At some point, your child will almost certainly object to wearing their hearing aids, especially in the early days. Ideally, they should wear them whenever they’re awake, but the reality is that it may take some time for your child to reach this point. They may also wear them for a while and then kick up a fuss out of the blue.
The first time your baby wore shoes or a hat, they probably tried to pull them off. They didn’t do it because they were in pain, but because wearing them felt unfamiliar. Or they wanted to see what it was. It’s the same with hearing aids. Your child is new to the feel and sound of hearing aids and needs time to adjust.
Take it slowly
If your child is digging their heels in, they may only be willing to wear the hearing aids for bursts of a few minutes, throughout the day. That’s okay. It’s a start and you can build on it by trying a couple of short sessions every day. If you are not making progress, talk to your audiologist. They’ll make sure the hearing aids are comfortable and check the sound levels. They can also look for anything in your child’s ear that might cause problems.
Keep calm and create a routine
Hearing loss and hearing aids are a lot for both you and your child to deal with, so it’s understandable that this can be a confusing and challenging time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself—or your child. Your goal is consistency and establishing a routine, however slow you need to take it. Alison King, Australian Hearing’s principal audiologist for paediatric services, advises parents not to react to resistance. Behaviour such as pulling the hearing aid off is natural for babies.
“Babies are curious. Just calmly put the hearing aids back on. Don’t let it become a power play or a source of stress.”
It’s okay to pause
If your baby or child is distressed or keeps trying to pull the hearing aids off, stop until they calm down and then try again. If you’re feeling frustrated about your child’s aid use, give it a break and start again tomorrow. There are many reasons why children may object to their aids at some time. If possible, get another family member involved with a few sessions so it’s not you every time.
Pick your moment
Wait until your child is happy before putting on the hearing aids. With babies and toddlers, you can sing or talk cheerfully as you go. This will help create a positive experience overall and they will start to connect hearing aids with happy sounds. Distraction is also your friend, and King recommends keeping your toddler or baby so busy with activities that they love, they forget they are even wearing them.
Remain in charge
It’s important that your toddler or pre-schooler understands that you are in control of the hearing aids, not them. For that reason, King recommends that you be the one to remove the aids and finish the session. If you like, you can teach your child to say or sign a word such as “off”, so they are able to let you know what they want without pulling off the aids.
Let them make some decisions
Hearing aid use is too important to be a decision for your child. That said, because making choices is an important part of development for children, try to find other choices they can make, which are related to the hearing aids. For younger children, this might be the story to read or the special toy to cuddle while the hearing aids are on. Get older children involved in selecting the colour and style of hearing aid or ear mould. This might get them excited about the process.
“If they like what they see, they’ll be more likely to wear them,” says King.
Focus on the positives
Even if your child is not enthusiastic about putting the hearing aids on, perhaps you can get them interested about the benefits of wearing it. Discuss what they can hear that they miss out on when they don’t have the hearing aids on.
Reward wearing hearing aids
Give rewards when the hearing aids are in place rather than scolding them for resisting. If you do give a reward, make it immediately after what they’ve done what you want. Children may not be able join the dots if you promise a treat later in the day for putting hearing aids on now.
With a combination of persistence, patience and positive reinforcement you’ll eventually get your child using the aid in time.