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Using hearing aids with babies aged 0 - 6 months

Hearing aids are vital in developing your baby’s ability to listen and speak. Ideally, your baby should wear hearing aids all the time when they are awake. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible during the early months of life.

For practical reasons, your baby might only use the hearing aids for certain times of the day when they are very small. It’s important to increase the use of hearing aids as your baby develops. Baby with hearing aids

The aim is for your baby to wear the hearing aids for all their waking hours, as soon as possible.

In these very early stages, it may be difficult to tell whether your baby is hearing with the aids. Don’t be discouraged. Young babies can’t do much to show you they are hearing. Find out more about how to tell if your baby is hearing in ‘Signs of hearing in babies.'

Check the hearing aids every day

It’s important to check your baby’s hearing aids daily. Your baby can’t tell or show you much about what they hear, so you can only know if the hearing aids are working by checking them. This is a routine you need to continue until your child is old enough to tell you if something is wrong with the aids.

Your audiologist will show you how to check the hearing aids. Most people need to be shown a few times before they feel confident. Your audiologist will be happy to review the procedure with you as often you like.

Hearing aid use in the first six months of life

The hearing aid may produce a whistling sound when your baby is lying down or leaning. This is called acoustic feedback and is a common problem for newborns. It happens because the ears are small and soft and your baby spends a lot of time with their ear pressed against a surface, such as when sleeping or feeding.

You can reduce feedback by using a lubricant. Your audiologist can recommend a lubricant suitable for hearing aids. Young babies may need new earmoulds every few weeks to reduce the feedback.

Try to use the hearing aids as much as you can, in ways that still allow you to enjoy spending time with your baby. It helps if you can make wearing the hearing aids part of your baby’s routine.

If you can only use the hearing aids for certain times of the day:

  • Pick times when you are free to spend time with your baby, talking or singing
  • Pick a quiet place where there is no background noise, and turn off the television and radio
  • If you can, position your baby so that there is nothing up against the ears, so that the hearing aids do not whistle
  • Try to make sure your baby can see your face and mouth as you speak.

A bouncinette can be helpful. Your baby’s head and neck are supported and you can face your baby directly with a clear view of your face. If you use a bouncinette, a netting fabric cover is a good idea because the netting reduces the risk of whistling from the hearing aids.

Alternatively, you could sit upright on a chair or the floor with your baby lying in your lap. Place your baby’s head on your knees and legs on your chest. You can get good eye contact and it is a good position for playing ‘Peek-a-boo’ or ‘This little piggy went to market’!

Sleeping

Hearing aids are usually removed for sleeping, mainly for comfort. It will not harm your baby to wear the hearing aids while sleeping, although it might be a bit uncomfortable.

The bedding behind your baby’s head may cause the hearing aid to whistle. This may be annoying for you. Your baby may or may not hear the whistle, depending on the degree of hearing loss. In any case, the sounds heard will be affected by the feedback.

  • If your baby dozes off with the aids on, you can either leave them in and turn them off, or take them out.
  • If you are trying to settle your baby to sleep, you may want to turn the hearing aids off or take them out beforehand.
Feeding

Feeding is a special time with your baby. Most babies are cuddled close while they feed so whistling from one or both hearing aids can be a problem.

Cuddling is important, both for you and your baby. You may be able to find a way to cuddle your baby that does not cause the aids to whistle. Otherwise, turn off one or both hearing aids at this time. If you can only leave one hearing aid turned on, this is still helpful.

Remember to turn the aids back on after feeding if your baby is still awake.

Bath time

The hearing aids should not get wet so you need to take them out when your baby has a bath.

When your baby is not wearing the hearing aids

At times, it’s impractical for your baby to wear hearing aids. Your baby may not want to wear them when tired, for example. There are a few ways you can help make it easier for your baby to hear.

  • Amplify your voice: Speak in a raised voice, but don’t shout. Shouting makes your speech less clear. Instead, speak up as though you are talking to someone on the other side of the room.
  • Keep your baby nearby: Your voice will be louder and it will be easier to hear and see you if you are close. Even if your baby cannot hear you, being able to see you will make your baby feel secure.
  • Cuddle your baby: This is a good time to hold and cuddle your baby as you talk, because feedback won’t be a problem. Some people suggest holding your baby snuggled up under your chin or cheek, enabling the vibrations from your voice to be felt.
If your baby pulls the hearing aids off

At about six months of age, babies start gaining more control of their hands and begin to explore the world around them. Just as many babies find it interesting to pull off their shoes and socks, some babies love to pull off their hearing aids. Some babies also put them in their mouths.

Replace the hearing aid if your baby pulls it off. Try to stay calm. If your baby keeps pulling the aid off, or if replacing it develops into a struggle, put the hearing aid away for 15 minutes and try again later. This will help avoid a situation where your baby gets your attention by pulling the hearing aids off.

Helpful hints for keeping the hearing aids on your baby

Here are a few ideas for preventing your baby from pulling the hearing aids off.  

  • Aviator caps: Some parents use little cotton ‘aviator caps’ which come down over the baby’s ears and tie under the chin. Providing the cap is made of thin fabric (like a t-shirt) the single layer of cotton over the hearing aid microphones makes very little difference to the sound reaching the hearing aid microphones. Soft baby headbands are an alternative, but be careful not to cover the hearing aid microphone with thick fabric.
  • Huggies: Some parents use ‘Huggies’ which are available from your Australian Hearing centre. A ‘Huggy’ is a clear rubber ring with two bands to hold the hearing aid. The ring is fitted over your baby’s ear to hold the hearing aid behind the ear. Your audiologist can show you how these work.
     
  • Double-sided tape: You can get tape made for use on skin that will hold the hearing aid firmly against your baby’s head. Your hearing centre can supply you with this tape.
  • Clips: Your audiologist can give you a clip with cords that attach to the hearing aids. This stops the hearing aids from being lost and can make it harder for your baby to get the hearing aids into their mouth.
Keeping your baby safe

Check with your audiologist that your baby’s aids have (or can be fitted) with a tamper resistant battery compartment so your baby cannot accidentally swallow a battery. Make sure you use this feature while your baby is young.

Try to avoid your baby chewing on the earmould, in case it is accidentally swallowed.
Feel free to discuss any questions or concerns you have with our audiologists. They will be happy to help you.


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Information provided by Australian Hearing. Reproduced with permission.
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14-Nov-2015 7:59 PM (AEST)