Children who are hard of hearing are becoming an increasing priority for many hearing healthcare companies. There are a variety of unique product offerings specifically for children that are available in many different styles, types and colors.|
The type of hearing aid device will greatly depend on the type and extent of the child's hearing loss, although behind-the-ear (BTE) devices are often recommended for children because they are durable and robust. BTE aids are most practical for children because they are less reliant on the size of the inner ear. Custom ear molds for behind-the-ear (BTE) aids are soft and easy to clean and, although they may need to be replaced because children grow at rapid rates, they are easier and less expensive to replace than in-the-ear (ITE) or in-the-canal (ITC) aids. Also, many parents find it beneficial that they can easily monitor and control behind-the-ear (BTE) aids.
Children's Hearing Aid Features
Many companies now offer devices with greater functionality for adults, children and even infants. Here are just a few innovative features and programs which have been specifically designed for children:
- Fun color assortments or ones that match skin tones
- Tamper-resistant battery cases
- Tamper-proof volume control buttons
- Starkey has created a program called StarKids which provides communication materials for children and their families to provide them with fun and knowledgeable resources about their device.
Some children's hearing aids can also be connected to other listening devices, in the follwing ways:
- T-switch or telecoil is a small wire inserted into a hearing aid. The telecoil is used to improve telephone communication and it can be used with other assistive devices to enhance television and stereo enjoyment.
- An FM system can work great in a classroom as it allows the child to hear the teacher's voice above disruptive classroom noise. A teacher wears a small microphone and transmitter that sends sound directly to the child's hearing aid and receiver using a wireless FM transmission.
Children's hearing aids are more technologically advanced than ever before. Manufacturers are offering hearing aids for children with many practical and suitable features. If you click on the shopping links above you can find out about more on-line products current available for children.
Fitting Children with Hearing Aids
Fitting a hearing aid is a process of determining the right type of hearing aid to accommodate the child's hearing loss.
Children need to wear hearing aids that will give them the appropriate amplification in order for them to develop optimal communication skills. The first step to fitting a hearing aid is to get a good behavioral audiogram. This will determine the child's
threshold; which is at what intensity level (decibels or dB) the child can detect sound. You need to know the child's hearing threshold without a hearing aid to determine what their threshold should be with a hearing aid. The difference is how much gain is needed at that frequency. Hearing aids are picked and adjusted to provide the child with just the right amount of gain for each frequency tested. This is why it's important to have an unaided audiogram and then redo the testing with the hearing aid. This process will enable you to measure the actual gain the child is getting.
If the child can repeat words, it is best to do word discrimination testing with and without any form of hearing aid. During word discrimination testing, the child repeats a list of words and the percentage of words they can repeat correctly is the word discrimination score. If the score doesn't significantly improve then the hearing aid isn't a good fit for the child. However, some children are too young to do word discrimination testing so aided and unaided behavioral audiograms are even more essential in hearing aid fitting for children.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are usually recommended for children because they are quiet and durable. BTE hearing aids fit behind the child's ear and are connected to the ear via an ear mold. BTE aids are practical for most children because they are less reliant on the size of the child's inner ear. Many parents also like the fact that they can easily monitor and control behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids.
Even though BTE aids are relatively small, they can look large compared to a young child's head. Often times a child's ear just isn't large enough to hold the BTE against their head. However, adjustments to the tone hook or ear mold can usually help hold the hearing aid in place more securely. BTE hearing aids also make use of a piece of tubing called a Huggy for added hold. This tube connects to the hearing aid and helps to hold it against the child's head.
Children fitted with hearing aids should have their hearing tested, with and without the aid, every year to see if their hearing has changed and if the hearing aid is still a good fit for the child.
Tips to Get Your Child to Wear a Hearing Aid
It's often hard to get children to try anything new, so it may be difficult to get your child to wear a hearing aid at first. Some children will happily wear them without complain; while others will struggle and constantly try to remove their hearing aids. Remember you are putting something in your child's ear they are not used to. The older the child; the more likely they will object to having someone pull on and place something inside their ear.
The following are just a few tips that may help your child become more accustomed to his or her hearing aid(s), and more importantly, to realize that a hearing aid is a helpful tool.
- Warm up the ear mold before trying to put them in the child's ear. This way it will be less of a shock for your child. Warmth also makes the molds more comfortable, pliable and easier to insert.
- Slowly build up the length of time your child wears the hearing aid. Start by having the child wear the aid for just a few minutes, but several times a day. Have your child wear the hearing aid longer and longer each time.
- Distract your child with something when you put their hearing aid in - such as their favorite toy. You may want to buy a special toy and use it every time you insert the hearing aid. This way the child will be at ease and may even look forward to it.
- Never force your child to wear a hearing aid(s). The key is to try to get the child to like them and recognize their use.
- If possible, let your child see other children and adults wearing hearing aids. This will make the child feel that they are not the only person wearing one.
- Make hearing aids fun by decorating them and personalizing them. You could also offer the child rewards if they wear their hearing aid for a designated amount of time.
- Try to make the hearing aid a part of the child's dressing routine. Insert them in the morning as the child dresses and take them out at night when getting ready for bed.
- Do what you can to ensure your child is comfortable. For example, you can buy bands that clip around the aid and the child's ear to secure the hearing aid. This holds will hold it comfortably to the ear and stop it from flapping about.
Hearing Tests for Children
A child is never too young to have their first hearing test.
Infants are often screened for potential hearing loss before they leave the hospital, but if your child shows any indication that he or she may have a problem with their hearing make sure you have their hearing properly tested. There are several types of hearing tests for youngsters. The type of test used to evaluate a child's hearing will depend on the cognitive function and the age of the child.
Infants have their hearing tested in two ways - behaviorally and/or electro physiologically. Behavioral observation assessment (BOA) testing is performed by an audiologist who is specifically trained to detect an infant's bodily reactions to sound - such as the child's cessation of activity, body movement, eye widening, eye opening or change in sucking rate.
The Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR), is an electro physiologic test that is used as an additional method to evaluate hearing, as is Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) testing. Both tests are usually conducted while the child is sleeping as they don't require any active response from the child.
As children get older their ability to respond to sound grows. At six to seven months of age, normally developing children usually turn toward the source of sounds. At this age, children are tested using either earphones or in a sound booth using speakers. Sounds used for testing generally include low to high pitch tones; which are included in the normal speech range. Turning toward the source of the sound is reinforced with a lighted toy. This style of testing is called visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA) and is typically accurate in determining a child's hearing levels.
When children are two and a half to three years old they can be tested by a technique called conditioned play audiometry. During this test, earphones are placed on the child and they are conditioned to play assorted games when the test tone is heard. Standard audiometry testing is used with older children and adults. This method requires the person to raise their hand or to press a response button when they can hear the test tone.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Children
It's hard to help your child with his or her hearing loss if you don't know they have a hearing problem. There are two basic types of hearing loss in children - congenital and acquired. Congenital means that the hearing loss was present at birth; while acquired, which means that the hearing loss occurred after birth. Both congenital and acquired hearing loss can be sensorineural, conductive or mixed.
The signs and symptoms of hearing loss are different from child to child. The following is a list of common signs that may help you tell if your baby is having difficulty hearing:
- Your baby doesn't respond sound by the time they are 3 to 4-months-old.
- Your baby pays attention to vibrations rather than noises.
- Your baby can't say short words, such as"dada"or "mama "by the age of one.
- Your baby seems to hear some sounds but not others.
- Your baby doesn't respond to your voice.
- Your baby doesn't repeat any sounds you make.
- Your baby doesn't use his or her voice to attract attention.
- Your baby doesn't respond or listen to music, stories or rhymes.
- Your baby doesn't put two or more words together.
Even though your child may show no signs of hearing loss as a baby, they could suffer from temporary or permanent hearing loss as they grow older. Signs that an older child is having hearing problems include:
- The child listens to the television or radio at an abnormally high volume.
- The child doesn't respond when you call their name or talk to them.
- The child has articulation or speech problems.
- The child has problems learning.
- The child complains of earaches.
- The child seems to speak differently than other children of the same age.
Keep in mind that hearing loss in children is often temporary and can be caused by earwax or middle-ear infections. Many children who suffer temporary hearing loss can have their hearing restored through treatment or minor surgery. Some children have sensorineural hearing loss; which is also called nerve deafness and is permanent. Most of these children have some usable hearing and children as young as 3-months-old can be fitted with hearing aids. If your child displays any signs of hearing loss make sure you take him or her to have their hearing tested.
Children's Hearing Protection
If your child is born with perfect hearing - don't take it for granted.
Many children develop hearing problems as they grow older. These hearing defects may be genetic or caused by illness or injury. In some cases the cause of hearing loss isn't even known. After birth children can suffer permanent hearing loss from head injuries or childhood infections such as meningitis, measles or chickenpox. Certain medications such as the antibiotic streptomycin and related drugs can also cause hearing loss. Ear infections (otitis media) are also a common cause for temporary hearing loss.
While you can't protect your children from illnesses or genetics, you can protect them from injuries and perhaps infections. Make sure your children's ears are cleaned properly and make sure they are protected from the elements - such as the wind, rain, and snow, etc. You can do this by making your children wear ear muffs or hats during inclement weather. You should also protect your children from loud and constant noises by having them wear ear plugs in loud environments like rock concerts and industrial work places.
Your children should also wear ear protection when playing sports. It's important that children protect their ears properly when participating in sports such as football, boxing, fencing, ice hockey, rugby and any other sort that has physical contact. Make sure your child wears the proper protective equipment and never let them take the ear guards off of their helmets. It's essential that your children know the causes and effects of hearing loss as well as how to protect their hearing.