The Challenges of Being a Mother with Hearing Loss

The Challenges of Being a Mother with Hearing Loss

Shari Eberts shares how she and her kids overcome the challenges that come with hearing loss.

“Is this the year we can finally get earbuds?” It’s a question my teenagers ask me every year on their birthday, but they already know the answer: No. And they know the reason why. I have an adult-onset genetic hearing loss passed down through my father’s side of the family. Thankfully, my children have healthy hearing so far, but I need them to guard it with a vengeance. If they develop problems with their hearing in adulthood, like I did, I want them to be starting off with as little residual damage as possible—hence, no earbuds.

That’s not our first struggle triggered by my hearing issues. When you’re a mom with hearing loss, communication with your children is always a bit difficult. It’s just the nature of the challenge that changes as they grow. 

When they were infants, I would strain to hear their cries through the baby monitor. At night, with my hearing aids removed, I might sleep through the sound, even with the volume turned up to the max. Luckily, my husband would usually hear them and wake me up when necessary. If he was traveling for work, I slept fitfully, worried my babies might need me, but I wouldn’t hear them. In later years, I trained my children to seek me out at night if a problem arose, so I would be sure to respond.

The struggles weren’t all bad. As toddlers, my kids reveled in the game hide-and-seek, probably because they were at such an advantage. I could hear their giggles and squeals, but had a hard time pinpointing the location of the sounds. When I walked past their hiding place, giggles would erupt, but I wouldn’t know exactly where to look. Circling back, I would hear laughter again. They enjoyed it so much, I made a point to wander back and forth calling, “Where are you?” for several minutes. I knew a limb would eventually poke out from their secret spot, and I would find them.

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When they started school, communication became even more important, and a few logistical rules were required: Remember to face me when you talk to me; speak slower so I can understand you; don’t cover your mouth with your hands; if I can’t see you, I can’t hear you. I know I sound like a broken record, but what choice do I have?

Some days they remember, others they forget. They face me for one sentence but turn away for the next. It causes sadness and irritation on both sides. I wonder why they can’t consistently speak so I can understand them, and they get annoyed that their nagging mom can’t hear them. There are some tough moments, especially when they wave their hands at me in frustration and say, “Never mind.” That really brings me to a boil.

The good news is, children can be very accepting. One day I asked my children if it bothered them to have a mom with hearing loss. They looked at me like they didn’t understand the question. It is all they have ever known.

Main Image: Courtesy Shari Eberts

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