TACKLING CHILDHOOD HEARING LOSS WITH A BEDTIME STORY

A New York-based audiologist is on mission: To help kids with hearing losses learn more about how their ears work and how they can better understand the world around them. Her weapon? A bedtime story.

Audiologist Faragh Augostover has been treating children with hearing loss for several years. In that time, hearing aids and hearing solutions for children have advanced tremendously – but something else has not.

According to Augostover, there aren't many kid-friendly resources that explain hearing loss in terms that children will understand.

Augustover is out to change that with her children’s book, “Harmony Hears a Hoot.” The book follows Harmony, a young owl with a hearing loss. She already has a diagnosis, listening devices (e.g. hearing aids, cochlear implants, BAHA's, etc.), and now it's time to venture off to school.

The reader follows Harmony on her adventures in her first year of school and discusses the questions and situations she faces about hearing loss. According to Augustover, “this book offers a whimsical account that a young child can relate to, and enjoy as he/she reads the child friendly text, and looks at the colorful illustrations, all while personally associating themselves with the main character, Harmony.”

We spoke with Augustover about how she came up with the idea for her bedtime story and her tips for audiologists working with children with hearing loss.
Q: When did you first decide to write a book for children with hearing loss?

A: I have worked with this population for several years, and am grateful for the wonderful resources that many of the listening device companies offer clients and their families. However, those resources/books tend to focus on the diagnosis, surgery, etc. I wanted to write a book that shows what happens next.

It is important to me that the book be a typical storybook that children can enjoy like any other bedtime story, but with a twist. This book promotes self advocacy, self knowledge, and paints a picture of situations that may arise as a school age child with hearing loss.

Q: Why did you want to focus on children with hearing loss in your book?

A: Children with hearing loss are some of the most amazing clients I have ever had. Their tenacity, strong will, and overall vivacious personality is so important in their therapy and the type of people they become. This book would offer a way for them to be confident and knowledgeable about who they are, what their hearing loss means, how their listening devices work.

Q: What are your goals for the project?

A: In the future, I would love for this book to be in every hearing impaired child's home and professional's office that work with children with a hearing loss. Past that, I do feel typically developing children can learn from this story as well by understanding tolerance and a new population.

My long term goal is to build a series about different speech and language diagnoses in various characters that children can relate to.

Q: What do you feel are some of the key issues that children with hearing loss face on a daily basis?

A: I have been lucky enough to complete research in my academic and professional career on social conversational skills of children with hearing loss. This pragmatic component, I feel, is the most prevalent issue facing children with hearing loss on a day to day basis.

I have noticed that many of my clients who are children with hearing loss, if utilizing the correct listening devices and attending auditory speech and language therapy consistently, do quite well auditorally, academically, etc. However, peer-to-peer social skills, and even adult-to-child interactions, can be difficult at times. It has become a focus for me not only in my research, but clinically as well. 
Q: What are some other resources that you have found particularly helpful for children (and parents of children) with hearing loss?

A: I think a combination of individual and group auditory speech and language therapy is key. I have conducted groups ranging from infancy to teenagers and at all stages, the camaraderie of being with other kids with hearing loss allows the clients to come out of their shell and into their own.  These groups also offer support for the parents. I feel many parent blogs, Facebook groups, etc. offer invaluable advice as well. 

Q: How is working with hearing-impaired children different from working with hearing-impaired adults?

A: I feel that adults carry a more emotional burden with their diagnosis, especially if diagnosed later in life. They have had life experiences and are already molded into who they are. For children, we have the opportunity to make having a hearing loss a positive experience where we can promote individuality, self-confidence, and more. 

Q: What are 5 tips that you can give to hearing professionals who are working with children?
A:
  • Always look at the child as a whole
  • Try to figure out a way to personalize every listening device*/appointment.
  • Include the child when discussing how the ear works, what their hearing loss is, how the devices function, etc.*
  • Be prepared to offer support both for the child and the caregiver through recommendations of websites, blogs, support groups, and therapy.
  • Especially for newer families, explain everything twice or more, the audiogram, the devices, etc.

Looking for more kid-friendly information about hearing loss? Try Chiwi, a computer game for newly-diagnosed children with hearing loss.

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