The University of Southampton

Social & emotional support


The difficult teenage years – hormones are kicking in!

  • Help! I’m changing!
  • Smelly bits, hairy bits, spotty bits and wobbly bits…

… and on top of all this, students with a hearing impairment will also be dealing with the issues and dilemmas that deafness brings.

The young person starts wanting greater independence and to be ‘normal’ – they don’t want to stand out.


Understanding their deafness

Does the young person know about their hearing history? Were they born deaf? What was the cause of the deafness? What age did they get their implant? Do they know what the implant inside their head looks like and how it works?

These are all important for helping them to understanding their deaf identity. Many teenagers had their operation when they were babies and so they were too young to remember much about it.

My Deaf Identity

  • Why am I different? Why do I have to wear these things?
    • The deaf student may want to know more about their hearing loss – they may need to discuss it with their teacher of the Deaf, or their Key Contact from their Auditory Implant Service.
  • Why is there someone on my case all the time?
    • Whilst having one to one support is undoubtedly beneficial, there are far fewer opportunities to just sit back and relax with their peers.
  • Where do I fit in the world? Am I Deaf? Hearing? Both? Neither?
    • The young person may regard their hearing loss as a big part of their identity, or insignificant.
  • Do I have a say?
    • Letters, meetings, forms, it’s all about me so do I get a say? Why do my parents have to know everything?
    • Informed consent – consider when and to what level the young person have a say and decide on their care / support package – if they want to.
  • Am I the only deaf person in my class / year / school?
    • What do other deaf students do? How do they cope?
    • Deaf peers can play a key role by sharing experiences – providing the student wants to meet them. They may decide that they don’t.
  • Do I speak? Sign? if I sign will anyone else be able to understand me? Do I sound funny if I talk?
    • Communication methods are a key issue – whilst many students may develop good speech others may not, or some may prefer to use signing, for example if they come from a home background where sign is the main language. Some students may opt to use both, maybe so one can reinforce the other.
  • Is there a Deaf Community? Can I meet other Deaf people?
    • This can depend on the young person’s own deaf identity. Deaf young adults, a wider friendship group and positive Deaf role models may be confidence building and help the young person to come to terms with their hearing loss. However if the young person doesn’t view themselves as deaf, it may not be supportive.


Deaf peers

Does the young person have opportunities to meet other deaf youngsters socially? USAIS runs teens events as does the Ear Foundation , local NDCS groups and Deafax.

Some of the potential benefits include:

  • Seeing others wearing processors ensures that they know they are not alone in their CI use.
  • Enables students to reflect upon different communication styles.
  • It’s a chance to discuss shared frustrations with others who have had first hand experience and who might offer solutions
  • An opportunity to communicate as an equal rather than with peers who have “normal” hearing.


And what happens when communication breaks down?

If I don’t hear something do I …

  • DEFINITELY show myself up by asking for repetition…
  • POSSIBLY show myself up by not understanding or missing information…
  • Keep quiet and hope nobody notices…
  • Just nod and smile…
    • Which can lead to them feeling…


They need strategies to help without making the problem worse!


Key concepts