When you’re a grandparent, the festive season is a wonderful time to spend some quality time with your grandkids and give them your undivided attention.
But if you have a hearing loss, it can be challenging to hear children properly – especially the younger ones. Those precious conversations can be muffled and stunted, with both grandchild and grandparent giving up eventually.
The question is – how do you explain hearing loss to a small child? How can you teach children to communicate with you effectively? If you want to have a real relationship with your grandchildren, there’s no point just pretending that you’ve heard what they’ve said. Here are our tips for explaining your hearing loss to grandchildren of different ages.
Children under five
Children at this age are constantly moving and their attention constantly wanders, so it’s hard to maintain eye contact. A game like ‘peek-a-boo’ can help – cover your eyes with your hands and remain quiet, before removing your hands, establishing eye contact & speaking to your grandchild. Encourage them to do the same, and they will learn to talk to you only when eye contact has been made.
Alternatively, try and do things with them that don’t require a lot of talking. When you are looking for a Christmas present for them, try and pick a quiet game that you can have fun with together, such as a puzzle or an art kit.
By the time a child starts primary school, we’re often competing with electronic equipment and noisy toys to get their attention – especially around this time of year when there are new toys and devices to be played with! Try to reduce background noise before having a conversation by turning down the music or turning off the TV. Perhaps you could designate a “conversation room” where electronic equipment isn’t a distraction. Here you can make eye contact and hold their attention for a bit longer.
If they are curious about your hearing aids, it’s a good opportunity to explain to them how these little devices help you hear, just like glasses help you to see. At this age, they are mature enough to be empathetic, so ask them to try putting their hands over their ears to understand what it might be like.
Children this age are mature enough to understand the concept of hearing loss. Explain to them exactly what the hearing aids are designed to do. Tell them how important it is to make eye contact and speak clearly and slowly. Give them positive reinforcement them when they take the time to do this and make things easier for you to hear them.
If you are driving them around to holiday events, ask them to wait till you’ve turned off the car till they talk to you. Explain that you need to concentrate on the road while you’re driving, and if you can’t see them, you can’t hear them!
Pre-teens and teenagers
Don’t be afraid to be more upfront with this age group about your communication needs. When you greet them on Christmas Day, give them a gentle reminder that they need to make eye contact with you and speak clearly. Thank them for understanding the difficulties you have and making it easier for you. Don’t hesitate to ask them to repeat themselves if you need to. Try something like, ‘My ears aren’t as young as yours. Please tell me again.’
Teenagers and pre-teens might also be interested in the amazing technology of hearing aids, so you could encourage them to use the Internet to find out how they work. They will have more patience and understanding if they know the problems that hearing loss can cause.