I had the pleasure of joining Alan Eisenberg of Bullying Recovery, LLC, as he hosted a Healthy University podcast focused on bullying and hearing loss. It is estimated that 30% of students in grades 6-10 have been involved in some sort of bullying incident and it is suggested that bullying is not about anger, but instead stems from intolerance towards differences (Coloroso, 2004). Studies have also shown that hearing loss appears to affect both the outcome of education and employment status. Statistics obtained out of Sweden looked at the mental and social issues among 15–16 year olds and found that 1 in 10 teenagers with normal hearing are being bullied. This statistic grows smaller as we see 1 in 5 teenagers with hearing loss are bullied and 1 in 3 with hearing loss and other disabilities are being bullied.
At EarQ, we are focused on consumer education to change the current healthcare model to impact the 80% of Americans with hearing loss who haven’t been convinced to do something about their hearing loss. Our goal is to brand hearing loss as a normal challenge and not a disability. The kids with hearing loss who are being bullied as well as the bullies themselves, parents, educators, and other providers of care in the child’s life need to be educated and made aware of hearing loss, the effects of hearing loss, available technology, and how to learn to “hear.”
Hearing loss is unseen and sometimes not even talked about. When a person does not hear well, they may not respond as quickly, may ask a person to repeat themselves, or even withdraw themselves from conversations and learning due to embarrassment and extra effort to actively listen, contributing to more of a communication breakdown. When you start to lose your hearing, or if you were born with a hearing loss, it takes extra effort to keep up, especially in a noisy environment, which can be practically everywhere especially in a learning environment. Because hearing loss is unseen, this makes it different from other types of bullying; however, the implications are very similar as it can affect mental, emotional, and social engagement during the learning years. In addition, if the child is removing their hearing aids or turning them off in an educational environment, the long-term effects may be detrimental on learning, social engagement, and making the connections needed in the brain for auditory processing and speech and language development.
Bullying can happen at any age and through different stages of your life. The only way to create empathy around this subject is to continue to talk about it and be an advocate for change. The only way we are going to create change is by promoting awareness and starting early. In order to truly combat this issue, we need to empower individuals by educating them on how to be more aware of the signs of bullying, how to react in a situation, and provide healthy solutions to impact change. Some solutions include:
– Start school in-services/visits for staff, students, school audiologist, teacher, and other caregivers to have a classroom Q&A about hearing loss, hearing aids, and other “cool” technology options
– Have parents engage their children with hearing loss with a healthy plan including coping strategies or having mechanisms in place to be ready to deal with unkind remarks or behavior
– Create safe environments and opportunities to discuss situations openly
– Hold anti-bullying rallies
– Incorporate peer model students to advocate for bullying and bullied individuals
– Train educators and families to look for signs of bullying and how to address it
In the end, in order to empower individuals to be self-advocates or to advocate for others, we need to teach kids to know who they are and to be comfortable, happy, and confident in the truth. They need to be reminded to choose their friends wisely as they are gathering their tribe: the people who will always have their back, be honest with them, and will lift them up rather than tear them down. We need to teach our next generation to choose their words wisely and carefully as everyone they meet may be going through something that they do not know about. Let’s teach them to be kind, considerate, observant of others around them, and be an advocate for those who don’t or can’t otherwise have a voice.
Learn more about hearing loss its solutions on EarQ’s website.
Listen to the Healthy University podcast.
Dr. Natalie Phillips, Au.D., Director of Audiology at EarQ