How to choose a hearing aid for a child

A child can­not ful­ly devel­op if he has dif­fi­cul­ty hear­ing. With hear­ing loss, speech suf­fers, psy­chomo­tor devel­op­ment may be inhib­it­ed. KP tells how to choose a hear­ing aid for a child
How to choose a hearing aid for a child
A few tips on how to choose a hear­ing aid for your child. Pho­to: Shut­ter­stock

Choos­ing the right hear­ing aid for a child with hear­ing loss is an impor­tant step in ensur­ing their full devel­op­ment. Mod­ern tech­nolo­gies make it pos­si­ble to choose con­ve­nient and func­tion­al devices that will be almost invis­i­ble to oth­ers and will return the child to a full oppor­tu­ni­ty to hear speech and sur­round­ing sounds.

Types and types of hearing aids

In the case of chil­dren you can not save and buy inex­pen­sive devices that are clas­si­fied as hear­ing ampli­fiers. Unlike a hear­ing aid, they only ampli­fy the sound of the sig­nal, do not sup­press noise and can do more harm than good, espe­cial­ly if this is a baby of the first years of life.

That’s why the pur­chase of the device is car­ried out only in spe­cial­ized cen­tersa com­plete hear­ing test is car­ried out first, and after select­ing the device, it must be adjust­ed to the indi­vid­ual needs of the audi­ol­o­gist.

Amplifiers in hearing aids

Hear­ing aids are sound ampli­fiers placed in a plas­tic case. The micro­phone of the device per­ceives var­i­ous sounds that are in the envi­ron­ment and con­verts them into elec­tri­cal sig­nals trans­mit­ted to the ampli­fi­er of the device. The main func­tion of the ampli­fi­er is to increase the vol­ume of per­ceived sounds, to make them clear and under­stand­able for per­cep­tion.

There are two types of ampli­fiers:

  • Lin­ear — it ampli­fies var­i­ous sounds at approx­i­mate­ly the same lev­el;
  • non-lin­ear — sounds that are weak, poor­ly per­ceived by a hear­ing-impaired child are ampli­fied, and loud sounds can be sup­pressed so that they are com­fort­able for the ear. The change in sound inten­si­ty is con­trolled by a sys­tem equipped with a com­pres­sor.

The ampli­fied sig­nals are con­vert­ed into sounds through the loud­speak­er and trans­mit­ted to the audi­to­ry canal. For old­er chil­dren who can con­trol the device them­selves, there are devices with vol­ume con­trol — it can be reduced or increased by means of a han­dle or lever, remote con­trol. For babies, the device itself must adjust the vol­ume of sig­nals depend­ing on envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions.

For chil­dren, it is bet­ter to pur­chase hear­ing aids rather than hear­ing ampli­fiers. The lat­ter can do more harm than help.

signal processing method

There are three types of hear­ing aids based on the way sound is processed. The choice of them is deter­mined by hear­ing loss, age and fam­i­ly capa­bil­i­ties.

Based on the way sound is processed, we divide hear­ing aids into three main types. The choice of device depends on the type of hear­ing loss, the age of the child, and the needs of the fam­i­ly.

  • Ana­log Devices. These are the most inex­pen­sive and sim­ple devices that change the sound waves that enter the micro­phone into a con­tin­u­ous elec­tri­cal impulse, in which a dif­fer­ent volt­age lev­el, respec­tive­ly, will be a sound of dif­fer­ent inten­si­ty and fre­quen­cy. Ana­log sounds are processed min­i­mal­ly, so the sound qual­i­ty is dis­tort­ed and lost. The device has a micro­phone, an ampli­fi­er, con­trols (vol­ume) and a head­set that trans­mits sound to the ear.
  • Pro­gram­ma­ble ana­logue instru­ment. This is a more advanced device that par­tial­ly process­es the sig­nal and has the abil­i­ty to choose the sound strength accord­ing to the sit­u­a­tion.
  • dig­i­tal instru­ment. Due to the micro­com­put­er, the sounds are processed, the vol­ume and tim­bres are pre­served, unnec­es­sary noise is sup­pressed, the clar­i­ty and intel­li­gi­bil­i­ty of the trans­mit­ted sig­nals is increased. These devices give the most accu­rate sound qual­i­ty and allow chil­dren to hear almost like in nat­ur­al con­di­tions.
Good to know

What are the best hear­ing aids for adults?

According to the method of fixation

No less impor­tant is the method of fix­ing the device in the ear area. This is impor­tant so that the child is com­fort­able, and the device per­ceives the sur­round­ing sounds as much as pos­si­ble and trans­mits them to the audi­to­ry canal.

  • Deep in-ear hear­ing aids, CIC-devices (from the Eng­lish Com­plete­ly-In-the-ear-Canal) are the small­est of the devices. They are com­plete­ly locat­ed inside the audi­to­ry canal, and are almost invis­i­ble from the out­side. They can only be used in old­er chil­dren and ado­les­cents, as the width of the chan­nel must be suf­fi­cient to accom­mo­date the device. Each ear will have its own device, select­ed with the fea­tures of the anato­my.
  • in-ear hear­ing aids, ITC-devices (from the Eng­lish In-The-ear-Canal). These devices are larg­er than the pre­vi­ous ones, they are eas­i­er to use. They are suit­able for chil­dren with mild to mod­er­ate hear­ing loss. The case is select­ed indi­vid­u­al­ly and sep­a­rate­ly for each ear.
  • in-the-ear hear­ing aids, ITE devices (from Eng­lish In-The-Ear). Larg­er, pro­vide high qual­i­ty sound, will help with all ranges of hear­ing loss. They are easy to use, are select­ed indi­vid­u­al­ly for the right and left ear.
  • behind the ear hear­ing aids, BTE-devices (from the Eng­lish Behind-the-Ear). The body of the device is locat­ed behind the ear and is passed into the ear canal through a tube, at the end of which there is an indi­vid­u­al­ly select­ed insert. These devices are espe­cial­ly rec­om­mend­ed for chil­dren.
  • Behind-the-ear hear­ing aids with ear­mould con­nec­tion cable, RITE-devices (from the Eng­lish Receiv­er-In-The-Ear). The most mod­ern behind-the-ear devices, instead of a tube, they have a thin wire con­nect­ed to an ear­mold in the ear canal.

A step-by-step guide to choosing a hearing aid

Before pur­chas­ing a hear­ing aid for a child, there are many dif­fer­ent fac­tors to con­sid­er. The choice of a spe­cif­ic type of hear­ing aid depends on the sever­i­ty of the pathol­o­gy, the per­son­al pref­er­ences of the child and his par­ents. The most key fac­tors that deter­mine the type of device:

  • degree of hear­ing loss and vari­ant (uni­lat­er­al or bilat­er­al deaf­ness);
  • anatom­i­cal fea­tures of the ear (some types of devices sim­ply do not fit in chil­dren’s ears);
  • the age of the child, his skills and needs, abil­i­ties.
  • appear­ance, aes­thet­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics;
  • sound qual­i­ty.
When choos­ing a hear­ing aid, you need to con­sid­er not only the age of the child and the degree of hear­ing loss, but also the appear­ance of the device.

Child’s age

One of the most impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tions when choos­ing a hear­ing aid is the age of the patient. Chil­dren under the age of six need a device with one mode of per­cep­tion, which is pro­grammed indi­vid­u­al­ly. This helps to quick­ly get used to the per­cep­tion of sound stim­uli. Such a device helps in teach­ing speech recog­ni­tion, learn­ing to read and pro­nounce all sounds.

Old­er chil­dren need hear­ing aids with dif­fer­ent set­tings. They need adap­tive devices to dif­fer­ent sound sit­u­a­tions. It helps in voca­tion­al train­ing and social­iza­tion.

Indications for the use of a hearing aid. Doctor’s advice

We dis­cussed the issues of choos­ing and wear­ing hear­ing aids for chil­dren with Vera Shinkarenko, otorhi­no­laryn­gol­o­gist, audi­ol­o­gist at JSC “Med­i­c­i­na” (Clin­ic of Aca­d­e­mi­cian Roit­berg), mem­ber of ISA (Inter­na­tion­al Soci­ety of Audi­ol­o­gy).

Do chil­dren with hear­ing loss need to wear hear­ing aids?
If a child has deaf­ness, then start­ing from the sec­ond degree, he must wear a hear­ing aid. If the hear­ing loss is bilat­er­al, two hear­ing aids. The hear­ing aid will help the child form the cor­rect speech, devel­op, learn for fur­ther pro­fes­sion­al suit­abil­i­ty and social adap­ta­tion in soci­ety.

Hear­ing aids are essen­tial for chil­dren’s intel­lec­tu­al devel­op­ment. In addi­tion to the fact that chil­dren with hear­ing loss need to sit at the first desk at school, they need to wear a hear­ing aid at all times. The type of hear­ing aid depends on the diag­no­sis of the child and is select­ed by the hear­ing care pro­fes­sion­al. His choice will be relat­ed to the type of tone audio­gram, as well as the con­di­tion of the out­er, mid­dle and inner ear on both sides of the small patient. Typ­i­cal­ly, a hear­ing aid is attached to the child’s ear that hears best, so that the child’s brain can receive the cor­rect sig­nal.

Are all types of devices suit­able for chil­dren?
The choice of hear­ing aid depends on var­i­ous fac­tors. For exam­ple, if con­duc­tive hear­ing loss is accom­pa­nied by inflam­ma­to­ry process­es in the out­er or mid­dle ear, the child will not be pre­scribed a behind-the-ear device, or a pock­et device (which is even less com­mon), which will cov­er the entire ear.

Most like­ly, in this case, he will be assigned a dif­fer­ent type of appa­ra­tus, for exam­ple, a bone one, which, in turn, is also divid­ed into implantable (attached to the bone and applied to the heart-shaped process behind the ear) and non-implantable (attached to the tape). This type of hear­ing aids per­ceives all sound vibra­tions, turns them into elec­tri­cal ones and then sends these sig­nals to the brain — the child, like the rest of his peers, hears every­thing well, he becomes a learn­er, his speech devel­ops. All chil­dren with hear­ing loss must wear hear­ing aids.

If there is no such assis­tant with this diag­no­sis, the risk of devel­op­ing men­tal retar­da­tion in a child, devel­op­men­tal delays is very high.

Hear­ing Aid or Hear­ing Ampli­fi­er: Which is Best for Chil­dren?
Doc­tors are cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly against any ampli­fiers hear­ing for chil­dren with hear­ing loss. Unlike hear­ing aids, which adjust the fre­quen­cy of per­cep­tion of sound accord­ing to the con­di­tion of each ear, sound ampli­fiers trans­mit sounds to the brain at the same high or low fre­quen­cy as for the out­er, mid­dle and inner ear, ignor­ing the hear­ing thresh­olds of a par­tic­u­lar patient.

Only a hear­ing aid is capa­ble of dig­i­tiz­ing these thresh­olds and build­ing the required lev­el, accord­ing to the tone audio­gram read­ings. It is impor­tant to under­stand that our audi­to­ry organ is very del­i­cate and sen­si­tive, which is eas­i­ly dam­aged by acoustic trau­ma, tobac­co, cer­tain types of drugs, includ­ing expo­sure to uni­form fre­quen­cies. Ampli­fiers do not help the child to hear, and can even harm him. As a rule, sound ampli­fiers can be used by peo­ple at a very mature age, who have already formed speech, they do not need to be engaged in labor activ­i­ties.

Where should I buy a hear­ing aid for my child?
Hear­ing aids can be bought online and in spe­cial­ty stores and even on Ali Express. As a rule, when choos­ing a hear­ing aid on their own, the patient will still have to con­tact a hear­ing pros­thetist to set it up, which can­not be done on their own — adjust the pow­er, vol­ume, fre­quen­cy.

Before buy­ing, it is bet­ter to con­sult a spe­cial­ist for advice. Select­ing hear­ing aids on your own is unwise and can be a waste of mon­ey, espe­cial­ly if the research data spe­cial­ist real­izes that the hear­ing aid is not suit­able for the patien­t’s indi­ca­tions and type of hear­ing loss.

The lev­el of hear­ing loss, the type of hear­ing loss can only be deter­mined by a doc­tor using spe­cial equip­ment. If rel­a­tives believe that the child has become hard of hear­ing or they them­selves need to turn up the vol­ume on the TV, they should con­sult a doc­tor who will deter­mine the prob­lem and select the best solu­tion for it. Like any med­ical prod­uct, each hear­ing aid must have a cer­tifi­cate and qual­i­ty assur­ance.

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