children in the short and long term!

 

*Please note that some of the links on this website may be affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services that I believe will be of value to my wonderful audience. Thank you for your support!

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