Amplification And Assistive Devices For Children

What is a hearing aid? Will it cure my child’s hearing loss? Hearing aids are devices which make sounds louder. Different models are chosen to suit an individual’s unique needs. Hearing aids do not make hearing “normal.” Depending on the loss, there may be some “holes” in what is heard, even with the best hearing aid. Some children may hear some sounds, but not others; other children may not hear any speech at all. Some children with hearing losses can use hearing aids to understand environmental sounds, words, or phrases. Others may not be able to understand any sounds through listening skills alone but can use a hearing aid to help with speech reading. A child’s ability to understand sound through listening skills will depend both on the degree of hearing loss and the amount of exposure to sound.

Are two hearing aids twice as good as one?

The use of two hearing aids does not double the benefits of amplification. Think about how a person with normal hearing listens on the telephone. A hearing person can hear well enough with one ear to carry on a complete conversation. With a set of headphones, this same individual might hear the words a little more clearly, but hearing ability is not doubled. The situation with hearing aids is similar. One hearing aid may provide most of the amplification benefits. Two hearing aids may help a child detect the direction of sound and also may improve the quality of sound, just as sound quality improves when a record is changed from monaural to stereo.

Hearing aids are sold individually, not as a set. In deciding whether your child should wear one or two hearing aids, think carefully about the advantages and disadvantages of each approach as well as the type of degree of hearing loss for each ear.

What special care does a hearing aid require?

Like any expensive electronic device, a hearing aid needs to be protected from moisture, heat, dirt, and physical abuse. Children should not wear the hearing aid when sleeping, bathing or swimming and should be taught to put it in a safe, dry place when they are not wearing it. Keeping the ear mold clean and occasionally replacing the tubing and cord will help prolong the life of the hearing aid. Removing the batteries or opening the battery compartment at night is helpful. This small step allows air to circulate in the compartment, helps dry it out, and lengthens the life of the battery.

How much does a hearing aid cost? Can we try hearing aids before we buy them?

The cost depends on the exact model and features and varies depending on the services provided as part of the hearing aid “package.” Sometimes there is a separate charge for the hearing aid and any additional services that are needed, such as the cost of fitting an ear mold, or services during or after the warranty period. During the hearing aid evaluation process you may be able to try some models or the effect of the recommended amplification simulated. 

Will a child who has hearing loss be able to use the telephone?

Children with hearing losses use the telephone in two ways. Those children who have enough hearing and who have learned to use there hearing aid very well for in-person communicating may be able to speak and listen on the telephone. Even children with severely limited hearing can sometimes understand family members and close friends on the phone. Some children may need to use a telephone amplifier or the hearing aid’s telecoil (“T” switch) that helps make it easier to hear what is said over the telephone.

Children with a hearing loss can also communicate on the telephone with telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTY). These devices have keyboards, like typewriters, on which message can be typed. Rather than speaking, the two people--each with a TTY--type messages to each other.

What devices can alert a deaf or hard of hearing child when the phone or doorbell is ringing?

A number of available devices will signal a deaf or hard of hearing child when the doorbell or telephone rings. Some systems use a flashing light to alert the child visually. Other systems rely on special bells that are very loud or in a frequency range that is easier for the child to hear.

How does a deaf child who can’t hear an alarm clock wake up?

Alarm clocks for deaf people generally rely on non-auditory signals, such as flashing lights or vibrations. The flashing light is built into some alarm clocks. It may be a regular light or an extra bright, flashing strobe light. A regular lamp can be plugged into other alarm clocks. Some alarm clocks have a vibrator attachment that shakes the mattress. Other alarms have a smaller vibrator that is placed under the pillow. 

You may need to test several devices to determine which one works best for your child. Do consider investing in such a device. Children who use a special alarm clock learn the responsibility to wake up by themselves in the morning, one more step in the process of learning to be independent.


Written by David Deyo, Audiologist 
Adapted from ‘Growing Together.’ Information For Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Submitted by the Jamaica Association For The Deaf.