It’s another impact COVID-19 has that most Americans would never think of. Yet, the effects on this small population may have lasting implications. It’s the shortage of hearing devices.
Monica Robertson and her husband, Nate, are parents of three. Their youngest, 18-month-old Ellis, suffers from mild hearing loss. Fortunately, his hearing will not worsen over time. However, with the pandemic, they have faced challenges.
“For a while, we did have some devices that could not be ordered because there was a manufacture issue,” Robertson said.
While Ellis’ actual hearing aids were available, it was the required accessories that they couldn’t get their hands on. The microphones, the speakers, and even the chargers were few and far between. They also had delays with the ear molds.
Infants and toddlers can require a new mold as often as every few months. A delay means there’s a good chance the “new” mold won’t fit anymore.
Like so many other organizations, St Joseph Institute for the Deaf tried to soften the burden on parents as best they could by offering loaner hearing aids until ones that fit were available.
In some parts of the country, parents of children with hearing impairments faced a different struggle: interruptions to their child’s services.
Tina Studts is an associate professor at the University of Colorado. She recently released a study on the effects of COVID on families with hearing-impaired children in the state of Kentucky.
Studts says the glitches of an unstable internet connection meant therapy was difficult to follow and very frustrating. This ultimately meant many children and parents dropped out.
“As a as a whole, I feel like these, these families have been left behind, for the last couple of years and are rarely at the forefront of school administrators minds,” Studts said.
She says time will tell over the next couple of years just how COVID affected the development of these children.
Yet, despite the challenges, parents like Robertson are ready for whatever is thrown at them.
“My hope for him and something that we pray with him almost every night is that he will be confident in who he is and not embarrassed. Not ashamed of his hearing loss, but proud of it,” she said.