We surveyed parents of school-aged hearing impaired children to investigate their awareness and knowledge of the special needs of their child, especially in the area of the usage of hearing aids and methods of communication. Questionnaires were distributed to parents of hearing impaired children at 13 special schools for the deaf in Malaysia. Out of 1,267 questionnaires given out, 787 (62.1%) were completed and returned. Results of the survey indicated the majority of parents (68.6%) suspected hearing loss late, that is after their child's first birthday, and there was a significant time lag before the suspicion was confirmed. Over 82.8% of the children were diagnosed only after 1 year of age, with 41.3% being diagnosed after 3 years of age. Hearing aids were fitted late (mean = 5.32 years; SD = 2.66). Hearing aid ownership was influenced by the factors of socio-economic level and ethnic group (p < 0.01) whereas knowledge of use and proper care of the aids was influenced by socio-economic level (p < 0.01). Communication methods were generally inappropriate with 41.3% of the mothers and 48.5% of the fathers reporting ignorance of Bahasa Malaysia Kod Tangan, the sign language that is commonly used by their children. The parents' choice of communication method was not significantly influenced by socio-economic level or ethnic group. The study revealed the present inadequate state of services available for the rehabilitation of children with congenital hearing impairment.
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