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How Hearing Loss Impacts Social & Emotional Development

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you are a teacher who works with children with hearing loss, you might be interested in the ways their disabilities can affect their social and emotional development. This lesson discusses some of the most common hardships.

Hearing Loss and the Social World

Maisy has been teaching fifth grade in an inclusive setting, or one where students with disabilities learn alongside their typically developing peers, for several years. This year, for the first time, she has two students with hearing loss in her class. One has mild hearing loss, and the other has moderate hearing loss.

Though Maisy has received a lot of advice in terms of how to meet these students' academic needs, she is also noticing that their hearing loss might be impacting their social and emotional development. They seem to struggle with friendships, self-regulation, and entering into groups. Maisy starts to learn more about how hearing loss can impact social and emotional development.

Language Delays and the Role of Language

First of all, as Maisy knows, many students with hearing loss also have language delays. These may impact their acquisition of receptive language, or the ability to understand others. Language delays associated with hearing loss can also impact expressive language, or how children are able to communicate.

Maisy learns that when students have delays in their receptive language, they may have less practice playing with others in language-oriented situations. Since much of early childhood friendship revolves around play, and this play becomes increasingly oriented around language, these students have less experience relating to others in calm and playful settings than their typically developing peers.

Language delays can also mean that students learn to express their strong emotions without the benefits of language. They may, therefore, appear less emotionally regulated and less able to talk openly about their feelings in ways that get them the emotional support they need.

Group Interactions

Maisy has also learned that hearing loss can have a particularly strong impact on students' ability to relate well in a group setting. One of her students with hearing loss uses a hearing aid, but even with this assistive technology, she can comprehend much better when she is face to face with another person. This is because she can use lip-reading to supplement what she hears. Further, when communicating with just one other person, there is less extraneous noise to filter out.

Maisy understands, therefore, that many students with hearing loss have learned to avoid group interactions in favor of solitary or one-on-one activities. While this is not inherently problematic, it can mean that these students are less experienced than their peers at navigating group dynamics, entering into a group, or managing the emotions and roles that can go along with group learning and experiences.

Low Self-Esteem

Maisy understands that self-esteem, or how students feel about themselves, is frequently an issue for students with special needs, and this is also true of some students with hearing loss. These students may be especially vulnerable to low self-esteem and stereotype threat as they approach adolescence and rely more on peer group acceptance.

If students with hearing loss struggle academically in other ways, this can also impact their self-esteem and, in turn, their willingness to take risks and step outside their social comfort zones.

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