My son was recently diagnosed with hearing loss, and we are looking what hearing aid would be best for him. I prefer the small, in-the-ear hearing aids, but our audiologist is encouraging the larger hearing aids that go behind his ear. Can children wear in-the-ear hearing aids? What are the benefits and disadvantages of behind-the-ear hearing aids for children? – Lewis in California
It is possible for children to wear in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids, but it is not something that is recommended until a child is older, typically when they reach their teenage years.
There are a few reasons why ITE hearing aids are not offered to younger children, but the main one is that a child’s ears grow very quickly over the first few years of their life.
New ear molds need to be made on a very regular basis and need to be supplied on a very fast turnaround. If a child has to wait for a new custom made hearing aid every time their ear changes shape they spend more time without amplification, which is obviously not what we want. A child needs consistent amplification and it easier to ensure this with behind-the-ear hearing aids fitted with ear pieces.
Another reason why ITEs are not the best choice for younger children and babies is comfort and safety. Babies and toddlers spend a lot of time rolling around and toppling over and small custom hearing aids made of hard material could damage their soft ears if they fall over.
BTE hearing aids also have the option to connect with accessories, such as Roger and FM systems, which allow them to better hear over distance or in noisy situations, such as the classroom. The set-up is not so easy or unavailable with ITEs, which means that the advantage these system bring to a child for school and other activities would not always be possible.