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Safety alert on hearing aids – what this means for you

Published Date: 14 Feb 2020


In December 2019, a National Patient Safety Alert was released to all NHS audiology clinics about battery safety in children's hearing aids.

As a result, some families of deaf children are being told that their child needs to have alternative hearing aids fitted. Some families are also being told that their child can no longer use their radio aid. 

This blog provides more information on what’s happening and what this means for you.

Throughout this blog, the term hearing aid is used to mean all types of hearing aids, bone conduction hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Background

The National Patient Safety Alert states that all hearing aids fitted to babies and children under five years of age must have secure battery compartments.

Audiology clinics are also required to think about the need for a secure battery compartment for:

  • older deaf children or adults who live with young children and babies
  • other people with additional risk factors, such as those with a significant learning disability, dementia or other cognitive or sensory impairment.

 Using hearing aids safely

Hearing aids are known to present potential hazards to babies and young children, such as removing them from their ears, taking them apart, putting them in their mouths, and removing batteries. Because of this, an audiologist should have explained to you that your child should never be left alone whilst wearing their hearing aids.

The recent safety alert is specifically concerned about the risk of hearing aid batteries being swallowed by children.

In recent years battery locks have been made available as common safety features on hearing aids most often used by children. This helps to prevent some of the danger of wearing hearing aids, but not all, such as choking due to small parts.

Top tips for keeping your child safe around hearing aids and batteries:

  • try not to let young children see batteries being changed. It is safer if they do not know that the battery compartment opens
  • ensure both the used and new batteries are stored safely and out of sight of young children
  • keep your used batteries in the original packaging so that you can be sure that no old batteries have gone missing and to keep the batteries safe
  • get rid of used batteries carefully as they contain chemicals that could be harmful. Some audiology services will ask you to return old batteries so that they can be recycled
  • remember that even if you trust your own child not to fiddle with their batteries there may be other children in their school or nursery who don’t understand that they shouldn’t play with them.

More information about using hearing aids safely can be found in our guide for families on page 32.

Use of hearing aids with radio aids

Whilst the safety alert is about hearing aid batteries, it has implications for those who use radio aids/FM systems.

This is because locks for battery compartments, in most cases, need to be removed in order to be able to add a radio aid shoe.

One manufacturer (Phonak) makes an integrated FM receiver that can be locked. However, not all children use compatible hearing aids.

As a result of the safety alert, we are aware that some children have had their radio aid removed.

Whilst we understand the concerns around safety, we believe that this situation has the potential to negatively impact on deaf children's development who rely on their radio aids to access school and social activities. We will be calling on the Government to take urgent action to make sure no deaf child loses out as a result of this safety alert.

What you can do if this issue affects you

If you have been told that your child can no longer use a radio aid, you should speak to your child’s audiologist and/or Teacher of the Deaf to explore what alternatives can be put into place.

If you have any difficulties getting this sorted, need any advice or support at all, contact our Helpline.