A hearing aid is a valuable investment in your child’s health, but it can be confusing knowing which to choose and what to expect from a hearing aid.
Your Australian Hearing audiologist will offer you very high quality, fully-subsidised hearing aids that are safe and effective for your child’s hearing loss. You also have the choice to consider other hearing aid options which are partially-subsidised. Your audiologist will discuss the choices with you. The choices will vary according to your child’s age and degree of loss.
Parents naturally want the smallest possible hearing aid for their child. There are some very tiny hearing aids available these days, but they may not be safe or suitable for a baby or toddler.
Safety is very important when selecting hearing aids for a very young child. Hearing aids for young children must have:
- A tamper-proof battery door, so that the child can’t access the battery
- A volume control that can be locked or deactivated, so that the child can’t change the volume
- A secure ear hook (part of the hearing aid that connects into the earmould), so that it doesn’t pose a choking risk.
At Australian Hearing, babies and children will only be offered child-safe hearing aids; this means behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids.
Apart from safety, there are some other important factors to consider when selecting hearing aids for children:
- Your child’s type and degree of hearing loss. The hearing aid styles that would suit your child will depend on their hearing loss. For example, the very smallest hearing aids may not be strong enough for a severe or profound hearing loss.
- The sorts of activities does your child does in a typical week; where they have the most hearing difficulty – this information will help the audiologist identify hearing aid features useful for your child.
- Independence with hearing aid management. Some hearing aid features need to be switched on/off by the wearer, depending on the listening conditions. Your child’s ability to understand and operate controls is a factor when considering these features.
- Is your child willing to operate controls for the hearing aids? Would they be willing to operate a control on the hearing aid? What about operating a remote control or a remote control app on their smart phone? While some features of the aid can be made automatic, other features need to be operated using some sort of control. If your child doesn’t want to be seen using any control, it may be necessary to work only with automatic features.
Your child’s audiologist will regularly re-test your child’s hearing and review their activities and needs with you, to decide whether changes in hearing aid programming or the use of other technology would be helpful.
Are hearing aids free or subsidised?
Australian Hearing offers children a range of high quality, completely digital hearing aids. Some of these aids are fully subsidised, so there is no cost to the family. Other hearing aids are partially subsidised.
The fully subsidised range of hearing aids for children includes those features shown by research to benefit children with hearing loss.
If you wish, you can choose hearing aids with the latest features and technology, however there may be little or no independent research to support the use of the latest features with children. These hearing aids are partially subsidised, so you will need to cover any additional costs for your child. Some families purchase additional aids to suit activities such as sport or swimming whilst on a day-to-day basis they use the subsidised hearing aids.
Different hearing aid manufacturers often use different terms to describe the features of their hearing aids. Your audiologist can answer any questions you have about particular hearing aid features and how they may or may not be helpful for your child.
What style of hearing aid is best for my child?
Hearing aid style refers to how the hearing aid fits onto or into the ear. Most hearing aid manufacturers have a range of hearing aid styles available for each level of technology they produce.
As discussed above, babies and young children need hearing aids with child-safety features; currently this means BTE hearing aids.
As your child gets older, there will be opportunities to investigate some of the discreet styles designed for adult users. However, there may be reasons why in-the-ear (ITE) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids aren’t suitable for your child or may not give as much benefit as another style of hearing aid:
- A child’s ear is usually not large enough to fit an ITE/ITC/CIC aid.
- Small ITE and CIC aids often have to leave out some components to be as small as possible. For example, they may not contain a telecoil and may not be able to link with a remote control or with other assistive technology. Even if they fit your child’s ear, missing out on these components may be a serious disadvantage.
- Acoustic feedback (whistling) is a major risk in ITE /ITC/CIC hearing aids.
- The smaller the aid, the smaller the battery and electrical components and the lower the power. In some cases, the very small hearing aids are simply not powerful enough for someone who has a big hearing loss.