The moment that your child receives a hearing loss diagnosis can cause hardship for the entire family. Not only must make new allowances for you child’s needs, but you must navigate the stress of your new reality while also making difficult decisions. These decisions, especially decisions regarding how to treat the problem and speech therapy, can have a major impact on your child going forward. Among the most important of these decisions is getting your child hearing aids.
You do not suffer alone with these issues. Some US children born deaf every year, and even more become deaf following infection, trauma, or the onset of genetic issues. A pediatrician can aid in diagnosis or, if needed, he can refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Once diagnosed, a specialist called an audiologist creates and calibrates devices that can be a solution for your child.
Hearing Loss Changes Children’s Lives
Hearing loss can have a profound impact on a young child that continue into adulthood. Until three, a child’s brain requires sound for language development. The brain’s ability to learn auditory language and speech may rely on getting the proper devices to allow the child to hear. Children have been shown to pick up language naturally by hearing how adults speak it; this becomes much more difficult with hearing and natural interpretation skills taken away. Hearing loss can even impede the bonds between child and parent.
Available Hearing Loss Solutions
Both hearing aids and cochlear implants may be recommended after the doctor diagnoses him or her with hearing loss. The specialist who looks at your child can recommend which option best suits the individuated needs, though most children function fine with typical hearing aids. The exact shaping of the child’s inner and outer ear and the severity of hearing loss can factor into which solution works best. The specialist may also recommend that a young child start by trying hearing aids before considering him or her for cochlear implants
Fit and Care
Hearing aids provide by far the most common solution to hearing loss. Many children suffering from hearing loss receive an interchangeable device that fits behind their ear. These resemble hearing aids an adult might wear but come in a smaller size designed for the smaller ear. Plastic molds fit within the ear and amplify sound. These hearing aids are perfect for most children because only the inner parts must be replaced when the child grows out of them, significantly saving on costs over time. The process requires that doctor adjusts the mold to each child because every ear is unique. Here’s what you can expect when going through the process of obtaining help:
1. Making a Mold
To ensure a snug fit the doctor must take an impression of each child’s outer ear canals. To do so a dam, normally made of a soft material like foam or cotton, is placed inside the ear canal until it slowly fills the entire ear cavity. The process can be a bit uncomfortable, though not overly so. Nevertheless the process requires a few unbothered minutes or else it may not set properly. Parents may be asked to hold their children to make sure that the child stays still enough and does not touch the material.
Children can pick the color for their mold. This can become a fun experience that makes the situation less unpleasant. Children can change the color every time a new mold must be made, which will have to happen as they grow. Many children even want their two molds in different colors so that they never try to put them in the wrong ear.
After sitting for the new mold the specialist must send it to a medical manufacturer to construct the actual mold. This process can take as long as two weeks, so getting started as soon as the doctor recommends means your child receives the device faster.
2. Fitting the Child’s Hearing Aids
Once the specialist receives the mold back, they will fit the devices to ensure a snug fit within the child’s ears. At the appointment, he will not only check the mold for fit but also adjusts the device itself to meet the needs of the individual child with hearing loss. After adjustment to the level of hearing loss experienced, the child will hear new sounds immediately. Often the youngest children will become surprised or happy at the new sounds, particularly the sounds of a comforting parent’s voice.
You as the parent will be taught how to operate and care for the devices, as will the child if old enough. This includes learning the proper care of the devices, how to disconnect the actual hearing aids themselves from the mold, and how to switch the hearing aids on and off. You will become familiar with how to check the battery life by performing a hearing test. Most require a new battery about every week to week and a half.
3. Follow-up and Maintenance
Depending on how severe the hearing loss proves coupled with the timing of when the child lost the ability to hear well, he or she might need therapy to ensure proper speech patterns. In addition, the specialist will likely recommend regular checkups performed by a specialized audiologist in the interest of making sure that your child continues to properly develop the ability to use language as well as peers and also to adjust the hearing aids as the needs of the child change. As the child continues to grow, tests for his or her ability to hear certain pitches may be performed to ensure that no further hearing loss occurs.
These appointments also allow the doctor to monitor and keep track of how much the inner ear has grown. Children quickly outgrow molds; without getting a new one when recommended your child may grow unable to use his or her hearing aids. On top of the molds no longer sitting properly in the ear canal and becoming prone to falling out, auditory leakage may create feedback that make it impossible for the child to hear clearly. For infants the mold may need to be replaced as frequently as every 60 days.
Helping Children with Hearing Aids
Parents can provide support to help their children with hearing loss. Hearing aids can be uncomfortable as children first become accustomed to them, so parents must remain vigilant and make them keep them in until they become used to them.
Make sure that the child associates the device with fun activities. Keep them in while doing some of their favorite things, making them forget about them and become used to them. Special headbands provided by the doctor can keep the devices inside the ear.
Make sure to give your child positive reinforcement. Provide a loving atmosphere that does not stigmatize the devices. Your child should come to understand them as helpful parts of their bodies and not as burdens that make them different. A routine that emphasizes togetherness and comfort at the same time the child first puts in the devices can go a long way to creating positive identifications that make the child less likely to reject the devices.
Keeping Hearing Aids Working
Young children may not be able to readily identify or communicate problems with their hearing aids. Therefore, parents should regularly check the devices for functionality. The doctor should walk you through how to check the battery using a sound check; this process may vary between specific devices. Check the sound output every day to see if a battery needs replacing. Also check for damage and dirt that might obstruct the hearing aids’ functions.
Checking the hearing aids generally requires a stethoset that can check for working conditions. The best time to check for working sound quality is when putting the aid in the child’s ear; this creates a daily routine that is easy to follow and also ensures that any problems are caught before the child must forgo hearing for the day. A supply of batteries should be kept on hand and replaced every week to week and a half. Hearing aid batteries should be available at nearly any pharmacy or big box store.
If a check must be done without a stethoset available, you can perform a less precise check by gently closing a fist around each ear piece. If you hear a feedback noise, it is currently functioning properly.
Before putting the hearing aids in, check the ear for any dirt or other objects; the child must have an unobstructed and clean ear canal. While sturdy enough for daily use, the molds and aid should be kept clean and as dry as possible. The mold should come off of the hearing aids if needed. Then each piece can be individually cleaned with gentle air from a bulb syringe and a non-abrasive tissue or cloth. Only put a clean hearing aid within a child’s ear to ensure proper working order and hygiene.
Further, ensure that the battery doors remain tightly closed before putting the device within the child’s ears.