Babies and children explore the world around them using their five senses. When one of these senses isn’t working as it should be it can have adverse effects on their development.
One of the very first tests a baby will have will be a hearing screening. Normally around 24-48 hours after their birth. Babies that pass this but then develop hearing problems later in childhood have a slightly better advantage. This is because they have had a small chance to hear the world around them and develop some communication skills.
For those babies that are not that as fortunate and suffer from hearing loss from birth. Their journey can be more difficult. In either case early intervention is key to helping your child’s development.
Hearing aids are typically used for both children and adults when they suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. Although a hearing aid will not fix the hearing loss. It will help your child be able to navigate the world a little easier.
If you believe that your child may be suffering from hearing loss. It is advised to visit your General Practitioner and ask to be referred to a paediatric audiologist.
How does a hearing aid work?
A hearing aid has 3 main components which work together. These parts include a microphone, an amplifier and a speaker.
Sounds are picked up by the microphone and converted into sound waves. These are then sent to the amplifier where they are boosted and sent through to the ear via the speaker.
Technology has meant that hearing aids have come a long way over the last few years and now come with many added extras. For example, directional microphones and environmental noise reduction.
What is the best type of hearing aid for children?
There are many types of hearing aids on the market today. The one which would be the best fit for your child will depend on two main factors.
- Their age
- Their degree of hearing loss.
Although there are lots of different types of hearing aids they come under two main umbrellas. Behind-The-Ear hearing aids and In-The-Ear hearing aids. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Typically it is recommended that a child have a Behind-The-Ear hearing aid. This is due to several factors which we will look at below.
Types of hearing aids explained
- Behind-The-Ear (BTE)
A BTE has a small plastic case that sits behind the ear. This is then connected to an earmold that sits in the outer part of the ear.
These types of hearing aids can be used for mild to profound hearing loss. Although some people may see them as the largest of the options, they are becoming smaller and smaller all the time.
- In-The-Ear (ITE)
There are several hearing aids that come under the In-The-Ear bracket.
These include the ITE which is also sometimes known as a full shell. It is designed as a single unit which fills the outer ear.
- In-The-Canal (ITC)
These fit just inside the entrance of the ear canal and are sometimes known as a half shell hearing aid.
- Completely-In-Canal (CIC)
These fit neatly inside the ear canal, they are nearly completely invisible.
- Invisible-In-Canal (IIC)
These sit deeper into the ear canal and are completely invisible. They are removed easily using a nylon thread.
Some important advice when choosing your child’s hearing aid
Although a child may be drawn more towards an In-The-Ear model due to their discreteness. These are not advised for several reasons.
Size and Fit
As the child grows and their ears change a new earmold would need to be made regularly.
Not only would this be expensive but it would mean the child being without a hearing aid regularly. Which in turn could hinder their development.
In-The-Ear hearing aids are a lot smaller than their BTE counterparts. For this reason they are not recommended for children due to safety reasons. This includes the possibility of them becoming a choking hazard.
Babies and toddlers especially like to spend a lot of time rolling around on the floor. The hearing aids could damage their delicate ears.
Due to the larger size of Behind-The-Ear hearing aids, not only are they more powerful. They also have the option to have additional features.
They can be connected to FM systems to help them hear better over distance. Or in noisy environments such as a classroom.
An In-The-Ear hearing aid would not have this option.
It is typically not recommended for a child to wear an In-The-Ear model of hearing aid. At least not until they reach their mid-teens due to the reasons stated above.
If you believe that your child may be suffering from hearing loss. It is advised to visit your General Practitioner and ask to be referred to a paediatric audiologist. They will be able to diagnose the degree of hearing loss. They will also help provide information regarding the most suitable type of hearing aid based on your own child’s personal circumstances.