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Section 6: Mental Health and Deafness

A hearing loss is not a mental health issue and in itself does not predispose a child to having a mental health disorder. However, there are clearly a number of risk factors associated with deafness (described earlier in this Guide) which may affect the mental health of children who are Deaf/deaf or hard of hearing. As such, parents and educators need to educate themselves about and encourage the development of skills that will promote good mental health.

Protective Factors

A proactive approach that promotes well-being for children and youth shifts the focus from risk factors and deficits to the development of protective factors that build on the family’s and the individual child’s strengths.

Protective factors are individual or environmental characteristics, conditions, or behaviours that reduce the effects of stressful life events ( Protective factors which promote positive mental health in children and youth include:

  • Positive nurturing and attachment
  • Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
  • Resilience (parent, family and self)
  • Social connections
  • Concrete supports for parents

How will protective factors help?

Protective factors encourage:

  • Clear self-concept
  • High self-esteem and confidence
  • Self-efficacy
  • Self-advocacy
  • An ability to deal with change
  • Skills and values that lead to efficient use of personal ability
  • A good range of social problem solving skills
  • Aspirations for the future
  • The feeling of having options
  • The feeling of being in control of one’s life

Parental reactions to the identification of hearing loss

Parents hold dreams about their baby based on assumptions including the ability to communicate fully, effectively, and intuitively without barriers, just as their parents communicated with them.

Parents’ emotional response and how they cope when they find out that their child is Deaf/deaf or hard of hearing will affect both family adjustment and child outcomes. Parents who can cope and adjust to the psychological stress precipitated by the identification can have a positive influence on their child’s development.

Risk factors

High parental stress is associated with:

  • Child socio-emotional problems
  • Child behaviour problems
  • Child variables including:
    • children with disabilities in addition to being Deaf/deaf and hard of hearing
    • late language acquisition relative to their chronological age (communicative/language competence)
  • Inhibited parental involvement

Protective factors

Low parental stress is associated with:

  • Parental access to personal and social support/resources support
  • Sense of meaning in one’s life
  • Parental involvement

Parents want information about accessing services, capacity-building informational resources, supports for parenting skills, and social supports. Top-ranked sources of support as indicated by parents include the following:

  • individual professionals with expertise in the area
  • other parents of children who are Deaf/deaf or hard of hearing
  • family support organizations
  • grandparents/extended-family members
  • opportunities to connect with mentors and role models
  • service providers dedicated to children who are Deaf/deaf or hard of hearing, such as VOICE ( and CHS (

Parents have also shared that the following factors empower families to be resilient thereby promoting better outcomes for their children:

  • family time and routines
  • social support
  • affirming communication attempts
  • developing problem-solving skills
  • having a religion and/or faith
  • providing daily love and encouragement
  • gathering many informational resources
  • having high expectations
  • actively searching for meaning and acceptance of the child’s Deaf/deaf or hard of hearing status
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