No parent wants to receive the surprising news that their child has any form of hearing loss. But this diagnosis early in life can be important to help the child with hearing assistance, helping them live the most normal life possible.
Even though hearing loss is most common in adults, it can affect children of all ages. If you suspect that your child might have any form of hearing loss, then the best thing you can do is schedule a hearing test with an experienced ENT or audiologist.
Why Hearing Is Critical for Childhood Development
The earliest years of life are critical in helping children develop essential life skills, such as conversation and talking. It’s essential that the child can identify words and sounds because these cues help them learn to speak.
When a child has hearing loss, it can cause problems with their development of language, speech, and social skills. Often, hearing issues result in a ripple effect that impacts the way the child can learn in school and communicate with friends.
These issues in the earliest years of life can have an ongoing impact in the later years of life. When a child is behind in school, it becomes more challenging to catch up as they advance into middle school, high school, and beyond.
Since there are many ways that hearing loss affects development, it’s essential to work with a hearing specialist when you think that there are problems. In addition, helping your child with hearing aids or other treatments can reduce the complications that come from hearing loss.
How Old Does a Child Need to Be for Hearing Aids?
The truth is that even babies and young children can wear hearing aids when needed. Early detection is critical to your child’s development, and doctors can assist in identifying the right types of hearing aids to fit your child’s needs.
It might be necessary to wear a hearing aid in one or both ears. The good news is that many advances in technology make hearing aids more comfortable and effective.
What Is the Best Type of Hearing Aid for a Child?
Each patient is unique, which is why you need to talk to a hearing specialist to identify the ideal type of hearing aid for your child. In addition, there are many different types of hearing aids, with options to personalize these treatments depending on the underlying cause and severity of hearing loss.
- A “behind the ear” (BTE) model is the most common type of hearing aid for children. Here are some of the reasons why this type of hearing aid is often the preferred choice for children:
- Different ear old types can be used with the hearing aids, customizing the fit to the shape of the child’s ear
- This style is effective for many types of hearing loss
- Earmolds are easy to use and simple to clean
- These earmolds can be replaced easily as the child grows
- The earmolds are safe and soft, making them perfect for small children
Pediatric Hearing Aids Are Unique
Hearing aids designed for children are different from those used for teenagers and adults. Even though the technology works in many of the same ways, there are a few notable differences that help with the effectiveness of the equipment:
- Durable Designs: Children tend to put more wear and tear on their hearing aids compared to adults. Pediatric hearing aids are made to be sturdier and more durable.
- Assistive Device Integrations: Hearing aids designed for children are compatible with FM/DM systems so they can integrate with assistive devices. This feature is often helpful in a school setting.
- Tamper Resistant Battery Cases: The battery storage area is designed to be tamper-resistant. Batteries can be dangerous if they are swallowed or mishandled, so it’s vital to minimize the child’s access to the batteries.
- LED Light: Sometimes, pediatric hearing aids have a small LED light to indicate that the hearing aid is working. This light can be a cue for teachers and parents to ensure that the devices are functional.
Helping Your Child Learn to Live with Hearing Aids
There is always an adjustment period when your child starts wearing hearing aids. It will take time for them to get used to having something on their ears. Additionally, they will need to learn how to interpret the new sounds they are hearing.
As a parent, you can help the child put the hearing aids on and keep them on throughout the day. Sometimes, adjustments might be needed to ensure the hearing aid is being worn correctly. Your audiologist or ENT will provide specific instructions, so you know how to assist your child.
Make wearing hearing aids a fun part of life. For example, you might plan a fun activity the first time the child wears the hearing aids, so they associate positive memories with their hearing aids.
You might need to gradually ease your child into wearing hearing aids. For example, start with only a few hours on the first day. Then increase the time they wear the hearing aids each day until they are comfortable wearing them all day long.
Keeping the Hearing Aids in Place
One common problem is that children will lose their hearing aids. Not only will this loss affect their hearing, but it can be an expensive problem for parents to replace the hearing aids.
You can do things to help your child keep the hearing aids in place. For example, you might buy headbands or special tape that helps to hold the hearing aids in place. Other options include pinning or clipping the hearing aids to the child’s clothing (in case the hearing aid falls out).
Hearing Aid Care Tips
You should proactively teach your child to take care of these hearing aids, helping to optimize their hearing and minimize any associated problems. At the beginning (and depending on the child’s age), parents are often involved in caring for the hearing aids. Eventually, the child can adjust and start taking care of their hearing aids on their own.
Hearing aid care tips include:
- Regular checks to ensure the hearing aids are working correctly
- Testing the batteries
- Always have spare batteries available to change when needed
- Follow instructions to clean the hearing aids
- Keep the hearing aids dry
- Store the hearing aids in a safe place to minimize the risk of damage or loss
Does Your Child Need Hearing Aids?
Most children living with hearing loss will benefit from wearing hearing aids. As a parent, you can watch for potential signs that your child is suffering from hearing loss:
- Not startling with loud noises
- Not reacting to sounds in a normal way
- Difficulty locating the source of voices or sounds
- Delays in speech
- Problem with different speech sounds
If you notice any of these signs, then it’s time to schedule a hearing test. Reach out to our team of ENTs at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat. We are in a convenient location for all Collin County and Dallas patients. Our offices are nearby in Frisco or Plano, TX. We have an online form you can use for an appointment request or call: (972) 596-4005.