Early intervention is crucial for the development of speech and language, as well as for social, emotional, and psychological development.
For parents of babies or children with hearing loss, the first and most important step towards hearing health will be having the child or infant fitted with hearing aids. At least two out of every 1,000 children screened for hearing loss, via newborn screening in the U.S, are identified as deaf or with hearing loss.
Other children may develop hearing loss later in childhood due to medication side effects, infection, a genetic condition, or exposure to loud noises. If you suspect that your child may have hearing loss, schedule a visit to a pediatrician or pediatric audiologist. Audiologists at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center specialize in the testing, treatment, and follow-up for children with hearing loss.
All hearing aids come with a microphone to pick up sound, a receiver or speaker to deliver the amplified sound into the ear, and a processor that analyzes sound and filters unwanted audio, like wind noise. All units are powered by a battery, which could be disposable or rechargeable. Modern hearing aids can connect to smartphones directly, but an intermediary device/accessory is needed to connect to laptops and tablets to allow direct streaming of sound.
Technically, hearing aids made for kids work very similarly to adult hearing aids, with the exception of a few key differences:
Pediatric hearing aids are designed to be more durable than their adult counterparts. Children are likely to subject hearing devices to a lot of wear and tear, especially while playing, so manufacturers keep this in mind when making hearing aids for kids.
Pediatric hearing aids are designed to be always compatible with FM/DM systems and similar assistive devices. For school-age children, this feature in pediatric hearing aids is very important to facilitate learning and communication.
Battery cases for pediatric hearing aids are made to be tamper-resistant. This is for the safety of children because as we all know, batteries can be harmful if swallowed or handled incorrectly. Plus, hearing aid batteries are small enough to be inserted or stuck in the nose or other crevices. The tamper-resistant design of the battery compartment in pediatric hearing aids gives parents one less thing to worry about.
Kids hearing aids often include a special LED light to indicate if the unit is working, turned on, or low in battery. This feature also allows parents, guardians, and teachers to easily check the device’s status.
Depending on the child’s level and type of hearing loss, the style and size of the pediatric hearing aid may vary. Some kids may wear a fairly large unit behind the ear – known as a power unit – and an earmold that fills the bowl of the ear. Other children may wear a smaller unit behind the ear, accompanied by a thin tube and a tiny plastic dome worn in the ear canal. Audiologists at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center can help select and fit your child with the appropriate hearing device.
As soon as possible after a hearing loss is diagnosed!
Hearing aids can be fit on infants as early as a few months old. As they grow, children will need to undergo regular hearing evaluations. Their communication needs will change throughout childhood so they will also need to update their hearing aids.
If your child is diagnosed with hearing loss, early intervention is highly recommended. From birth to three years, the brain of a child experiences a period of rapid development. Consistent sound input is highly critical during this time for developing normal brain pathways associated with hearing, language, and speech. Speaking and early listening are vital to language development. In the early stages of language learning, language is caught, not taught. That being said, intervention for hearing loss using kids’ hearing aids is highly important because children need to pick up on words and spoken syntax by being exposed to language constantly. If they can’t “catch” language properly, they may have communication issues which could also result in other developmental concerns. For kids with hearing loss, incidental learning will be supplemented by speech and language therapy that zooms in on auditory input. Pediatric hearing aids play a big role in a child’s language and speech development.
How do you get a 4-year-old to press a button when they hear the beeps? Short answer: you don’t. This is where Conditioned Play Audiometry (CPA) comes in! By demonstrating a repetitive play task to the child and providing positive reinforcement, we can obtain frequency-specific information to test their hearing sensitivity. Activities that are fresh, innovative, and appealing to a child makes coming to the audiologist fun.
If your child is too young for play audiometry, or too shy to interact, we can use Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA). This testing involves measuring your child’s sensitivity to sound by using a head-turn response. Visual reinforcement after a head turn response keeps the task interesting for the child.