Adverse Childhood Experiences and Pediatric Hearing Loss

Nobody’s life is perfect, but all the experiences leading up to adulthood combine to create the parent we become. For those who are blessed with a kind and loving family, life may not be as difficult as for those who come from divorced or incarcerated parents.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) some people live through can create habits or mannerisms that carry through adulthood. These habits or mannerisms sometimes counteract the needs of the children people have as they mature.

Parents who have lived through a traumatic childhood or isolated traumatic incidents are at greater risk for an inability to form an attachment with their child. The need for this attachment is increased for children who are born deaf or with significant hearing loss.

Young children learn from and take their cues from their caregiver, who in most cases is the parent. If this person is unable to form a bond with the child, the desire to nurture is not present or is very limited. Since children with hearing loss need someone to advocate for them, many times the parents in these situations are unable to provide the necessary impetus to fight for what their child requires.

ACE’s can include but are not limited to:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Emotional neglect
  • Physical neglect
  • Watching parents abuse each other

Children who deal with frequent traumatic experiences suffer potentially damaging releases of hormones that can be physically detrimental to their developing brain. When a child is in flight or fight mode for extended periods of time, the hormones released can become toxic, having a lasting impact on the child’s ability to function.

It can render them with behavioral, mental, or physical issues as well as the inability to be productive. The more categories of ACE occurrences these children experienced, the greater the risk they will face permanent challenges in adulthood. Though this is not always the case, research shows that it is much more likely to happen than with someone who only experiences trauma in one category.

For children who grow up in physically abusive households, suffer sexual abuse, or even live with a lot of uncertainty, it can shape them into an adult that is unable to make sound decisions, consider consequences, or fend for themselves or others.

As the parent of a child with hearing loss, these are very important skills to have. The inability to deal with their own life’s decisions and the consequences of their actions can have severe repercussions on their child’s ability to grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

A child with hearing loss depends on their parents to follow through with appointments, show them how to properly care for any equipment required as well as help them learn to communicate with the world around them. They also need someone to recognize when there is a problem, to seek out the right kind of care, and then advocate for what is best for them.

Without the strong support of a healthy parent who is physically, mentally, and emotionally sound, these children will not have the best chance to learn and grow. Many will suffer from learning certain skills, communication, and even how to interact with others. Behavioral issues may occur more frequently.

Due to toxic stress, there is also the likelihood of developing physical problems and chronic diseases. Issues such as:

  • Alzheimers
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • COPD
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Suicide

From the earliest moments of their life, the needs of deaf or hard of hearing children are more urgent and likely more difficult to fulfill. Timing is imperative for newborns and infants to receive care and begin the steps to enable hearing when possible.

If one or both parents of these children are unable to see changes in their child or make the commitment to support the demands placed upon them, the consequences will be suffered more by the child than the parent.

More and more clinicians are being trained in ways to counsel these patients. By asking the right questions, such as “What happened to you?” versus “What’s wrong with you?” By approaching these situations in a way that minimizes the stress of the patient, doctors and clinicians can help them learn that these circumstances are nothing to be ashamed of.

When people avoid talking about a topic, it takes on a kind of stigma and often makes the ACEs victim feel ashamed, humiliated, or disgraced. By listening to their concerns and musings, professionals are validating their feelings and memories. This gives it a sense of being real and feeling like their needs are being met.

By having an honest and cohesive understanding between patients and professionals about fears, goals, and barriers of the future of a young deaf child, parents can feel like they’re not alone in all of this. By offering support and truly listening, everyone can work together to break the cycle that ACEs victims tend to fall into.

In order to help these innocent children who cannot hear nor communicate with the world around them, we need to work together to break down the barriers they will encounter. Helping their parents to understand the vicious cycle of ACEs is the first step in ensuring that these youngsters have opportunities for treatment and learning as well as love and affection.


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