According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Hearing Screening and Follow-up Survey, about 2 out of every 1,000 infants screened at birth show some degree of hearing loss. Additionally, children may develop hearing loss later in childhood due to infection, medication, or a genetic condition. Therefore, early identification of hearing loss and early intervention with hearing aids or other hearing assistance will provide children a greater opportunity for continued growth and development.
Importance of Hearing Aids
If an audiologist recommends hearing aids for your child, it is important that he or she wears them continuously and as much as possible. Children’s brains are rapidly developing from birth to three years and consistent sound input is critical for developing normal neural pathways for hearing, speech, and language. Language development also relies on early listening and speaking. Children pick up on words and spoken language structure by exposure and continuous listening. Children with hearing loss may need supplemental speech and language services that focus even more on auditory input. Hearing also allows children to form bonds and build relationships with their parents and peers.
Types of Hearing Aids
There are two basic styles of hearing aids: in-the-ear hearing aids and behind-the-ear hearing aids. In-the-ear hearing aids are custom fit devices that fit in the ear canal. Infants and children are not fit with in-the-ear hearing aids. They may switch to this style as they grow older. Children are fit with behind-the-ear devices that sit behind or on top of the outer ear with tubing that channels sound down into the ear canal via a custom fit earmold. Behind-the-ear hearing aids are better for children because they are typically more durable, can easily be fixed or repaired, and the earmold can easily be replaced as children grow without having to replace the expensive hearing aid.
Hearing Aid Fitting
The first step in the hearing aid fitting is to take impressions of the outer ear canals in order to ensure that the earmolds fit perfectly. This involves filling the outer ear canals with a soft impression material and letting it set for a few minutes. Earmolds can be ordered in a variety of colors and patterns. As children grow and their ears change shape, earmolds can easily be replaced to ensure proper fit. Once the earmolds are fit properly, the hearing aids will be programmed by an audiologist to fit the child’s hearing loss. Verification measures will also be applied to make sure that soft sounds are loud enough, average sounds are comfortable, and loud sounds are not too loud. The audiologist will also show parents how to place and remove the hearing aids, how to care for the hearing aids, how to tell the difference between the right and left hearing aids, how to turn the hearing aids on and off, how to do a listening check in order to make sure the hearing aids are functioning properly, and how to replace the batteries.
After the initial hearing aid fitting, frequent follow-ups with the audiologist will be necessary to monitor the child’s progress with hearing aids and hearing ability. The child’s hearing loss will also be monitored regularly and any programming adjustments will be made to the hearing aids as needed. Follow-up appointments are also made to monitor the fit and function of the hearing aids.
Tips For Parents
Wearing the hearing aids
• Be patient and give your child time to get used to the hearing aids and the sound it produces • Put the hearing aids on while doing a fun activity, during which he or she will be less likely to pull them off • Try a soft headband, tape, or special clips to keep the hearing aids in place so they are not lost • Develop a routine each day for putting on the hearing aids and wearing them • If your child needs a break from wearing hearing aids, give them a break • Keep a record of any questions or issues that may arise that you can bring to your child’s next follow-up
Taking care of hearing aids
• Perform daily listening checks to ensure hearing aids are working properly • Keep hearing aids clean so that the microphones do not become clogged and distort sound • Replace batteries as needed (about every 10 days) • Maintain regular follow-up appointments with your child’s audiologist in order to check hearing aid function