Many children and families look forward to spending time at the swimming pools and beaches, or participating in other fun water-related activities. For children with hearing loss, swimming can sometime be more challenging than for children who have typical hearing. Swim instructors are often not prepared to teach children with hearing loss and are unsure about how to communicate with that child. This can cause frequent communication breakdowns, making swim lessons unproductive and often frustrating for all parties.
Waterproof Hearing Aids
How can you teach a deaf child to swim when hearing aids can’t be worn in the pool? Easy! Waterproof hearing aid devices are available and allow you to safely use your hearing aids in the water or other “wet” environments. Hearing impaired children can achieve anything given the right support. So it’s important as parents to encourage children to learn to swim at a young age, because it gives them time to develop and become more confident.
The following suggestions are for both parents and instructors. Parents should discuss these suggestions with the instructor and make adjustments as necessary:
- Choose the right instructor: You do not need to seek out a swim instructor who specializes in working with children who have hearing aids or cochlear implants, but it can help. Instructors who know how to deal with students with hearing loss can use alternative teaching methods before they enter the pool, such as using whiteboards for demonstrations, sign language and other visual tools to explain pool safety. For swimming classes, try and find one that’s not too big, or consider private lessons. This allows your child to get more attention from the instructor. If you can find a deaf aware swimming teacher- then brilliant, otherwise talk to the teacher beforehand to discuss options on the best ways to communicate with your child.
- Speak clearly: Many children with hearing loss can read lips and will use their ability to do so to keep up with what an instructor is telling them during the lesson. It’s important that instructors are mindful of this and do their best to speak clearly and at a pace at which the child can keep up.
- Designate a signal for getting the child’s attention: A parent or instructor instructor will need to get a child’s attention several times during the course of a swim lesson. It is recommended to designate two signals with the child before getting in the water—a common use signal for regular instructions such as starting and stopping an activity and a special signal that will be used only in emergency situations. In addition to agreeing to the signals, make sure the child knows what to do in each case.
- Let the lifeguards know about your child: The lifeguards should also be aware of your child’s hearing abilities, so that in the case of an emergency where the deaf person isn’t responding to the whistles or shouting, the lifeguards know to wave or move so they are visually able to communicate with them.
- Fuel confidence: The key to swimming development is confidence. If the child can ‘blow bubbles’ to breathe properly, and they can put their face in the water, then that’s already a great step. People learning how to swim need confidence in the person teaching them – to reassure them that they’ll catch them if they go under, to hold their head up, and to hold their floats. Before you know it, they’ll be swimming like a shark!
- Safely store your hearing devices: Invest in a watertight box to put your hearing devices in. The children can always give them to their parents to look after. Deaf people who swim quite frequently are at higher risk of getting ear infections. I always wear swimming ear molds to stop the water entering my ears. Ask your audiologist if they can fit you with some!
If you are interested in learning more about waterproof hearing aids, please contact us today. Our hearing care professionals are here to help you with all your hearing loss related concerns.