What Are Hearing Aids?
Hearing aids are the main treatment for a type of hearing loss called sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). This hearing loss happens when the inner ear (cochlea) or hearing nerves are damaged.
Hearing aids improve hearing by making sounds louder. For babies with SNHL, wearing hearing aids before they’re 6 months old improves their speech and language development. When hearing loss is in both ears, kids usually wear two hearing aids.
Hearing aids have four main parts:
- A microphone that collects sounds and sends it to the amplifier.
- A computer chip that helps interpret information about a child’s hearing loss for processing.
- An amplifier that makes the sound louder and sends it to the speaker.
- A speaker (or receiver) that delivers the sound to the ear.
No single style or manufacturer is best for every child. Your audiologist will help you choose a hearing aid based on your child's needs.
What Are the Types of Hearing Aids?
Types of hearing aids include:
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids. Most young children wear behind-the-ear hearing aids because they are easy to replace as kids grow. They have two main parts:
- A small hard plastic case that goes behind the ear. This holds the electronics that make up the actual hearing aid and the battery.
- An earmold that fits inside the outermost part of the ear. A plastic tube connects the earmold to the hearing aid. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the earmold and into the ear.
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids. These fit completely inside the outer ear. As with BTEs, there is a hard plastic case that holds the electronic components, but it's shaped to fit in the ear, so it's all one piece. ITEs come in different sizes. The one used depends on the child and the amount of hearing loss.
An audiologist specializes in testing and helping people with hearing loss. They will help find the right hearing aid for your child. Ear molds are specially fit to your child’s ear, and must be replaced as your child grows.
Sometimes the audiologist will add a remote microphone or FM system to a hearing aid. An FM system lets kids hear a teacher’s voice above background classroom noise. The teacher wears a small microphone and a transmitter that sends sound directly to the hearing aid and receiver using a wireless FM or Bluetooth transmission. This type of system also can be used at home or in other noisy places.
How Should We Care for Hearing Aids?
Follow the care and cleaning instructions that came with the hearing aid. Be sure to:
- Clean off any earwax on the earmold. Wipe it off with a soft cloth or tissue or use the cleaning tool it came with. Don’t wipe a hearing aid with anything rough.
- Keep the hearing aid dry.
- Check the battery with a battery tester. Replace the battery if it is running low. Store batteries in a safe place so young children can’t get to them. Button batteries can cause serious injuries if swallowed.
What Else Should I Know?
It can take time for your child to get used to wearing a hearing aid. Start slow, and gradually increase the amount of time it’s worn until your child wears the hearing aid most of the day.
Schedule regular follow-up visits with the audiologist and ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor to be sure the hearing aid is working well and the ear molds still fit.