For children to develop speech and language skills, they need to hear sounds, words and sentences over and over again. Therefore, for a child with a hearing impairment to develop speech and language skills, it is essential that the hearing aids are worn consistently.
The first few days and weeks of getting used to a hearing aid can be a difficult time for the whole family, or it can be a breeze! While some children take to hearing aids like ducks to water, accepting them immediately and wearing them all the time, for others it can take quite some time to establish regular and consistent use.
Your child’s age temperament and hearing level can all influence the reaction to hearing aids. It is also important to your child’s acceptance of the devices that they are comfortable and don’t feed back (whistle).
Your own reaction to hearing aids can also influence your child’s acceptance of the devices. Children are perceptive from a very young age and will respond to your facial expressions and body movements when handling or discussing the hearing aids. The thought of getting your child to accept hearing aids can be very daunting, particularly as you may feel uncertain about using the devices or of their benefit. This is especially true if your child initially shows little or no response to sound at early tests.
Luckily for most families, these fears are unfounded and the child accepts the aids without much fuss.
Please feel free to discuss any concerns at all regarding the hearing aids with your family audiologist. Many parents also find it helpful to discuss a variety of issues with other parents. Your audiologist will be happy to put you in touch with other families or with your nearest parent support group. Your child’s teachers/early intervention staff are also a mine of information about helping your child adjust to hearing aids.
Gradually increasing the time the hearing aid is worn is often the most successful approach. Initially select a time when the child is most likely to accept the hearing aid. This usually would be a time of day which your child enjoys such as play time, story time, lunch time or during their favourite television program. Ensure your child wears the aids for part of this activity, gradually increasing the amount of time that the aid is worn daily. While your child is wearing the aids give lots of individual attention and positive encouragement.
If the aid is removed, cease the activity. Once the child is happy and accepting, replace the aid and commence the activity again. If the child responds well to wearing the aids, and makes few attempts to remove them, remove the aids after 30 minutes to one hour. If your child is negative towards the aids, removing them almost as soon as they are put on, aim for only five minutes of aid use to start with.
It is important that you make the decision to remove the aids and finish the session, demonstrating that your are in control of the situation. If things go well, you may wish to use the hearing aids for several sessions in a day. If your child is resistant, you may try to use them for only one or two very short sessions. If you are feeling upset or stressed, give it a break and try again tomorrow! If your child is totally unaccepting of hearing aids, it may help to share the burden of persisting among several family members. The key to success with an infant or young child is giving positive rewards when the aids are in place and avoiding chastising your child for removing the aid.
After several successful sessions of short duration hearing aid use, the aids can be left on for increasingly longer periods of time. This is a guide only as parents need to use their own judgement and do what they feel is best for their child.
The ultimate goal for children with a significant hearing loss is that the aids be worn for all of the child’s waking hours. The time taken o achieve this goal can vary enormously, however you need to be comfortable about how this process is managed. It is important to keep calm – but be persistent. Children are very quick to realise if you are wavering!
By using this gradual approach, full-time aid use can be achieved reasonably easily and the process can be both rewarding and successful. Good luck!