Everyone worries about their children – it’s just what parents do. Especially in the early months, mums and dads worry at every point in their baby’s development. Are they looking and focussing, are they showing signs that they recognising you and coordinating their movements? Do they respond to sounds in their environment?
Most of the time there is no need to worry, it’s just one of many ways of keeping new mums awake at night. But for some new parents, the worries can’t be put to bed quite so easily. For some, those developmental checkpoints are not so easily ticked off. For example, approximately one in every thousand new babies in the UK is born deaf, and 90% of those babies are born to hearing parents.
An improving picture
But while the shock of making such a discovery can be traumatic, the picture is far less gloomy than many people imagine. In fact, people who are born deaf – or who are ‘prelingually deaf’ as it is sometimes called – adapt very early on in their lives.
Babies learn to communicate whether or not they can hear. Lip reading skills developed early in life can be incredibly well developed and sign language is a fully-fledged, formally recognised language. In fact, internationally, signers are far better equipped to communicate across national boundaries than spoken language speakers.
Additionally, the technology that is now available through such pioneering organisations as HiddenHearing mean that the days of those unappealing old NHS hearing aids are now behind us. HiddenHearing is a consumer-focused organisation with a mission to deliver individual hearing solutions that are both effective and discrete.
Research in hearing solutions is especially important at this time, because aside from those born with hearing difficulties and the deterioration in hearing that comes with old age (and we’re all getting older), teenager’s use of headphones has been shown to have stimulated an alarming rise in inner ear damage. A recent survey found that as many as 16% of young Americans have suffered irreparable hearing damage – and no one is more concerned about their appearance than teenagers.
As a parent, that teenage exposure to dangerous headphone use is just another thing to worry about – as if there wasn’t enough already! But all those statistics show that what might seem like an isolating nightmare is anything but. Learning to live with a hearing impaired relative – younger or older – is something that we can all learn to adapt to. And with ever improving hearing technologies, implants, deaf schooling and guide dog provision, not to mention the fact that a hearing problem no longer carries the sort of social stigma it once did, means that maybe parents don’t have to worry quite as much as they sometimes do. Living with a disability is simply a different way of living a normal life. Sometimes – especially as new parents – we worry too much.