Children's Hearing Aids
Why are hearing aids fitted?
Hearing aids may be offered to any child who has a hearing loss which is persisting over time. This can include hearing loss due to glue ear where surgical intervention (grommets) is inappropriate or where the family opt for hearing aids to help manage the condition rather than surgery. Hearing aids are always offered to children with a permanent hearing loss in one or both ears where this is likely to impact on their speech and language development or learning.
Hearing aids work by making sounds louder as they enter the ear to overcome the hearing loss present. Hearing aids are individually fitted with an appropriate prescription for the type and degree of hearing loss in that ear.
What types of hearing aids are there?
Most hearing aids fitted are post-aural digital aids. These consist of 2 parts, an earmould and the hearing aid device which sits behind the ear.
Earmoulds are individually made to the shape of the child’s ear. Different models of hearing aid may be chosen appropriate to the type of hearing loss present, and the age of the child. Both hearing aids and earmoulds can be offered in a choice of colours.
Most hearing aids are turned on and off by opening and closing the battery drawer.
Modern hearing aids can have several different listening programs for different situations (for example, in normal listening situations, in noisy listening situations, listening to music and so on). When children are very young it is likely that they will only have one program and there won’t be any controls or buttons to worry about. As they get older and become able to control the hearing aids themselves, programs can be introduced. Hearing aids may have a digital volume control but often for young children this is also deactivated.
For children with severe to profound hearing loss cochlear implants may be considered. This would be discussed with the family and referral made to a specialist cochlear implant centre if appropriate. Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices and stimulate the hearing by electrical stimulus.
For some conductive hearing losses where conventional aids are difficult to manage a softband baha hearing aid may be issued. This works by vibrating the bones of the skull and transmitting sound direct to the cochlear.
Once hearing aids have been fitted your child will be reviewed regularly. The purpose of these reviews is to monitor progress with the hearing aids, also to monitor hearing levels, supply replacement earmoulds as your child grows and to make any necessary adjustments to the hearing aid prescription. For pre-school children this may mean several appointments per year. For most children once they are of school age they will be reviewed annually, usually over the course of 2 appointments.
Encouraging your child to wear hearing aids
When your child first starts wearing hearing aids, it is important that you encourage them to wear their aids regularly. The more your child wears their hearing aids, the easier it is to find out how much they are helping. You need to encourage your child to like their hearing aids. Your own attitude towards them is all-important. If you are positive, your child will be more accepting and positive about wearing them. This is especially true of older children who are wearing aids for the first time.
When the time comes to put the hearing aids in for the first time, both you and your child may feel anxious. If you are fitting hearing aids to your baby, the chances are that your baby will be fine with them unless they feel that you are nervous or upset.
Useful tips from other parents
- Hold the earmoulds in your hand for a couple of minutes before trying to put them in. This makes them warmer and less of a shock for your child. It also makes them softer, easier to put in and more comfortable. You can also try putting the hearing aids in before your baby or young child normally wakes up, so that they are already in place. Never leave babies and young children alone with hearing aids as they may put them in their mouths.
- Slowly build up the length of time that your child wears their hearing aids.
- Depending on how your child is taking to the hearing aids, you could start with just a couple of minutes several times a day. If you are feeling stressed because you have already put the hearing aids in many times that day and each time your child took them out within seconds, stop trying and have a rest. Your child will sense that you are feeling stressed and this will only make it more difficult. Try again later or the next day when you are both feeling a bit more relaxed.
- Have something ready to distract your child, such as a favourite toy. Perhaps you could even have a special toy that they have only when you are putting the hearing aids in.
- Keep the hearing aids in a special and safe place. If your child takes their hearing aids out, take your child and the hearing aids to the special place and put the aids away. They will learn to put the hearing aids in the special place when they take them out and you won’t have to go looking for them every time they disappear.
- Don’t force your child to wear their hearing aids. It is much better to encourage your child to like wearing them. It is better for them (and you) in the long run if they have a positive attitude towards their hearing aids.
- Try to meet other parents so they can share their experiences with you. This may also give your child the chance to see another child wearing hearing aids and so feel that they are not the only one. It may also be useful to meet adults with hearing aids so that your child can see that people of all ages wear them.
- Decorate the aids with stickers and personalise them.
- Let your child have choices. Ask them if they are going to wear the hearing aids. Perhaps offer them two of their favourite things to choose from as rewards when they wear their hearing aids.
- You decide when your child wears their hearing aids and for how long, so you put them in and take them out. This keeps the chance of your child deciding to throw them away as low as possible. It also stops it from turning into a game and drawing unnecessary attention to the situation.
- If you have a young or very active child, you can ask the hospital for hearing aid retainers. These are bands that clip around the hearing aid and the child’s ear. They secure the hearing aid to the ear and stop them from flapping about.
These tips are only a starting point and you don’t need to follow all of the tips all of the time. Choose the tips that you think may work for you and your child and give them a try.
These tips are taken from the NDCS resource ‘Tips on getting your child to wear hearing aids’ which can be downloaded or ordered here
More information about hearing aids and support can be obtained from the National Deaf Childrens Society website: www.ndcs.org.uk; free phone helpline: 0808 800 8880