If your child has been diagnosed with hearing loss, the right hearing aid can be important for their development of colloquial and educational success. Get complete information about children’s hearing aids.
For most families of children with hearing loss, the first important step towards hearing health will be having your infant or child fitted with hearing aids.
If you suspect that your child has hearing loss, go to your pediatrician or ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor immediately and ask the pediatrician for a referral. These hearing care professionals specialize in the testing, treatment, and follow-up of children with hearing loss.
Pediatric hearing aids
All hearing aid models contain a microphone to pick up sound, a processor that analyzes the sound (filtering out unwanted sounds like excess wind noise, for example, while amplifying desired sounds), and a receiver (or speaker) to deliver the amplified sound deep inside the ear. A battery powers the unit, and it can be rechargeable or disposable. The latest models also connect to devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops to allow direct delivery of streamed sound through the hearing aid.
Hearing aids made especially for infants and kids work very similarly to adult hearing aids, with a few key differences:
- Pediatric hearing aids are made to be more durable than adult models. Children can put a lot of wear and tear on hearing aids.
- Pediatric hearing aids are always compatible with FM systems and other assistive devices. For school-age kids, this is especially important to facilitate communication and learning.
- Battery cases on pediatric hearing aids are tamper-resistant. Batteries can be harmful if handled incorrectly or swallowed.
- Pediatric hearing aid cases often include a special LED light that indicates the unit is working. This feature allows parents and teachers quick checks of the devices.
Many pediatric hearing aids also are free of any possible allergens or harmful chemicals, and they come in many different bright colors. Depending on the child’s type and level of hearing loss, the size and style of the hearing aid may vary. Some children may wear a small unit behind their ear, with a thin tube and small plastic dome worn in the ear canal. Others may wear a slightly larger unit behind their ear (known as a “power” unit) and an earmold that fills the concha, or bowl, of the ear.
Importance of hearing aids for your child
If an audiologist recommended hearing aids for your child, it’s important that he or she wears them continuously, especially if the child is very young. Here’s why:
- From birth to three years, children’s brains are in a period of rapid development. Consistent sound input is critical for developing normal brain pathways for hearing, speech and language.
- Language development is important in listening and speaking. But when first learning a language, we can’t exactly “teach” it to children the way one would teach a school subject. Instead, language is caught. Children pick up on words and spoken syntax and language structure by being exposed to language continuously. For children with hearing loss, this incidental learning will need to be supplemented by speech and language therapy that focuses on attending to this auditory input.
- Consistent hearing is also important for children—especially infants and toddlers—in bonding with their parents. It builds trust and allows for the feeling of a predictable, reliable world.
Hearing aids can be especially helpful for children because their young brains are in a period of rapid development. Sound input improves development of speech and cognitive functions.
How do I know if my child needs a hearing aid or a cochlear implant?
Most children with hearing loss are able to benefit from hearing aids, though some will do better with a cochlear implant. The audiologist and other hearing health care professionals will determine whether your child is a candidate for hearing aids or cochlear implant based on the type and severity of the hearing loss, as well as the structure and shape of the outer ear.
As hearing loss is commonly identified in very young infants, children often start with hearing aids initially, and then become a candidate for a cochlear implant once they’re older. A child with hearing loss will have frequent hearing tests to carefully track hearing ability and hearing aid benefit.
For some kids, a type of hearing aid known as a bone-anchored hearing system may be the best option, particularly if they have single-sided deafness.