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Children who are hard of hearing are becoming an increasing priority for many hearing healthcare companies
. There are a variety of unique product offerings specifically for children that are available in many different styles, types and colors.
The type of hearing aid device will greatly depend on the type and extent of the child’s hearing loss, although behind-the-ear (BTE) devices are often recommended for children because they are durable and robust. BTE aids are most practical for children because they are less reliant on the size of the inner ear. Custom ear molds for behind-the-ear (BTE) aids are soft and easy to clean and, although they may need to be replaced because children grow at rapid rates, they are easier and less expensive to replace than in-the-ear (ITE) or in-the-canal (ITC) aids. Also, many parents find it beneficial that they can easily monitor and control behind-the-ear (BTE) aids.
Many companies now offer devices with greater functionality for adults, children and even infants. Here are just a few innovative features and programs which have been specifically designed for children:
Some children’s hearing aids can also be connected to other listening devices, in the following ways:
T-switch or telecoil is a small wire inserted into a hearing aid. The telecoil is used to improve telephone communication and it can be used with other assistive devices to enhance television and stereo enjoyment.
An FM system can work great in a classroom as it allows the child to hear the teacher’s voice above disruptive classroom noise. A teacher wears a small microphone and transmitter that sends sound directly to the child’s hearing aid and receiver using a wireless FM transmission.
Children’s hearing aids are more technologically advanced than ever before. Manufacturers are offering hearing aids for children with many practical and suitable features
Profound hearing loss: teens with this loss are usually termed deaf; they may hear loud sounds of 90 dB or more.
Approximately one to two newborns per one thousand newborns have a moderate, severe or profound hearing loss, and one to two newborns per one thousand may have mild hearing loss. By age nineteen years the prevalence of hearing loss has doubled.
A child’s early years are important for speech and language learning. Finding the best hearing aids for your child will help. But testing hearing aids on children is not the same as testing adults. Adults can tell the audiologist if the hearing aid is too soft or too loud, or if it is working correctly. Babies and young children cannot do this. It is important to work with a pediatric audiologist who has experience fitting and testing hearing aids on young children.
Hearing aids must be set carefully for each child. When choosing what hearing aids are needed for a child, the audiologist will consider some important information:
The degree and type of the child’s hearing loss
The durability of the hearing aid
The service from the manufacturer
The hearing aid’s ability to connect to other devices that are used in school
Adults who wear hearing aids sometimes choose to wear only one hearing aid. Pediatric audiologists almost always recommend that babies and young children wear hearing aids in both ears. Listening with both ears is needed to help speech and language learning. It is also important for a child’s safety because it helps them know from what direction sounds are coming. Even if a child has different amounts of hearing loss in each ear, two hearing aids usually will be recommended.
The best way to test hearing aid benefit is to see how the hearing aid is working in a person’s ear. Audiologists measure hearing aid gain in the ear by using a probe microphone system. A small, soft tube is placed in the child’s ear next to the earmold. The tube is attached to a microphone. The probe microphone measures the amount of sound coming out of the hearing aid while it is on the ear. Children have much smaller ears than adults, so it important to take measures on each child’s ear to make sure hearing aids are set correctly.
It can be difficult to test babies and young children using regular probe microphone tests. Babies may not keep the probe tube in their ear for more than a few minutes. They may not be able to sit quietly enough to test the hearing aid when it is on their ear. A special test called the Real-Ear-to-Coupler Difference (RECD) can be used instead. The audiologist makes a quick probe-microphone measure with just the child’s earmold in his or her ear. The hearing aid can be tested in a separate testing box. The hearing aid can be adjusted for the child and the child does not have to keep the probe microphone in their ear for more than a few minutes.
The RECD is one of the most recent tests designed for babies and young children. It is considered regular practice for pediatric audiologists when working with babies. Research studies have shown that the RECD test is safe for babies younger than 6 months of age.
The most important goal of hearing aid testing is to make sure speech is loud enough for the child to hear. Probe-microphone testing helps the audiologist judge how much speech will be heard through the hearing aid. This is called aided audibility. Using measures of aided audibility, the audiologist can compare different hearing aid settings and different listening situations. The differences between audibility with and without the hearing aid also can be compared.