The ability to hear helps us to make sense of the world in a coherent fashion and enables us to not only communicate effectively, but also to do other things, like appreciate music.

Joey McIntyre
Photo: Bryan Adams

New Kids On The Block singer Joey McIntyre, whose son Rhys was born with severe hearing loss, is deeply passionate about furthering understanding of the issue. “There are a lot of families that have children with hearing loss and thanks to the internet, there is access to lots of information. Just hearing different opinions and knowing that there’s hope and support in the community is huge.”

Those born with serious hearing impairments face major challenges. An inability to hear can be a devastating disability for some — especially those who don’t receive early intervention. The ability to utilize language is directly linked to the ability to hear; without hearing, communication becomes extremely difficult. Unless the problem is tackled early, some children may never develop the ability to speak. Hearing loss can negatively affect a child in many ways, such as impeding communication and socialization with other children.

Looking forward

However, the outlook for those with hearing loss is constantly improving; today there are numerous treatment options and support available to mitigate the effects of hearing loss.

That support comes in a variety of forms — from the friendship and solidarity found on internet forums to the specialized treatment offered by health care professionals such as speech therapists.

“It is important to have patience and ironically, you’ve got to listen...  It’s just that you’re there for them and you love them and have as much patience with the situation as possible.”

Taking such a holistic approach is something that Joey feels has greatly benefitted his son. “We’ve had an amazing audio verbal therapist that we really trust and he goes to every week. He’s talking like any three-and-a-half-year-old kid.”

Treatments and specialists

The treatment offered by therapists and specialists is key, but Joey is also keenly aware of the need for learning through discovery.

“When you’re trying to figure out what’s best for your kid, it’s easy to feel intimidated. It’s easy to just listen to doctors. [However] being able to take the time and figure everything out on your own is what’s important. Certainly, our therapist has a point of view and opinion but she works with tons of kids that have cochlear implants and some that have hearing aids. So it’s not that she’s pushing one way or the other, but it’s based on what she’s hearing and the child’s needs.”

And, in Joey’s opinion — the most important need that a hearing impaired child has — is a parent’s patience.

“It is important to have patience and ironically, you’ve got to listen. You have to listen to everything. The reality is it doesn’t matter what your child is hearing necessarily. It’s just that you’re there for them and you love them and have as much patience with the situation as possible.”