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Hearing loss and team sports

Hello! My son has bilateral hearing loss. He wears hearing aids during waking hours. He has started Prep this year and has been doing some trial soccer classes. He is not enjoying the sessions, despite the fact he loves kicking a ball around at home or in the park. I wonder if it's because he's struggling to hear the instructions outside (it's a bit hectic) and is getting fatigued and frustrated. Do you have any advice or suggestions for how to introduce our son to team sports?

Hi, first of all, well done re: hearing aids worn for all waking hours! This is a top priority, especially if your son is using listening and spoken language as his primary mode of communication. Great job to you and your son!

As you may well be aware, background noise and distance are the two factors which impact upon hearing loss the most. Minimising these on a sports field is difficult, which makes hearing technology particularly important. If you son has been fitted with a wireless assistive hearing device, ask the coach to wear this during your son’s sessions. If your son does not have a wireless assistive hearing device, I would recommend discussing this with your son’s audiologist (this device is important in the classroom too).

It will be important to ensure the coach is aware of your son’s hearing loss and how he/she can support him. I might suggest you sharing any helpful strategies you know of and use regularly with your son with the coach. This will ensure your son can experience familiar and comfortable strategies that might enhance his learning in a less familiar setting i.e. soccer sessions.

Strategies to suggest to the coach might include:

  • positioning him/herself near your son when talking to the group
  • ensuring he/she has your son’s attention when explaining something to the group
  • using repetition - this is important for all young children in their learning
  • using visual cues/gestures as much as possible
  • demonstrating what is expected in an activity.

You might also:

  • ask the coach to explain certain games/activities from the sessions to you, so you can discuss ahead of time with your son
  • think about whether there is vocabulary being used that your son may not be familiar with? If so, be sure to use the new terminology with him in other appropriate contexts such as reading a book about soccer at home to give him confidence when it is used during the soccer sessions.
  • continue to build upon the opportunities that pop up, such as these soccer sessions, to support your son to develop age-appropriate skills in self-advocacy in terms of the use of his hearing technology and his success as a communicator.  This might simply be supporting your son to remind the coach to use his assistive hearing device, or asking your son “who do you think is the best person to ask if you don’t hear something?” (consider practicing this with him so he has a ‘script’, if you think this will be helpful for him).

You raise a good point about fatigue and frustration; listening in noise takes a lot of work for an individual with hearing loss. Hopefully the above points will be helpful in making the sessions less work and more fun for your son.

Finally, of course, sometimes young children just do not enjoy team sports. That being said, it is wonderful that you’re thinking along the lines of removing potential barriers for your son and providing him the best possible opportunity to be involved.

Kindest regards, 

Tiff N

Tiffany Noble

Tiffany Noble

Senior Speech Pathologist, Goodstart Early Learning

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