Hearing aids will be prescribed by an audiologist once a patient is diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss or in other words permanent hearing loss after a hearing test is conducted. A hearing aid cannot restore our hearing back to normal but it allows the person to hear sounds better and it does improve our listening and communication which enable us to engage in daily activities to the fullest. However, not many people like to wear it. Children are not exceptional.
There are many reasons why children with hearing impairment reject hearing aids. Based on my experience as a counsellor working with teen and children with hearing impairment, they tend to reject hearing aids because, at the initial stage, most of them are still struggling to accept their hearing loss. Some feel embarrassed because they believe with a hearing aid they will be labelled as ‘disabled’. Some of them are teased and bullied by their peers at school, some also shared that they feel uncomfortable wear it behind their ear and feel awkward. Whatever the reason they give, hearing aids must be fitted as early as possible. If your child is diagnosed with a permanent hearing loss, hearing aids will give your child access to sounds and this is extremely important for your child to develop their speech and language especially for younger children.
According to Turan 2012, hearing loss which occurs congenitally or early in life prevents language development in its normal course because hearing is our primary sense to acquire spoken language. Other studies also indicate that the younger a child is diagnosed and intervened, the better they develop their spoken language.
On the other hand, hearing aids are also equally important for children with progressive hearing loss who already developed verbal language. Without access to adequate sounds, they will have difficulty in understanding communication and finally unable to participate well in daily activities which causes stress and isolation too in some cases I’ve handled before. Apart from that, there are higher chances of a drop in their academic performance when they can’t concentrate in class due to their hearing condition. Don’t be surprised that there are some children mistakenly diagnosed with learning disability when the truth is they actually suffer from hearing loss.
Some children are mistakenly diagnosed with learning disability when the truth is they actually suffer from hearing loss.
Now that you are enlightened on the importance of hearing aids for your child, there is still the question of what can you do when your child refuses to wear it? Here are some tips and advice you can follow to embolden your child to accept and get attached to their hearing devices.
1. Set a time and be patient
Accepting hearing loss and making adjustment wearing their hearing aid behind their ear can be tough for adults and even more so to some children. In this case, as parents, you have to be more patient by giving your child some time to adjust and accept their hearing aids. Give your child a break. At the early stage after fitted with hearing aids, get your child to wear it in a less noisy environment and let them experience and get used to it. Environments like the marketplace, park, and restaurants are not suitable at the beginning as it can be difficult for them. Gradually they will discover how their hearing aids help them hear well. There will be a time when they themselves would want to wear it without having you to force them.
2. Set mandatory rule
Both parents should work together as a team when it comes to enforcing rules. Ensure your child is fitted with hearing aids in the morning once they wake-up. This is to allow them to get used to it. At the same time, whatever your child wishes to do like watching television or playing toys, allow them to it only if they wear their hearing aids, otherwise, they may not get it! In this process, you can slowly increase the hours of your child wearing their hearing aids until they manage to wear it for at least 8 hours or all waking hours as recommended by an audiologist. To get this done successfully parents need to work as a team and of course being firm, consistent and persistent is the principle for a better outcome.
3. Rewards and praises
Reward system is one of the ways to encourage your child to get attached to their hearing aids. You can introduce a reward sticker chart where every time your child wears their hearing aid for a certain period of time- they get a sticker and once the sticker chart is completed they get the chance to collect their rewards. This method is usually used to reinforce good behaviour in younger children and in this case we can reinforce the habit of wearing their hearing aid as part of their daily routine. Besides rewards, praising your child who starts to wear their hearing aids can be a real motivation to them. But don’t overpraise your child as expert says the quality of praise is more important than the quantity. So praise only when they really comply with their hearing devices.
4. Fun accessories for hearing aids
Unlike those days, hearing aids are now designed in many sizes and fun colours. Many hearing aid shops nowadays offer a variety of beautiful designs ranging from superhero character to flowers which cater to both boys and girls, while others offer unique patterns and vibrant colours for kids to choose from. At the same time, they can also have colourful ear mould to pair with their hearing aids. This can boost their self-confidence when they wear it.
5. Meet teacher and school counsellor
It has been said that ears are the doorway to the brain because hearing occurs in the brain and not in the ear. Listening is the key to good academic performance in the classroom. When your child refuses to wear it to school, it’s time for you to visit your child’s school and meet the classroom teacher to discuss your plan and what can be done next. Besides classroom teacher, you can always look for a school counsellor who can help your child by providing emotional and motivational support. One of the valuable contributions from a school counsellor can be in a form of helping other kids at school (especially peers in the classroom) understand your child’s hearing condition in order to avoid teasing and bullying.
6. Keep them busy and engaged
Keep your child busy with fun and interesting activities such as listening to music and singing or keep them busy by engaging them in daily interaction or communication to help them forget about their hearing aids. Indirectly this also gives access to sounds, which is crucial for their vocabulary development.
7. Talk to your audiologist
Sometimes, your child rejects their hearing aids not because they don’t like it, but because they are not hearing well or experiencing discomfort with them due to audiological problems. When technical issues on hearing aids arise, your audiologist is the right practitioner whom you can approach in order to adjust or change the hearing aid setting so that it fits accordingly to your child’s need. Even when the hearing aid sound is too loud it can be reprogrammed so that your child feels comfortable wearing it. It is important for parents to take note that as your child grow, their ear changes shape and size and in this case, it is best to get their ear mould changed to avoid discomfort.
8. Talk to your child about their hearing loss
Talking to your child about their hearing condition is extremely important. This will help them understand issues related to hearing loss. Your child should also know their level of hearing capabilities and how hearing aids can help them hear better in order for them to communicate well with their parents, teachers and friends. Audiology hearing charts and even children’s storybooks about hearing loss can be very useful tools to educate your child about hearing loss. Team up with your rehabilitation team to get support and information about hearing loss.
9. Counselling and support groups
One of the best encouragements is through counselling support. Counselling can be fun, interactive and a mind opening experience for children and teens who are still struggling to accept hearing aids. Support groups provide the chance to meet peers who are also dealing with similar issues and some of them might have accepted and comply with their hearing aids, which is a good encouragement for them. Besides that, support groups create the opportunity for your child to interact with one another to motivate, share experience, support and lift each other towards accepting their hearing loss and finally accepting hearing aids.
10. Allow your child explore their hearing aids
One of the other efforts that can be done to motivate your child to comply with their hearing aids is by allowing them to learn to explore or take charge of taking care of their hearing aids. Allowing them to check and change the batteries, cleaning their hearing aids, put it in a container, changing their hearing aid casing or cover can be fun too. If this works well, you can gradually encourage your child to get in touch with their audiologist so that they develop the courage to speak and ask questions related to their hearing and get the answers from their audiologist.
Getting your child to accept their hearing aids as part of their daily routine can be pretty challenging for parents. But once your child feels the benefit of hearing aids, trust me they will never reject it again. Be patient with your child, take one step at a time to encourage them to wear their hearing aids because not all parents are lucky enough to get their child to immediately accept their hearing aids. You should stay positive and don’t give up! Remember hearing aids provide access to the sound which is crucial for your child to learn, to listen and to develop spoken language. So expand your creativity to attract them to wear it.
Institute of Ear, Hearing and Speech (Institute-HEARS)
Institute-HEARS, UKM is established in 2013. Its located at Jalan Temerloh, Kuala Lumpur. Institute-HEARS offers holistic clinical services to patients with hearing loss, especially children. Their mission is to bridge the gap between hearing impaired children with their normal-hearing peer through early identification and intervention. Their panel of experts consists of multidisciplinary team from audiologists, speech-therapists, ORL-Surgeons, linguist, psychologist, special education. Institute-HEARS offers hearing assessment, speech therapy and counselling services which is information counselling and emotional support for people with hearing impairment. They are actively reaching out to communities by conducting national level seminars for public and professionals, workshops specially designed for parents who have a child with hearing loss as well as professional short courses. To find out more about us them, browse their websites, Facebook page and Instagram.
Contact them for an appointment:
8th Block, 3rd Floor,
Faculty of Health Sciences,
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Jalan Temerloh, 53200 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: 603-9289 5132
Fax: 603-2698 6039
Turan, Z. 2012. Early intervention with children who have hearing loss: Role of professional and parent participation. Anadolu University, Turkey.