What to Know About Adopting A Child With Hearing Loss

What challenges accompany the adoption of a child with hearing loss? Researchers studied families of adopted hearing-impaired children for answers to this question. The 2018 study examines the hurdles these families must face and provides suggestions for effectively meeting the unique needs of these adopted children.

Study Method

Over eight months, the research team recruited families for the study through social media and professional networks. Forty-nine parents provided data about their children such as the age at adoption, the degree of hearing loss, the method of communication, and the possible use of hearing technology. Twenty-two of the parents also completed semi-structured qualitative interviews with the research team.

Study Results

The results of the study include four areas of concern voiced by the families of the adopted children. The participants hope that the input will better inform those professionals who work with adopted children who have hearing loss.


The parents in the study motivation for adoption included infertility, religious reasons, prior experience with a hearing impaired child, and just being open to the idea of adopting a child with hearing problems. Some adopted children whom they thought had normal hearing only to find out post-adoption that the child was hearing-impaired.


Some participants in the study received incorrect information about their child’s hearing loss from the sending country, foster care system, or orphanage. The majority of children adopted internationally did not have any access to hearing technology. The parent’s reactions ranged from grief to relief that the problem was not autism or other intellectual disorders.

Technology And Communication

Social networks factored into parents decisions regarding communication and technology options for their children. Those with prior hearing loss experience reported that their attitude toward hearing loss changed as a result of their adoption of a hearing-impaired child.

Social And Emotional

All of the parents including those with prior experience in adopting a hearing-impaired child stated that adopting a child with hearing problems is a challenge. The parents noted that many of these children have other health problems along with hearing loss. The participants feel that insensitive reactions from family, friends, and medical professionals are stressful as well.

What Are The Implications Of The Study?

The research includes four areas of practice improvement including:

  • English language learners. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association provides online resources for internationally adopted children who have little exposure to language skills due to their hearing loss.
  • Positive adoption language. Because numerous study participants feel that professionals are either unaware of or insensitive toward their child’s needs, positive adoption language provides professionals with a method of dealing with these children with compassion. A small sample of this language is available.
  • Routine screenings. The researchers recommend that baseline hearing and speech screenings be standard procedure for all adopted children.
  • Trauma-informed care. Deprivation early in life impacts a child’s development of cognitive and communicative skills. Family-centered care is of great importance with adopted children who have communication problems.

The research team hopes this study will shed light upon the particular needs of the adopted child who has a hearing loss. They also wish to educate and aid the parents of adopted children with hearing problems.


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