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Self-Esteem Research


Self-esteem is how your child feels about herself.
Doctors, scientists, teachers, and other people have done a lot of research about hearing loss and self-esteem. We looked at some of the research and put it together for you on this page.


The research we found talks about these questions and topics:
Do children with a hearing loss have lower self-esteem?
What if your child is deaf and you are hearing?
Is sign language better for self-esteem?
How will school affect your child's self-esteem?
What else affects self-esteem?
Learn more

Keep reading to learn what some of the research says.
If you want to know where we got the information, click on the research links.


Do children with a hearing loss have lower self-esteem?

  • Not all research has the same answer to this question.
  • Some research says that children with a hearing loss feel just as good about themselves as hearing children [Emerton, 1998; Foster, 1998; Munoz-Baell & Ruiz, 2000; Stone, 1998].
  • But other research says that a child with hearing loss feels worse about herself [Bat-Chava, 1994; Mulcahy, 1998; Schlesinger, 2000]. There are many reasons why this could be true. Maybe:
    • She can't make her parents understand what she is saying.
    • She can't understand what her parents say to her.
    • She doesn't a deaf friend to play with.
    • She doesn't have a deaf role model to look up to.
    • She feels like nobody understands her.
    • using ASL
  • If your child has a low self-esteem, there are ways for you to help:
    • Tell her you think she's smart, nice, good-looking, and funny.
    • Focus on the things she's good at.
    • Tell her that you love her.
    • Spend a lot of time with her.
    • Read our page on self-esteem for more tips.

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What if your child is deaf and you are hearing?

  • Most deaf children have parents who are both hearing.
  • Some research says that deaf children whose parents are also deaf have higher self-esteem [Bat-Chava, 1993]. This could be because:
    • They're not the only deaf person in the family. Being the only deaf person in a hearing family can be hard.
    • They can communicate better with their parents.
  • But other research says that it doesn't matter whether or not the parents are also deaf [Gurp, 2001; Deselle, 1994]. This research says what matters most is how well the parents and the child can communicate.
  • Learn how to communicate with your child. However she communicates, learn how to do it too.
  • If your child uses sign language, learn how to sign as well as you can.
  • If she reads lips, practice talking so that she can understand you.
  • If she uses whatever hearing she has left, talk so that she can hear you.
  • The better you can communicate with your child, the better she will feel about herself.
  • To learn more, read our page on communication.

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Is sign language better for self-esteem?


using ASL

  • Some research says that a child with hearing loss who uses sign language has higher self-esteem [Bat-Chava, 1993]. This could be because:
    • She can say what she's thinking more easily.
    • People who know sign language can understand her more easily.
    • When other people use sign language, she can understand them well.
  • Other research says that's not true. These scientists say:
    • It doesn't matter whether children use sign language, speech, or some other way of communicating.
    • The important thing is that they can understand other people, and other people can understand them [Gurp, 2001].
  • There's no way of communicating that's "right" for everyone with a hearing loss. This is because:
    • Each child is different.
    • Some children have more hearing left. It might be easier for them to learn how to read lips and speak.
    • Children have different ways of learning best.
  • Some children learn best from seeing things. They might like using sign language.
  • Other children learn best from using the hearing they have left.

Parents have different hopes for their children.

  • Some parents want their children to learn to speak.
  • Some parents prefer sign language.
  • To find out more about deciding how to communicate with your child, read our pages on communication choices

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How will school affect your child's self-esteem?

  • How well your child can read can affect how she feels about herself. Research says that children with hearing loss who can read well have higher self-esteem [Deselle, 1994; Gurp, 2001].
  • One scientist found that hard-of-hearing students who take mainstream English classes have higher self-esteem than students who take special classes [Gurp, 2001].
    • This is because they feel like their hearing loss isn't putting them behind hearing kids in school.
  • But some children feel better in classes with other children with hearing loss. This is because:
    • It can feel good to be with kids who know what it's like to have a hearing loss.
    • They don't feel left out of class discussions.
  • Read our pages on school choices to figure out what school fits your child the best.

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What else affects self-esteem?

  • Research says that three things affect self-esteem the most [Gurp, 2001]:
    • How good your child thinks she looks.
    • How close your child feels with her parents (or whoever takes care of her).
    • How well your child gets along with other kids her age.
  • These things are also important:
    • How athletic she feels.
    • How smart she feels.

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Learn more

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Sources (in the order they appear above)

  • Emerton RG. (1998). Marginality, biculturalism, and social identity of deaf people. In I. Parasnis (Ed.), Cultural and language diversity and the deaf experience (pp. 136-145). New York: Cambrindge University Press.
  • Foster SB. (1998). Communication experiences of deaf people: An ethnographic account. In I. Parasnis (Ed.), Cultural and language diversity and the deaf experience (pp. 117-135). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Munoz-Bell IM & Ruiz MT. (2000). Empowering the deaf. Let the deaf be deaf. Journal of Epidemiological Community Health, 54, 40-44.
  • Stone JB. (1998). Minority empowerment and the education of deaf people. In I. Parasnis (Ed.) Cultural and language diversity and the deaf experience (pp. 136-145). New York: Cambrindge University Press.
  • Bat-Chava Y. (1994). Group identification and self-esteem of deaf adults. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 494-502.

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