Children and Hearing Aid Use: Consistency is Key
For many parents, finding out that their child has been diagnosed with a hearing loss can be emotional, and even scary. During a hearing aid fitting appointment, the audiologist dispenses not only the hearing aids, but an excess of new information that parents must now incorporate into their daily lives. One of the biggest pieces of advice the audiologist will provide has to do with hearing aid wear-time: if your child is awake, they should be wearing their hearing aids.
But why should they be wearing their hearing aids all the time? Even in a quiet environment, there are still sounds happening that are important to help further the maturation of the pathway from the ears up to the brain. When your child is consistently hearing everyday sounds that someone with normal hearing may take for granted – turning the pages of a book, or silverware hitting the plate – their brains learn more quickly how to process different types of incoming information. Further, a large majority of language is learned incidentally. By wearing their hearing aids all the time, your child can hear conversations happening in the car, or model what their older siblings may be playing.
Children with hearing loss have been known to have poor speech quality, as they are producing speech similar to what they are hearing. With consistent hearing aid use, parents report improved, clearer speech production in their child. In turn, the child’s self-confidence will improve, resulting in an increase in social interactions, group work, and an enhanced perception of the child by their teacher and classmates.1
By using hearing aids consistently in the classroom, children will experience less mental fatigue. Without steady access to auditory information, the brain must work even harder for the student to follow a lesson or participate in a group activity. Appropriately fit hearing aids will reduce listening effort and susceptibility to mental fatigue, which would typically occur in noisy listening environments. 2
Parents are the most powerful role models for their children. If a child is not encouraged to wear their hearing aids consistently, they are learning that it is okay to not fully participate in conversations. If the impact of hearing loss is minimized, the child may pretend to hear and understand a conversation – even if they are struggling. If your child has usable hearing, the level of educational and social success achievable is directly related to the number of hours of daily hearing aid use.
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1Most et al (2012) Social competence, sense of loneliness, and speech intelligibility of young children with hearing loss in individual inclusion and group inclusion.>J. Deaf Stud. Deaf Educ.17 (2): 259-272.
2Hornsby, BW (2013) The effects of hearing aid use on listening effort and mental fatigue associated with sustained speech processing demands. Ear & Hearing Sep. 34(5) 523-34.