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7 Questions Parents Ask About Hearing Aids
Empowering parents as they care for their child with hearing loss will ensure that children are successful hearing aid users and reach appropriate language developmental milestones. Anticipating and answering parent’s questions will ensure that families are equipped as they navigate the process. This article answers the 7 most common questions parents ask about pediatric hearing aids.
Author: Jodi Little, Au.D.
Dr. Jodi Little is a native of Colorado. She has over 20 years of audiology experience serving both pediatric and adult patients in clinical and educational settings.
Discovering that your child has a hearing loss can be overwhelming for parents and families. As professionals, we must be prepared to answer the difficult questions that parents ask. The seven most common questions need to be anticipated and answered in a consultative approach and even if parents have not yet thought to ask the particular question – it’s information all parents need to know and will eventually ask or wonder about. We must stand alongside families as they navigate the process and educate them on the unique needs of a child with hearing loss.
1. “Does my child really need hearing aids and why is everyone pushing me? What’s the urgency?” Understanding the importance of early intervention for language development will be key to the successful implementation of home hearing aid use. Parents may have questions regarding the importance of amplification use especially if their child responds to speech or other auditory input. Putting in a child’s hearing aids can seem like just one more thing a parent has to do to get the day started, so making sure that parents understand the critical nature of full-time hearing aid use will be key to the child’s overall language/learning development. Carefully explain the audiogram and the speech index so that parents can grasp the difference between “hearing” and the “speech recognition” needed for proper speech-language development. In layman’s terms, share the research findings that confirm that children identified at birth with hearing loss who begin treatment before they are 6 months old often develop language on par with their hearing peers, while later treatment, even between 8-12 months, will often yield language delays confirming the urgency of early intervention and rehabilitation for childhood hearing loss.
2. “What type of hearing aid should my child wear? And what’s the difference between a hearing aid and a cochlear implant?” There are multiple manufacturers offering pediatric hearing aids in their repertoire. Explaining the styles of hearing aids and the rationale of fitting children with behind-the-ear hearing aids will make sense to parents, but should still be thoroughly explained. More and more parents have heard about cochlear implants and many will ask if they should consider a cochlear implant for their child instead of a traditional pediatric hearing aid. Not many realize the stringent candidacy guidelines associated with implantation. It’s always good to explain the candidacy process as well as the rationale for the hearing aid selection process. This will give parents ease of mind that they have made the appropriate selection for their child and that you, as their child's hearing health care provider, are up to date with technology and best practices.
3. “How expensive are hearing aids and are there resources to help pay for them?” Parents will naturally ask the cost of the recommended pediatric hearing aids and if insurance will assist with coverage for any out of pocket expenses. This is an important factor for families and they may need your help navigating the available resources for additional funding if insurance falls short. It will be important to discuss the manufacturer's warranty for the pediatric hearing aids as well as any coverage for loss and damage. Extended warranties can also be a useful tool for parents and should be discussed up front as most manufacturers offer better pricing if purchased at the time of the fitting rather than renewing the insurance later on.
4. “How often will batteries and the hearing aids themselves need to be replaced?” Parents will want to know how often the batteries need to be changed as well as how often the hearing aids themselves will need to be replaced. Earmolds will need to be replaced regularly as the child grows and will include even more regularly scheduled tube changes if going with a traditional behind-the-ear hearing device. Although parents will be relieved that the hearing aids themselves don’t have to be replaced as often as the earmolds, it’s still good to prepare them for future technology replacements as you explain the average lifespan of a hearing aid. Most adults replace their hearing aids every 3-4 years. Some as often as every year when technology advances. It is important for parents to understand the hearing aid industry and the rapid advancements in technology. Most insurance companies do understand that hearing aids need to be replaced in this time frame and may offer a renewable benefit especially for children’s hearing aids.
5. “How do I know if the hearing aids are working properly?” Parents will want to know how they can be sure that their child’s hearing aids are working properly. Always remember to order a pediatric listening kit for parents. A basic pediatric kit will include a listening tube or listening stethoscope, battery tester, and cleaning supplies. Teach parents how to check the hearing aid batteries and to perform a basic listening check. Parents should be taught to do daily listening checks to ensure that their child’s hearing aids are working properly. Giving parents this responsibility will enable them to quickly identify when a problem arises so that they will be able to seek help when needed. Providing the basic skills for routine home care will ensure that the child hears optimally between office visits.
6. “What does my child hear with hearing aids? What does it sound like?” Teaching parents how to manage the hearing aids also answers the question of what the child hears and the basic sound experience of a hearing aid user. It is a common question and with the use of a basic listening tube or stethoscope, parents can experience the amplified sound. Be sure to let them experience what “background noise” sounds like and how distracting it can be. This is a good opportunity to teach parents the importance of limiting extraneous noise sources in the child’s home environment. There are also various hearing loss simulation recordings that can be found online for demonstration purposes. You can select a similar hearing loss to the child’s hearing loss to personalize the demonstration. This can be a very powerful tool in helping parents understand how important consistent hearing aid use will be for the child’s overall speech, language and vocabulary development.
7. “How many hours per day should my child wear the hearing aids and what if he/she doesn’t want to wear them?” Although it is important to stress the importance of full-time hearing aid use, it is also important for parents to understand that there will be some time that their child will not wear the hearing aids. For example, when bathing, swimming or sleeping the aids should be removed. Teach parents and children to always place the hearing aids in a safe place when not in use. The only safe place is the case issued with the hearing aids. The case should then be placed in the same location each time so that the devices can be easily located. It’s ok for kids to have a break from hearing aid use during the day if they are showing signs of auditory fatigue. Be sure to counsel parents on these signs and help them set boundaries on appropriate breaks from listening. Once parents understand the correlation of early auditory stimulation and language development it will be easier for them to enforce good wearing habits. Keeping children engaged with the sounds around them reinforces the importance of optimal hearing. Point out new sounds to children and engage in listening activities alongside the child. Setting boundaries initially and establishing good habits will ensure long-term success.
Counseling families through this process can be some of the most rewarding experiences we can have as service providers. Answering these commonly asked questions ensures that parents have the information needed to make appropriate decisions for their child with hearing loss. Information is power and empowering parents and their children to move forward in the identification and treatment of childhood hearing loss will ensure the optimal speech-language and learning development needed for future success. Embrace this time with families. You are making a difference in the life of a child.
Additional audiology resources:
10 Must-Have Products For Your New Audiology Practice
5 Tips For Treating Hearing Loss in Children
How to Develop a Deeper Understanding of Your Audiology Patient
How to Create a Better Patient Experience At Your Audiology Practice