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Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing



When a person is deaf or hard of hearing, it means he or she does not process sound the same way a person with typical hearing does. This difference can range from not being able to hear a few sounds to not hearing any sounds at all. For a variety of reasons, some babies are deaf or hard of hearing from the beginning, while some children experience hearing changes later on.


There are many reasons a person can be deaf or hard of hearing including:

  • Idiopathic (unknown)
  • Infection (infection during pregnancy, meningitis)
  • Genetic (gene change or syndrome known to involve hearing)
  • Factors associated with premature birth (such as need for ECMO therapy, need for exchange transfusion)
  • Medications that can affect hearing (certain antibiotics or chemotherapies)
  • Head trauma

Testing and Diagnosis

Before you are referred to the FFC, your child will undergo various tests with a pediatric audiologist. When you come to the clinic, the care team will review available results with your family and begin discussing opportunities for early/ongoing language access and development, and address concerns that are important at that time.

Plan of Care

Our Family-Focused Center (FFC) for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children provides comprehensive evaluation and language and development opportunities for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as family support.

As part of a large tertiary care hospital – Children’s Health – the FFC care team has access to specialists, as needed, for each individual child. Dr. Rachel St. John, director of the FFC program, and her team have also spent many years building relationships with community organizations, schools, resource centers, mental health providers, and parent-driven organizations to help children and patients connect meaningfully to these resources.

The FFC works to help children develop their best possible individual potential in a variety of ways, based on the unique needs and strengths of each child and his or her family. Click here for a PDF of available resources.

Understanding Your Child’s Hearing Status

At the FFC, the care team’s goal is to expose your child to as many opportunities as possible for language access and developmental success. FFC providers will:

  • Offer to connect you with other families who also have children who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Introduce early intervention opportunities for children under the age of 3
  • Help you understand classroom accommodations that can help school-age children learn at their full potential
  • Explain potentially helpful technologies, like hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assisted listening systems
  • Connect you with appropriate specialists, if your child isn’t seeing them already


What can I expect on my first visit to the FFC?

During your first visit to the FFC, your family will meet with Dr. St. John for an initial consultation. For follow-up appointments, Dr. St. John’s team includes a trained advanced practice provider who works with her within the ENT clinic.

What are some of the ways my child can learn language if he or she is deaf or hard of hearing?

The FFC team encourages families to pursue multiple opportunities for language development, which can include spoken language, sign language, and tactile communication. There are no significant disadvantages to being bi or multi-lingual, regardless of your hearing status.

Where can I find more support?

The FFC team can connect you with community resources, such as deaf education advocates, successful deaf adult mentors, parent support resources, etc., depending on your family’s needs.


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