Helping deaf children to accept wearing their hearing aids.

Oh my! the problems are many and not unusual and I hope this blog may help you to help the deaf children you are working with.

Is she constantly pulling the hearing aids out and throwing them?  The first thing to check is the ear mould. Is it smooth with no sharp edges or the tubing protruding out? They should be a tight fit, but not so tight that that they make the ears feel sore. Poor technique inserting can make the ears sore too.  Some children are plagued with ear infections. If you think this might be the case, the child needs medical help. The next thing to check is that the hearing aids are working properly, so it’s best to check them daily.

If you have never heard anything before, it can be startling. Hearing aids should be introduced in a quiet setting, so the child can get used to your voice, some music, some everyday sounds before encountering the noisy setting in a creche or playgroup or the school dining hall. They need time to acclimatise to this new stimulus, so avoid initial use with lots of confusing voices and sounds.  Pay attention to the listening environment. Shiny surfaces and lots of glass reflect sound. Rooms with carpets and curtains absorb sound and make it easier to hear clearly and more gently.

Many children with complex sensory needs are resistant to touch. The whole procedure of hearing assessment can be intrusive with probes in the ear and ear mould impressions to be made. It can really help to slowly and gently start playing little games and songs, touching nose, lips, ears. Then gently stroking and playing with the child’s ears. A little of this for each day for a couple of weeks will help desensitise the ears and they will be better able to accept the strangers in the hearing assessment clinic looking in their ears, removing wax, inserting probes, and making ear mould impressions and then the insertion of the ear moulds later.  Children who accept their hearing aids do so because they understand the benefit of wearing them. They need time to put 2 and 2 together and realise that the things we have put in their ears are helping them hear that music or song or your voice or that silly squelchy noise.

Sometimes you will have to go back to square one. If the child is constantly rejecting the aids do some of the desensitisation work again. Only use the aids in a quiet situation where there are real benefits for the child to listen. Give them plenty of time and patience. And if at all possible, you be the one that takes the hearing aids out at the end of the quiet session.

Some children will also respond to a reward strategy. So stickers, tick chart with the promise of 15 mins free choice, smilies, certificates…can all help establish hearing aid use.

Hearing is too important to give up on, so I hope you can use these tips to help the children you work with.

Naomi Rosenberg.

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