Your child's hearing aids – frequently asked questions
Here are some of the questions frequently asked by parents with children who will get a hearing aid soon or who have recently had one fitted.
Hearing aids are given an IP rating, which determines how resistant they are to dust and water. Today’s hearing aids are given an IP rating or IP67 or IP68. This means that hearing aids may survive the occasional splash of water, but they should never be fully immersed or exposed to salty, soapy or chlorinated water from a swimming pool.
Sometimes, no matter how careful we try to be, the inevitable can happen, so should your child’s hearing aid accidently get wet, there are some simple tips you should follow:
- Quickly remove the hearing aid from the water and dry with a soft cloth.
- Remove the battery and check for any water that may have got in the battery compartment.
- Place the hearing aid in a drying kit to draw out any moisture. If you don’t have a drying kit, then leave in a warm dry place like an airing cupboard. (Do not place directly on a heat source.)
- If the hearing aid stops working, contact your audiology department.
There are special sleeves called Ear Gear that can be placed over the hearing aid and offer an extra layer of protection from dirt, dust, sweat and moisture. They are particularly useful when playing on the beach or for sporting activities.
Yes, your child can wear their hearing aids to do sports activities. You’ll need to think about the type of sporting activity and the safety aspects of wearing hearing aids (such as the potential for damage to the ear or hearing aid from a blow to the head), or not wearing them (such as not hearing the instructor and team mates).
Make sure hearing aids are kept securely in place (for example by using hearing aid retainers or a sports headband). For some sports where a blow to the head is considered quite likely (such as football or rugby) you might like to consider buying a scrum cap to protect your child’s ears and hearing aids during use.
Deaf children can and do take part in a variety of sporting activities. UK Deaf Sport has been set up to promote deaf sports and has details of deaf sports matches and results. The British Deaf Association also has details of different sporting events. Your Local Deaf Children's Society may also have information on sporting events or clubs in your area.
Hearing aids can be connected to a variety of other technology and equipment using direct audio input, the telecoil (or T programme) or Bluetooth.
All NHS hearing aids are compatible for use with radio aids. Using direct audio input a radio aid receiver connects to the bottom of the hearing aid. Some hearing aids need an adapter (known as a shoe) to be fitted that the radio aid receiver plugs in to. The shoes may be provided by either the NHS or your local authority depending on local arrangements.
Setting a hearing aid to the T programme could help your child hear music, the TV or someone speaking in a public place (through a loop system) much more clearly and with no background noise.
Hearing aids often have accessories and cables available that mean they can be connected to other equipment such as mobile phones, MP3 players, games consoles, TVs and computers. Bluetooth accessories may need to be 'paired' with the hearing aids so that they only work with those hearing aids.
For more information on radio aids and other equipment that can be used with hearing aids see products and technology.
Hearing aids require batteries that, depending on the model and power of the hearing aid, will need to be changed regularly, between once a week and once every six weeks. They are provided free from the NHS and are usually small button batteries which are disposable (can’t be recharged).
Most audiology services will supply two packets of batteries per hearing aid at any one time. However, for children using very high-powered hearing aids or aids with integrated FM receivers that use batteries more quickly, a larger supply may be provided.
Your audiologist should explain the ways they can supply batteries, which may be:
- from a local health centre/GP surgery near your home for you to collect
- through a Teacher of the Deaf so that they can be collected at your child’s school
- by post.
In an emergency it’s possible to buy batteries for hearing aids from most high street chemists and hearing aid dispensers.
Some audiology services will ask you to return old batteries when requesting new ones.
Keep your used batteries in the original packaging to keep them safe and so you can be sure no old batteries have gone missing. Batteries from hearing aids are extremely dangerous if swallowed.
If you think your child may have swallowed a battery or inserted it in their ear or nose, take them to your nearest A&E department. Take along a packet of batteries so that doctors are aware of what they are dealing with.
The earmould should be detached from the hearing aid and cleaned thoroughly using soap and water regularly.
Watch our 'how to' videos on caring for your child's hearing aids, daily maintenance and changing the earmould tubing.
Hearing aid whistling is a common problem and is called feedback. Feedback happens when amplified sound from the hearing aid escapes from the ear and re-enters the hearing aid microphone.
Check there is nothing covering the hearing aid, for example a hat, or your body if you’re holding a young child/baby to feed. If this doesn’t solve the problem speak to your audiologist – it may be that sound is escaping from around the earmould because your child has grown out of them and new earmoulds are needed, or your child has a build-up of wax in the ear that is causing sound to bounce back out of the ear.
Watch our 'how to' video on managing whistling from your child's hearing aids.
How can I remove ear wax to make hearing aids fit better?
A build up of ear wax can cause problems with hearing aids whistling (feedback), when your child is having impressions taken for new earmoulds, and can also affect the results of hearing tests.
Any ear wax that you can see on the outer ear can be gently removed with a damp cloth. However, don’t attempt to remove ear wax from the ear canal or put foreign objects such as cotton buds inside your child’s ear. This can push ear wax further inside the ear impacting the wax and may cause damage to the eardrum.
If a build-up of ear wax is causing problems speak to your audiologist, audiology doctor, or Ear, Nose and Throat ENT consultant who will advise on the best method to remove excess wax. You may be asked to use softening ear drops, or the hospital may arrange for syringing or microsuction (“hoovering” out wax from the ear).
Audiology clinics should be able to offer you an appointment for impressions within two days of you letting them know your child needs new moulds. The recommended turnaround time for manufacture is less than three days and most companies are able to do this provided they are told the impressions are for a child and therefore urgent.
This means you should be able to get new earmoulds when your child needs them within one week.
Some audiology services use these ways to help speed up the process.
- Sending off individual impressions the same day to cut down on postage times.
- If parents supply a stamped addressed envelope the manufacturer will return the moulds directly to their home.
- Some areas have trained parents and Teachers of the Deaf to take impressions which cuts down waiting times for appointments.
The NHS is legally allowed to charge for the loss or damage of equipment (except Scotland). However, most services don’t charge for the loss of children’s aids since it’s difficult to prove that loss or damage was due to negligence (the fault of the parent or child).
If they do charge, they can only request the same amount that they paid for the device (usually between £70–£150 for each hearing aid and earmould) and they can’t charge families in receipt of certain welfare benefits.
The NHS can’t insist that parents insure their child’s hearing aids – as they remain the property of the NHS rather than the wearer. However, some parents choose to insure against the risk of being charged for any loss. Most household insurance will cover this (let the insurance company know and have the hearing aids listed as a named item on the policy).
Read our policy on insurance and replacement of hearing equipment: Charging and insurance to cover the cost of replacing or repairing of all hearing and listening equipment provided by NHS and Local Authorities.
There’s no reason why a child can’t wear hearing aids at night although they may not be very comfortable to rest on. If your child doesn’t like the quiet when the aids are taken out you could perhaps remove them soon after they fall asleep.
It might also help to have a safe place for the hearing aids (e.g. a special box close to the child’s bed where they can put them away and retrieve them safely when wanted). It can be helpful for young children to make hearing aids part of their dressing and undressing routine in the morning and evening.
If your child has an ear infection, it’s advisable to remove the hearing aid as the ear needs to 'breathe’ in order to get better.
Depending on the infection, if the ear is swollen it can be aggravated further by the earmould, making a hearing aid very uncomfortable to wear.
The current earmould needs to be replaced as soon as the ear is better to avoid re-infection. Talk to your GP, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor, or audiologist for more specific information and advice.
Generally behind-the-ear (BTE) digital hearing aids are the standard issue NHS hearing aid although there are a few health authorities who do provide in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids, so the model your child is offered depends on where you live. ITE aids are more expensive to buy and upkeep than BTE models.
Even if they are available they might not be suitable for your child for the following reasons.
- ITE hearing aids may not be suitable until a child reaches their teenage years as the ear canal needs to be large enough to take all the hearing aid's internal parts.
- ITE hearing aids aren’t suitable for young children as they require very frequent refitting and replacement as the child grows (or as often as they have regular earmoulds re-made). This means that the child is without hearing aids on a regular basis or requires a set of BTE hearing aids as well.
- ITE hearing aids are cased in a hard acrylic (plastic) which is not so forgiving of growth as standard hearing aid moulds and therefore whistling (causing feedback) becomes more of a problem with them.
- ITE hearing aids aren’t suitable for more severe hearing losses as limitations on the technology and battery size mean that they can’t be manufactured powerfully enough.
- ITE hearing aids can’t be used with direct audio input (radio aids) which many children use in school.
Read these tips from parents on how they encouraged their children to wear their hearing aids and on decorating and personalising hearing aids.
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