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Research shows that when children receive hearing devices, such as hearing aids, earlier in life when they need them, it can lead to better outcomes in their development and everyday functioning.
This article discusses how and where to buy hearing aids for kids, what to look for, and more.
A hearing healthcare professional can perform a thorough evaluation to determine the best hearing device for a child. Which device is most suitable depends on several factors, including the severity and type of the child’s hearing loss.
Children with persistent conductive hearing loss will benefit from hearing aids. Those with sensorineural hearing loss can benefit from both hearing aids and cochlear implants, depending on the level of their hearing loss.
A doctor may recommend that children wear hearing aids, especially if they have mild-to-severe hearing loss and a fair ability to understand speech.
Specialists will carefully track a kid’s hearing abilities and see if they benefit from using hearing aids. If these are ineffective, a healthcare professional may recommend cochlear implants.
In addition, children may have unaffected hearing abilities but need a sound boost. In these cases, parents or caregivers may consider a sound amplifier. In contrast to a fine-tuned hearing aid for an individual’s hearing loss, a sound amplifier simply boosts sound to make it louder.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires individuals younger than 18 years to undergo a medical evaluation before buying hearing aids. Once they receive a diagnosis of hearing loss, a hearing specialist will choose and fit the hearing aid that best suits the child’s needs.
An individual can check if the audiologist or hearing healthcare provider has a license to practice through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the State Attorney General Office, or agencies such as the Better Business Bureau.
Those wishing to purchase hearing aids online can request their hearing evaluation record from their hearing specialist.
Medicaid covers hearing aids for children who are eligible — most states require health benefit plans to pay for a child’s hearing aid. Children may also receive coverage from their state’s early intervention program or State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Additionally, individuals may take advantage of trial or adjustment periods to test if the device works well for a child.
Children of all ages can wear hearing aids. However, there is no one-size-fits-all device, so children should receive a hearing aid that suits their needs. With this in mind, below are some factors to consider:
- Severity of hearing loss: Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are suitable for those with mild-to-profound hearing loss, while other devices may only accommodate mild-to-severe or mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
- Ear conditions: BTE devices are suitable for those with chronic ear infections. However, in-the-ear (ITE) types are not ideal for ears that produce too much wax or drainage.
- Ability and skill: Some hearing aids need to be adequately secured and may be more suitable for older children and teenagers.
- Anatomy: Certain types of hearing aids can accommodate uncharacteristically-shaped outer ears and shallow ear canals.
- Features: Many hearing aids have features, such as programmable environments, directional microphones, Bluetooth and wireless connectivity, T-coil systems, radio systems, intuitive adjustments, smartphone app controls, and noise and feedback reduction.
- Safety: BTE hearing aids consist of soft plastic, while ITE devices comprise hard plastic. A damaged ITE device may injure a child’s ear if it becomes broken.
- Other preferences: Some types of hearing aids feature more design and color options than others. Waterproof hearing aids are available for children who need them for water activities.
The FDA only regulates prescription hearing aids, meaning they do not approve or regulate over-the-counter hearing aids and sound amplifiers.
It is also important to check if audiologists have tuned a hearing aid. Some devices may be “locked,” meaning only the brand’s audiologists can adjust them. Buyers should also consider finding a local audiologist, as babies and children continually outgrow their earmolds and require adjustments.
Buyers might also wish to check for the device’s repair and maintenance costs, the trial or adjustment period, and warranties, including separate parts and service coverage.
It is also essential to research the hearing aid company’s reputation, customer service, and quality of products.
- Oticon: Oticon’s Opn Play is suitable for children of all ages, while their Oticon Xceed Play is for those with severe-to-profound hearing loss.
- Phonak: Phonak offers several hearing aids and other devices for infants and toddlers, schoolchildren, and teenagers. Learn more about Phonak here.
- ReSound: Resound Up Smart BTE hearing aids come with an app and allow streaming and wireless connectivity. Learn more about ReSound here.
- Starkey: Aside from several color options for earmolds, Starkey’s hearing aids include features such as feedback control, speech optimization, and Surface Nanoshield. Learn more about Starkey here.
- Widex: Widex features the BABY440 model, a specially-designed hearing aid for babies, as well as several other models for children and teens.
According to a 2017 survey by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC),
Therefore, it is important to check whether babies and children are reaching their milestones based on how they communicate, play, and learn.
In a baby, they include:
- not turning their head towards sounds by the time they are 6 months of age
- not saying single words by when they reach 12 months of age
- turning their head when they see someone, but not when a person calls their name
- detecting some sounds but not others
- not getting startled by loud sounds
In a child, they include:
- unclear speech and speech delays
- preferring listening to devices at high volumes
- does not follow directions and often says, “Huh?”
Early detection of hearing issues is vital. A 2017 study found that providing earlier intervention following an early diagnosis can help children develop communication skills.
A similar study from 2016 showed that children with congenital hearing loss who received fitted hearing aids earlier had better language assessment outcomes.
Meanwhile, a 2015 study found that children with mild hearing loss who consistently use hearing aids had higher vocabulary and grammar scores than children who did not use these devices.
Hearing aid care
- avoiding exposing them to heat
- cleaning hearing aids to instructions and avoiding using water, alcohol, and solvents on the device
- regularly visiting a hearing specialist
- changing dead batteries immediately
- turning off the device when not in use
A child with hearing loss may benefit from using hearing aids. However, while these devices are readily accessible, there are many factors to consider before purchasing a suitable one.
A healthcare professional can recommend hearing aids for kids based on individual requirements. They can also help fit and adjust hearing aids for children.