If your child has hearing loss, there are a variety of methods to address it, including various communication methods and hearing aids and accessories for kids. Hearing technology created specifically for kids come in a variety of colors, power levels and form factors, to ensure their growing ears and brains receive the best listening results.
Hearing aids for kids are different than ones made for adults.
Physically, the often look different, and come in a range of colors that allow a child to express their personality and feel confident wearing their hearing aids. Internally, hearing aids for kids often have special settings that address specific listening situations that kids often find themselves in, such as speech-in-noise for loud classroom and playground settings.
Battery life is also an issue with hearing aids for children. Because a baby can’t communicate when a battery dies or the hearing aid isn’t working right, some hearing aids have a light indicating if the battery is still working. The Phonak Sky hearing aid is one example of hearing aids that are made with these kid-friendly features. It offers a range of tamper-proofing options and are water resistant, which is another helpful feature for young ones.
Read more: Hearing loss in children
Many times, a child’s hearing loss will be diagnosed at birth, though a mandatory newborn hearing screening. Other times, a parents or teachers might notice a child is having a hard time hearing as they grow up.
Because the human brain is programmed to learn language during the first six years of life, with the first three-and-a-half years being the most critical, early hearing loss detection and intervention is essential.
Read more: Keeping an eye on baby’s hearing
If your child has been diagnosed with hearing loss, the best person to assist you in choosing a hearing aid is an audiologist. Once you select one, try not to faint from sticker shock. Hearing aids aren’t cheap, and unfortunately aren’t always covered by insurance. A few states do require mandatory coverage, however. ASHA has a list of those states here. If your state isn’t listed, contact your health insurance provider to find out if you have coverage.
Read more: 5 reasons to choose a pediatric hearing aid for your child
Infants as young as four weeks old can be fit with hearing aids, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Once your child is diagnosed, an audiologist will help determine which hearing aid is the best fit.
A Behind the Ear (BTE) model is best for this age.
A BTE hearing aid is best for this age group as well.
Once children are old enough to be in school, their needs become more complex. This is when hearing aid accessories also come in handy.
A BTE hearing aid is also good option for teens, however, older children might prefer an in-the-ear hearing aid or a sleeker, receiver-in-canal option.
A big reason why BTE hearing aids are most commonly used for children is because the ear mold can be remade without replacing the processor and different ear mold styles can be used. The hearing aid is also easy to handle, with controls easy to see and adjust, and there’s a range of aids available.
However, some hearing aids have features that fit teens’ lifestyles better than others. For example, Phonak Audéo Marvel has direct connectivity, so teens can stream music, videos and phone calls directly to their hearing aids.
For younger children, the hearing aid should be programmable. In other words, your child shouldn’t be able to make any manual changes. This includes volume, feedback, and programming. Some pediatric hearing aids make adjustments automatically based on the child’s environment. As they get older, your child will be able to pick the right program for him or herself, but for now, let the aid do the work.
If you don’t want to worry about small batteries falling out or being swallowed, take a look at the battery compartment. Is it easy for your child to open? Are rechargeable batteries larger and/or easier?
Some hearing aids have tamper-proof battery compartments, while others eliminate the need for batteries completely with rechargeable options. Talk to your hearing care professional to see a range of options.
Read more: Would my child benefit from rechargeable hearing aids?
Is the hearing aid resistant to sweat, water, and dust? Kids tend to be more active than adults and get into messier situations without thinking about their hearing aids.
Read more: Are my child’s hearing aids water proof?
Kids tend to have more fun and feel more confident when they like their hearing aids. Pediatric hearing aids usually come in a variety of colors, which they can choose to fit their personality.
Read more: Why you should let your child choose their hearing aid color
Ear molds can be made in different colors as well.
Read more: 5 tips for choosing your child’s ear mold
Hearing aid accessories doesn’t mean rings and headbands – although these exist and can make wearing hearing aids even more fun! Rather, hearing aid accessories refers to the technology that connects with your child’s hearing aids, which gives them a better listening experience in hard-to-hear situations.
Hearing aid accessories can allow a child to connect to a microphone, a sound system in a large room, or their cell phones or TV.
The various products in the Phonak Roger portfolio are some solutions for hearing aid accessories for kids.
Many students use a FM system in learning environments. FM stands for frequency modulation and is the same type of signal that’s used for radios. The teacher wears a microphone that works with a FM receiver that attaches to the hearing aids. This allows the student to hear the teacher’s voice more clearly no matter the distance and even over background noise.
Many school districts have funding for hearing aid accessories for kids, which often include FM microphone systems and sound fields for classrooms. Classrooms are a dynamic place for interaction and of course learning. In order to fully participate, every child needs to hear not only the teacher, but also classmates and multimedia devices within the classroom.
It’s important to advocate for your child in the classroom and make sure that their learning environments are accessible. Many teachers are unaware of the best methods to teach children with hearing loss. But they can learn! Teaching deaf children isn’t much different than teaching children with normal hearing. The most important thing is that they have clear access to sound and feel included in their learning environments.
Children with hearing loss can also experience concentration or listening fatigue after hours of make struggling to hear. This can be reduced by using hearing accessories, such as Phonak Roger technology
Read more: How Roger helps my child’s listening fatigue
Read more: Teens with hearing loss: How to be an advocate for your education
Hearing aids are valuable pieces of equipment that won’t function properly if they’re not taken care of.
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has a helpful checklist for this process:
Read more: 10 care tips for your child’s hearing aids
In general, use common sense. Take the hearing aids off if your child will be in or near water or dirt, for example. Keep out of reach from babies, toddlers, and pets.
If your child is enrolled in early intervention, you may be eligible to receive funding through your state’s early intervention program. Additionally, Medicaid must cover the cost of hearing aids and associated services for children who qualify.
Local agencies can sometimes help. ASHA has a list of possible funding resources here. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) also has a list of financial assistance options.
If your family is new to hearing loss, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with this new world you’re now a part of. Rest assured there’s no better time to have a hearing loss. Today’s technology helps level the playing field, and accessibility options help ensure that every one with hearing loss has the same rights as anyone else.
However, some of the work has to be done on your end. Start with getting your child started with speech and language as soon as possible. Work with your child to make up for lost time and stay on pace. Don’t let your child use his/her child’s hearing loss as an excuse, and do the same. As your child grows, help him/her self-advocate; this will be one of the greatest gifts you can bestow. With all the resources available; you’re not alone.
Join other parents with hearing loss on our Facebook group, or find more resources for parents new to hearing loss, here.
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