How to make hearing aids part of your child’s daily routine?
Some children adjust quite quickly to hearing aids. Other children need a bit longer. There are plenty of strategies you can use to help the aids become second nature.
The first few days and weeks of getting used to hearing aids can be a tricky time for the whole family, or it can be a breeze. Some children take to hearing aids like a duck to water, accepting them immediately and wearing them all the time. For other children, it can take longer to establish regular and consistent use.
Children need to hear sounds, words and sentences over and over to develop speech and language skills. If your child has a hearing impairment, consistent hearing aid use is essential. Your child is relying on you to help them get the habit of consistent aid use. In the sections below we cover:
It’s not just your child who has to get used to the aids. You and other family members are also making a lot of adjustments at this time. Your approach to the hearing aids is important as it will influence your child’s attitude to them in the longer term. Children are perceptive from a very young age and will pick up on your facial expressions and body movements. Try to appear positive or at least neutral and matter-of-fact when handling or discussing the hearing aids, even if you don’t feel that way.
Encourage other family members to also show a positive, or at least a neutral attitude. At first, this may be hard, but it is important. Your child needs to progress to wearing hearing aids confidently, every day, just like they put on clothes every day. You do not want your child to feel that their hearing aids are a bad thing or that they must always be hidden away.
The recommended way to get your child started with hearing aids is to start with a few short periods a day then gradually increase the time that the hearing aids are worn each day, over a period of weeks. It would be ideal if your child was wearing the hearing aids all their waking hours within a month or so. However, we understand this is not always easy to achieve. The most important thing is to be persistent and to steadily increase your child’s aid use, week by week.
- Pick a quiet place at home, at a time when you are free to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes with your child, and when your child is also calm and settled.
- Choose a quiet activity that your child enjoys, to help distract them from the hearing aids. For a baby, this might be as simple as talking face-to-face and singing little songs to them. For an older child you might choose a story book, a special toy, music or dancing, or a favourite TV program.
- Put the hearing aids on your child and get them involved in the activity. Focus your attention on your child, not on the hearing aids, and enjoy this time together.
- Your child will almost certainly notice the feel and sound of the hearing aids, and put their hands up to them. Be ready and try to distract your child in some way. If necessary, gently move their hands away and give them something else to hold, to keep their hands busy.
- Aim for 10 to 15 minutes of aid use. If you and your child are enjoying the time, you can keep going for longer. At the end of the session, remove the aids, turn them off and put them in the box, in a safe place.
- You might find it helpful to start a diary or notebook and record how things went, how long the aids were worn, and what you noticed about your child’s responses.
- Try to repeat this short session a few more times later the same day.
Wearing the hearing aids will not hurt your child or baby’s hearing. Once you have started with aid use, you can increase the length of time your child is wearing the aids as quickly as it suits you and your child. Remember, the aim is to increase aid use until your child is wear the hearing aids all their waking hours.
- After several successful short sessions, you can start to leave the hearing aids on for longer – say 5 to 10 minutes longer, every day or so.
- With babies, try putting the hearing aids on when you change their nappy after a sleep. They will be distracted by the nappy changing and you will be spending some time with them anyway.
- For older children, it helps to start putting the hearing aids on when the child gets dressed, as soon as you’ve finished putting on any clothes that go over the head. This helps make the aids part of the normal “getting dressed” routine.
- As your child wears the aids for longer, you will need to leave them to play on their own for short periods with the hearing aids on. Depending on your child’s age, you might need to think about keeping the hearing aids in place.
For babies, there are some styles of cap [images]“baby pilot cap”, “hearing aid hat” that make it hard for your baby to even get at the aids. These can be purchased online and patterns are available to sew.
If your child is at an age where they might pull the aids off, it is important that they start using hearing aid retainers [link or image]. Retainers make it harder for your child to pull the aids off or put them into the mouth. Your audiologist can explain the options and show you how to use them.
Once your child seems comfortable with the aids in quiet, start using the hearing aids in noisier places. Hearing aids have special circuits which automatically adjust for softer and louder sounds. If there is a sudden loud sound, the aids will instantly turn down, so there should be no discomfort for your child.
- Start using the aids at noisier times in the home – for example, at breakfast and dinner time. If you have older children, this may be a good time to get them involved by helping distract their younger brother or sister from pulling at the aids.
- Extend the aid use outside the home –in the park, on the street, in shops. If your child is young, remember to have the hearing aid retainers on the hearing aids so they don’t get lost.
- If you have any concerns about your child’s comfort in noise, please discuss this with your audiologist.
Noise is a part of everyday life, so it’s important that your child is comfortable with their aids in noise. However, when you want to spend time helping your baby listen and understand speech, it is important to create the best listening conditions you can.
Some children are at school before their hearing loss is identified. Often the loss is identified because they were having difficulty with schoolwork.
- In general, school-aged children need to have a routine of wearing their aids all their waking hours, every day. Start off with quiet use at home over weekends and evenings, using the aids as much as possible at home.
- At the same time, work with your child to help them develop independent aid management skills, to be able to put the aids on and off themselves.
- As soon as you can, talk with your child’s teacher about your child starting to use hearing aids at school. Depending on your child’s age, the teacher may suggest some ideas to make it easier for your child.
- Help your child be ready to respond calmly to inevitable questions or curiosity about the aids. Practice one or two short, neutral responses about what hearing aids are and what they do.
At some point, your child will almost certainly show resistance or object to wearing the aids.
Most babies and children react to the different sound and feel of the aids, just as most children react to the first time they have a hat on or have shoes on. This doesn’t automatically mean that hats, shoes or hearing aids are hurting. It usually means that your baby needs opportunities to wear and get used to the hearing aids.
If your child resists a lot, you may only get a few minutes of use, a few times a day. This is still a start and something you can build on.
- Persist with at least a couple of short sessions every day.
- If possible, get another family member involved with a few more sessions.
- Talk to your audiologist. They can check again for any signs of loudness discomfort or physical discomfort. They can also check if there is anything in your child’s ear which might cause a problem.
- In the case of a toddler or pre-schooler, try to be the one removing the aids and finishing the session. The idea is to show that you are in control of the hearing aids, not your toddler. If necessary, you could teach your child to say or sign a word like “off”, so that they have a way to let you know what they want without resorting to pulling off the aids.
- Making choices is an important part of development, especially for toddlers and older children. However, hearing aid use is too important to be a choice for your child. Instead, try to find other choices your child can make related to the hearing aids; for example, which story to read or which special toy to have after the hearing aids are put on. Try to make the reward immediate. It is not helpful to promise a treat later in the day if you want to reward the child for having the hearing aids on now.
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.
The key to success with an infant or young child is to give positive rewards when the hearing aids are in place, and to not scold the child for removing them. Your love, combined with persistence, patience and positive reinforcement will help your child achieve consistent aid use in time.
It’s important to check your young child’s hearing aids every day. This is the only way to know if the aids are working properly. You will need to do this until your child is old enough to tell you when something is wrong with their hearing aids. Australian Hearing can provide you with a kit to check the hearing aids. See also: Checking the hearing aids article.
When your baby is under six months of age, it’s common for them to experience a whistling sound in their hearing aids when lying down or leaning against something. This sound is called acoustic feedback and is a common problem for newborns. It happens because your baby’s ears are small and soft and they spend a lot of time with their ears pressed against a surface, such as when they are sleeping or feeding.
You can reduce feedback by using a lubricant gel recommended by your audiologist. Young babies may also need new earmoulds every few weeks to reduce the feedback. As babies gain more control of their head and neck, acoustic feedback usually decreases a lot.
Try to use the hearing aids as much as you can when enjoying time with your baby. It helps if you can make wearing the hearing aids part of your baby’s routine.
Here are some tips if your baby can only use the hearing aids for certain times of the day:
- Choose times when you are free to spend time talking and singing with your baby.
- Choose a quiet place with little or no background noise.
- Ensure there is nothing against your baby’s ears so the hearing aids don’t whistle.
- Make sure your baby can see your face and mouth when you speak.
From six to 12 months, your baby will spend more and more of the day awake. Try to increase their use of the hearing aids until they wear them for all waking hours. You may need to spend five minutes playing games with your baby after you first put the aids on. There will be less need for this distraction as your baby becomes familiar with the hearing aids.
Here are some ideas for helping your baby learn about speech and other sounds as they get older; these are also great for babies without hearing loss:
- Spend time everyday interacting and talking with your baby. Sing songs, say rhymes and read books. This should be fun and relaxing for you as well as your baby.
- If you are in the same room as your baby, talk about what you are doing especially when you are doing something with your baby. “Bath time. It’s bath time now. You like your bath, don’t you. Let’s take your suit off… that’s right. Now the nappy….”
- It’s OK to talk to your baby in the sing-song way that mothers often use with babies. It’s also OK if you want to talk in a normal voice. The most important thing is that you talk to your baby.
- Try repeating any sounds your baby makes and take turns having a ‘conversation’.
- When your baby responds to a sound, smile and clap your hands or give them a cuddle. If your baby enjoys your reaction, they are more likely to do it again.
- Pair sounds with actions; for example, make aeroplane sounds while you fly your baby around, or say ‘hop-hop-hop’ as you step your fingers up your baby’s leg and tickle their tummy. And, don’t forget the traditional baby games like ‘peek-a-boo’.
- Let your baby explore your mouth and tongue when you speak.
Hearing aids should not get wet (unless they are special water-resistant aids). Make sure the aids are taken before bathing or swimming.
Hearing aids are usually removed for sleeping, mainly for comfort. If your baby falls asleep for a nap with the aids on, it will not do any harm to leave them in place if you don’t want to disturb your baby.
Getting your child started with hearing aids is a vital task – and one you are undertaking at a difficult time. Don’t hesitate to seek help and support from those around you.
Your audiologist is available to answer any questions about your child’s hearing aids, especially if you have concerns about loudness or suitability of the sound. They can also provide hearing-aid retainers and other options to help keep the aids on your child. Using these devices increases your child’s safety and reduces the chance of losing the aids.
- Other parents of children with hearing aids can be a great source of ideas and support about establishing aid use. They have “been there; done that” and are usually happy to pass on tricks and tips that worked for them. Online parent forums such as Aussie Deaf Kids can be a convenient way to tap into this support. Your audiologist will also be happy to put you in touch with other families or with your nearest parent support group.
- If your child is involved in an early intervention service, the teachers will be very focused on helping you achieve consistent aid use. They can be a great help since you will usually see them at least once a week. They can also put you in touch with a parent group is part of the early intervention programme.