Consistent hearing aid use is essential. Children need to hear sounds, words and sentences repeatedly to develop their speech and language skills. They rely on you to develop a habit of consistent use.
Adjust your attitude
Getting used to aids is a team effort. Your approach will influence your child’s attitude to their hearing aids over the long term. Children are very perceptive and will pick up on your facial expressions and body movements. Even if you don’t feel it, try to appear positive (or at least neutral) and matter-of-fact when handling or discussing aids. Encourage family members to do the same. Your child needs to approach hearing aids as something they put on every day, like clothes. The last thing you want is a child who feels wearing one is a bad thing or wants to hide it away.
Work on getting your child to wear their hearing aids for a few short bursts during the day. Then increase use over the course of a few weeks. Every child is different, but aim for fulltime use while awake within a month or so. The most important thing is to be persistent and to steadily increase your child’s aid use.
Pick the right moment
Start with a quiet place at home, when you have at least 10 to 15 minutes to focus, and your child is calm and settled. A quiet activity that your child enjoys might help distract them from the hearing aids. For babies, this can be as simple as talking and singing songs. Older children might like a story book, special toy, music or dancing, or a favourite TV program.
Focus on your child, not the device
Focus your attention on them, not the hearing aids, and enjoy this time together. They might notice the feel and sound of the hearing aids, and put their hands up to touch them. Try to distract your child in some way. If necessary, gently move their hands away. Keep their hands busy by giving them something else to hold.
Follow your child’s cues
Aim to use the hearing aids for 10 to 15 minutes, but if you and your child are enjoying the time, keep going. At the end of the session, remove and turn off the aids, return them to their box and put in a safe place. You might find it helpful to take notes on how things went, how long your child wore their aids, and their response. If possible, repeat these short sessions a few more times throughout the same day.
Wearing the hearing aids will not hurt your child or baby’s hearing, so increase use as quickly as it suits you both. Remember, you eventually want your child wearing their hearing aids whenever they’re awake. Following several successful short sessions, add on an extra 5 to 10 minutes every day or so.
Make it routine
A good way to make wearing a hearing aid part of daily life is to put them on during other regular activities. With babies, do it at nappy changing time after a sleep. With luck, there will be enough going on to distract them. If they’re older, make it part of dressing, but put clothes that go over their head on first.
Call for backup
As hearing aid usage increases, they’ll start to play on their own while wearing them. Depending on age, you might need to stop them pulling them off. Hearing aid retainers make it harder to pull the aids off or put them in the mouth. Ask your audiologist about your options and how to use them.
Bring the noise
Once your child is comfortable in quiet settings, introduce noisier places. Hearing aids adjust to softer and louder sounds, so sudden loud noises shouldn’t cause discomfort. Start with times at home, such as during meals. Older siblings are great at distraction if your child is pulling at the aids. Then move outside the house to places like the street, park or shops. If your child is young, retainers stop hearing aids from getting lost. If noise makes your child uncomfortable, tell your audiologist.
Get more help
Don’t hesitate to seek help and support from those around you. Parents in the same boat are also great for ideas and support. They are usually happy to pass on tips that worked for them, so check out online parent forums like Aussie Deaf Kids.
Your audiologist can answer your questions or concerns about hearing aids and will be happy to put you in touch with families and support near you. If your child uses early intervention teachers, they can work on consistent aid use. You’ll see them often, so they’re a great source of help and can also put you in touch with a parents group.
Australian Hearing is the leading specialist and provider of Government funded hearing services. For more information about the services available for children with hearing loss