Supporting Families: Adopted Children with Hearing Loss

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Adopting a Child with Hearing Loss

“Somehow destiny comes into play. These children end up with you and you end up with them. It’s something quite magical.”

-Nicole Kidman

According to the Adoption Network, approximately 140,000 children are adopted each year in the United States (including international adoptions). That means thousands of families that are coming together. What many may not realize is that some of the children adopted are considered special needs. That includes children with hearing loss.

Children with hearing loss
According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 2 to 3 children out of every 1,000 have detectable hearing loss. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many adopted children have a hearing impairment. In fact, some families choose specifically to adopt children with hearing loss. Other parents adopt and later find their child has a hearing impairment. Either way, there can be unique challenges for these families as they raise their children.

It is these unique experiences, challenges and needs that were the focus of a recent study in the hopes that these families could be better served in the future.

The findings

The study, published in The Hearing Journal, recruited forty-nine parents to provide information about their adopted children including the age of adoption, the degree of hearing loss, the method of communication both before and after adoption and whether or not the child used hearing technology. Approximately half of these parents then completed more extensive interviews with the research team.

The information researchers gleaned from these interviews proved invaluable as the team looked at ways health practitioners and other professionals could better support similar families in the future.

  • Some parents interviewed had prior experience with hearing loss which led them to adopt a child with hearing loss. Some parents were matched by chance. Others had children who received a diagnosis of hearing loss later.
  • Parents faced with their child’s diagnosis felt a range of emotions from relief that their behavior was not due to another condition to grief over the diagnosis or the time lost before identifying it.
  • Social networks informed parents’ decisions on communication and technology options for their hearing-impaired children.
  • The parents discussed several common challenges during their study interviews including:
    • When older children were adopted, families were often ineligible for home-based early intervention services.
    • Professionals they worked with were often knowledgeable in either hearing loss or adoption but rarely both.
    • The effect of hearing loss on first language exposure.
    • The social and emotional side of not only adopting but also parenting a child with hearing loss was a challenge discussed by every parent during the interviews.

Both families and experts agree that families adopting children with hearing loss are often in a unique situation that requires additional support from professionals.

The recommendations

After reviewing the data, the research team offered several recommendations to better serve these families such as:

  • A baseline hearing and speech/language screening for all adopted children.
  • Additional training and resources for professionals working with these families including training in “Positive Adoption Language.”

The hope is that, with these findings, families will find less stress and more support in the years to come raising their adopted children with hearing.

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