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If Your Child Won't Keep Their Hearing Aids In...

 


One of the biggest problems most parents of newly diagnosed children face is keeping the hearing aids on the child. Even some who have been wearing hearing aids for a while persist on taking them out. Why? And even more importantly, what can you do about it? 

Lets look at it from the child's point of view. Suddenly these things are stuffed into their ears and fill their world with noise, lots of it. Their first response is, quite naturally, to get rid of these things. Slowly, as the child begins to make associations that turn that "noise" into sound with meaning, the child begins to leave them in for longer periods of time. When my son first got his hearing aids, we were told:

    If he takes them out, just put them back in. If he takes them out 1000 times in one day, you put them back in 1001. Don't show anger. Don't show frustration. Don't scold. Just put them back in.

Recently I had an opportunity to read what Carol Flexer wrote in Facilitating Hearing and Listening in Young Children:

     The most unconscious function of hearing is the primitive level which carries the auditory background, sounds that serve to identify a location. A hospital sounds different than a school. Typically, we do not think about these sounds; however, if a location does not sound as expected, we become uneasy. If you have ever entered an empty hospital or school, you have probably felt a bit anxious. 
      Biological sounds are also heard at the primitive level. Sounds like breathing, swallowing, chewing, heart beat, and pulse furnish proof that we are indeed alive and functioning. People who suddenly lose their hearing have been known to experience acute psychosis due to feelings of disconnectedness with the environment, time and their own bodies. 
      Less dramatically, a new hearing aid or assistive listening device alters the wearer's auditory background by amplifying sounds previously not heard. This change in auditory background may make a wearer nervous and anxious without understanding why. Certainly, a baby or young child cannot explain that an altered auditory background may be a factor causing him or her to resist amplification. Yet, as professionals, we should be sensitive to the fact that there is often an adjustment period to amplification (typically, at least 1 month), due in part to the user's altered auditory background. (p.11) 

I think if I had it to do all over again, I would allow a 5-10 minute resting period before putting them back in my child's ear, but remember, if your child is to get any benefit from hearing aids, he must be wearing them!

Many parents recommend distracting the child or giving them something to keep their hands busy for a few minutes after putting the hearing aids in. One parent writes that he puts his child on a swing and swings the child as he is talking to him. 

Marie sent me one of her tips to help transition the child to wearing hearing aids:

I suggest to parents, to get started, that they keep a special set of toys available for their child to use only when wearing the hearing aids. (This happens automatically with me because I home visit and bring a bag of toys with me.) The parents introduce a toy and put the aids in. If the child takes the aid out, the toy "goes away". Then, as the hearing aid is calmly replaced, the toy is given back to the child.

There are a few things you should look into if your child is not beginning to leave them in, or if they have been leaving them in but are now removing them:

  • Are the hearing aids and settings appropriate for your child? Are they working?
    • If the hearing aids are not working properly, have disturbing sounds or are of no benefit, the child just will not leave the hearing aids in.
  • Are the earmolds new?
    • Sometimes new earmolds just don't fit right and the child can't hear as well with them.
    • They may be rubbing a sore spot on the ear, making it painful to leave the hearing aids in.
    • They may be allergic to the materials the ear mold are made of, or the dye used to tint them. Each of the earmold manufacturers can make earmolds that are hypo-allergenic. 
  • Are the earmolds old?
    • Sometimes when they outgrow their earmolds, feedback isn't the first noticeable sign. In my son's case, he notices a drop in his hearing before we get feedback problems.
  • Are the earmolds appropriate?
    • The best hearing aids in the world won't help a child if the earmolds are not appropriate. Slight changes in the earmold or tubing can cause drastic differences in the sound your child receives. Appropriate, proper fitting earmolds are as essential to providing sound to your child as the hearing aids are.
  • Is your child getting an ear infection?
    • This can make it painful to wear hearing aids. If hearing aids cause discomfort or pain, the child won't leave them in.
  • Does your child have hardened ear wax in the ear canal?
    • Hardened ear wax can cause discomfort to a hearing aid user.
  • Does your child think they make them feel different and they just want to be like everybody else?
    • Sometimes comments from others can make your child feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about wearing hearing aids. I'll give you a few ideas for making their hearing aids "cool" below (click here to go there now).
  • Does your child have tubes?
    • Normally, tubes do not interfere with hearing aids. However, when the tubes come out of the tympanic membrane and lay in the auditory canal, placing the earmold into the ear may be pushing the tube back up against the tympanic membrane causing pain, and the possibility of damage to the membrane. We went through 8 doctors (and 2 months) before they figured out the problem. I've heard from a number of parents whose child went through this. If your child has tubes in addition to hearing aids and suddenly gives a pain reaction when you put the hearing aids in, please have your doctor check to see if this could be the problem. 
  • Is this happening only in the car or near a computer?
    • Make sure your child's hearing aids aren't switched to T-coil (my son's have a setting where the mic and the T-coil can both be on at the same time). If his T-coil switch is on all he hears are the sounds of the car engine. The same type of thing happens near a computer.
    • Road noise could also be the cause. There is so much background noise in the car that gets amplified that your child may just be overwhelmed.

If the problem is the hearing aids won't stay behind the ear, but flops around, make sure the child's hearing aid has a pediatric sized earhook on it. While this may not completely eliminate the problem, it can help.

OK, so you're working on the above, but in the meantime what can you do so that your child doesn't lose these expensive devices? .

  • You can make the hearing aids easier to spot in the event that your child leaves them laying somewhere:
    • Super Seals cover the hearing aid casing and come in a variety of colors. A blue or yellow hearing aid may be easier to spot in the grass than a beige one. If their colors don't suit you, I've heard from others who say that they just cut off the lower part of a balloon, roll it down like you would a sock, and use that over the hearing aid. You may have to experiment a little to see what shape and size balloon give you the best fit. If you use this idea, it would probably be a good idea to use some method of moisture control. If you want to take this idea just one step further, almost all of the hearing aid manufacturers now have hearing aids that come in colors. Here are Phonak's and Eurion's. If you use Super Seals or Balloons on a young child's hearing aids, please be careful not to allow the child to chew on them due to the risk of choking. (The Super Seals site appears to only load with Internet Explorer. If the above link doesn't work for you, I've put some info about them on a Super Seals page on our site.)
    • Earwear are fashion hearing aid covers. 
    • Colored earmolds come in bright colors and can also make hearing aids easier to spot. Check out some of the colors they come in.
       
  • You can attach the hearing aids to the child's shirt or blouse so that they don't go too far. Huggie Aids has a product out to do just that. Also available are Critter Clips, Sea Cllips, Dino Clips, Oto-Clips Clear (colors too), Kid Clips, and SafeNSound security straps. Click on the links to see a picture of these products or to find out more. Also, many of the ideas presented in the section below about dressing up hearing aids would work as well. Some folks use dental floss to connect the 2 hearing aids and pin the string to the back of the shirt. One mother tells me she uses a clip on her child's hearing aid that was actually meant to keep a pacifier from falling to the ground. Other folks tell me they use an eyeglass cord with the loop placed around the earhook. A mother explains to us how she does it:

What I found to work exceptionally well was to buy those cheap little cords that hold onto your glasses. You need the kind with the flexible loop at the ends. I was able to take the rubber loop at the end and get it completely around the BTE power-aids my son had. It was a nice snug fit and he couldn't get it off even when he tried. He liked being able to pick whatever color holder he wanted for the day also. I tied a small loop at the center and used it to hook the safety pin through, then pinned it to the inside of the collar. Last year I decorated some of them with beads with his name on it and he loved that!!! 

  • Now you can both make the hearing aid/cochlear processor easier to spot, and add the security of a cord. Ear Gear was designed to help cut down on loss and damage, protect against sweat and allow for a more active lifestyle. For adults and children.
  • When I first put up the page about Huggie Aids, a mom wrote to me to tell me about a solution that works for them:

      I use a nylon and cotton string. (nylon in the core and cotton for softness on the outside) Our audiologist supplies this to us. He also inserts the string into the thick part of the earmold in such a way that it can't be pulled out. Then I tie the string around where the hook connects to the HA. I put a safety pin on the string and pin it to my son's shirt. I haven't lost a HA in 6 years. (Maybe I'm testing fate by saying that.)       Jeanne H.  

    She sent me an old set her son had outgrown so that I could post a picture here for you. It looks like the audiologist put the string through the vent hole. If you want to view the image full size, click here. *Note* Have your audiologist do this only if your child does not normally have a vent hole in their hearing aid. If they do require a vent hole do not plug it up with a cord (or anything else), you may affect the acoustics! Instead, have the audie make a second hole in the ear mold.

     

 

  • A number of people have written about caps from Hanna Andersson:
I bought some light weight aviator type caps from Hanna Andersson (mail order) They fit snug on the head and are thin enough to not block sounds coming in. For us it was GREAT!! My son wore them for about 18 months. When we finally took them off our friends were shocked by his mop of curly blonde hair that they had never seen before.
   
  • SilkaWear makes and unique custom-made bonnets for young children who wear hearing aids.
   
  • If you're the type who likes to sew, crochet or knit, Google Baby Bonnet Patterns (Text Listing / Image Listing) or look through the pattern books at your local fabric store and you'll find some really great ideas. Please keep in mind that you don't want the bonnet to be too heavy to allow sound to pass through.
   
  • Another thing I hear a lot about is using toupee tape to hold the hearing aid to the side of the head. There have also been some reports of this tape causing a rash (it's made out of latex).

We use TopStick brand toupee tape. It comes in strips about the size of a Band-Aid. I cut that strip into about 10 small strips, which fit the back of a mini-BTE perfectly! We like this brand as opposed to the kind that comes in a roll, because this has backing on both sides, rather than just one side. Easy to clip a few dozen strips and toss them in a wallet, diaper bag, etc...

The thing I *don't* like about toupee tape, though, is that once my son pulls the aid off, which he likes to do sometimes (mmm, yummy to chew!), you have to use a NEW piece of tape, because it doesn't re-stick very well. It also doesn't work all that well with Super Seals. It sticks all right, but because the seals are made of latex, there's a lot of friction when, say, a collar or something else rubs up against the aid. So I had to keep reapplying the tape every time it came unstuck because of a rogue collar. We alternate, now. If he's on a kick where he's pulling the aids out and chewing on them a lot (like now!), we just use the seals, and forget about the tape. But when he's not as interested in his ears, we forego the seals and, er, "stick to" the tape. :-)        --Kerri

  • I've even heard of some parents who use the Blue Painter's Tape since it's easy to pull off of the hair. She said she only had to use it for a short time till her son realized the implant was beneficial to him and he started leaving it alone.
This type of wrap is called Coban. It sticks only to itself and you'll often see it used in hospitals. Whenever I have blood work drawn, It's what they wrap around my arm to hold the gauze on the injection site. Anyway, it could be wrapped around the child's head to help hold the device in place, but since it's slightly elastic, try not to wrap it on too tight. This stuff can be a bit pricy to use all the time, but if you buy it as Horse Wrap, it is way less expensive.
  • One Audiologist writes to me and tells me that some parents of the children she serves use a product called It Stays Body Adhesive. She tells us:

"This product is great because it is an adhesive especially made for use on the skin. Also, if the hearing aids come off, you can re-stick them without having to re-apply the adhesive. The parents that have used this have really liked it."
   
  • You can use a product designed to help keep the hearing aid in the child's ears. Huggie Aids has 2 such products, one without a cord, and one with.

Make Hearing Aids Look Cool!

An older child concerned with how hearing aids look can make their hearing aids "cool" by allowing them to customize them with the ideas below. I have heard from a number of people who have tried one or more of these ideas and it's done the trick. The reason I mention that it's for older kids is that when you  make them look spiffy, other kids may want to touch them or grab them. So, in the case of younger children, please keep in mind the age of the classmates/playmates and if this would be a problem or not.

  • HEBA-Otoplastik  These colorfully designed hearing aid covers with matching ear-hooks and ear-molds would bring delight to adults as well as children.
  • Ear Gear are covers or the hearing aid/CI. They come in some really great colors/patterns.
  • Colored earmolds come in bright colors and can also make hearing aids easier to spot. Check out some of the colors Eartronix and All American Mold offers. Hörsysteme has earmolds with rhinestones. Way too cool!
    • Westone - I'd like to let you know about some of the things Westone has to offer, that isn't readily apparent from their catalog, but which I think is really neat. In addition to the colored earmolds, they go beyond that. They offer custom colored  tubing to either match or contrast with the earmolds. They also have earmolds called 'disappear' that blend in better and make them less noticeable (for those who don't want people to notice their earmolds) and have special tubing with this coloration as well. One thing they offer, that my son just LOVES and no other audiologist who has seen them knows about is GLOW IN THE DARK earmolds! They come in 3 colors: blue/green, purple, and yellow/green. Here are some pictures of them in regular light and glowing, but the pictures don't do the 'glow' any justice. It's really a strong glow and I can see them starting to glow when my son comes in from outside into regular room light.
       
  • Super Seals allow you to change the color of the hearing aid. They come in a variety of colors. If their colors don't suit you, I've heard from others who say that they just cut off the lower part of a balloon, roll it down like you would a sock, and use that over the hearing aid. You may have to experiment a little to see what shape and size balloon give you the best fit. If you use this idea, it would probably be a good idea to use some method of moisture control. If you want to take this idea just one step further, almost all of the hearing aid manufacturers now have hearing aids that come in colors. Here are Phonak's and Eurion's.
  • One of my regular contributors says she solved the problem with letting her daughter put beads on the tubing between the ear hook and the earmold. If you do this please be sure that the beads used do not compress the tubing as this can change the properties of the sounds the earmold delivers to your child's ear.
  • Glittery stickers on the casing was another idea submitted by the same mom. If you're reluctant to put stickers directly on the casing you could put Super Seals on first.
  • I heard from a couple of people that they use the stickers/decals designed for fingernails to help spiff up their hearing aids. Temporary Tattoos are another idea. Some even come in glow-in-the-dark or glitter! Another person tells me that they glued body jewels or fingernail jewels on their hearing aids. I found some at a local store and tried sticking them on one of my son's spare hearing aids to get an idea of what it would look like. This would be a great idea for a girl's hearing aids. If you can't find any stickers or jewels to use, try looking at your local beauty supply store. If you decide to glue these on, please use care in selecting your glue, or else the jewels will become a permanent addition to the hearing aid case. I've tested some and found that eyelash adhesive (the kind for full lashes and is a paste, not the kind for individual lashes and is a liquid) peeled off when I wanted it to - but please be sure to first test whatever glue you choose to use on an area of the hearing aid that won't show.

    

  • Tube Riders are small inexpensive rubber designs that fit on the tubing of BTEs and/or on the ear hook of CIs. I wish these would have been available when my son was much younger. I just don't think I can talk him into it now. Here is a cute pix they sent me.

 

Deafness In Disguise Exhibit: Concealed Hearing Devices of the 19th and 20th Centuries

Gold Hearing Aid as Bling Medical Gadget

 


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