Although hearing technology has come a long way, there are still things you should do to make sure your baby’s brain will benefit from the devices as much as possible. By maximizing your baby’s use of technology, you’ll be well on your way to helping them develop their brains for speech, language, and literacy skills at the same rate as their hearing friends.
Parents often ask how much time their child should wear hearing devices, as most present-day technology is not designed to be worn 24 hours a day. A good rule of thumb for getting the right amount of wear time is wearing the device during “all waking moments.”
Why? Because in the first year, your baby has an average of 7-10 hours of awake time every 24-hour period to listen to all of the sounds of speech around them. Every minute counts toward 40 million words!
Babies with typical hearing can hear the sounds around them even when they’re not completely asleep, like when they’re resting in their cribs. They can hear sounds before and after they awaken. Your baby with hearing loss needs the same number of hours of listening in order to develop listening and spoken language.
You don’t want your baby to miss out on singing and reading and “I love you’s.” So, watch the clock, stick with a routine, and remember “Eyes open – technology on!"
Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for little ones to try to remove their hearing aids or cochlear implants (or their hats and shoes) – especially at ages when they are discovering their ears and other body parts, and when motor skills are advancing. Make a commitment – and ask all your baby’s caregivers to make the same commitment – to keep the device on your baby during all waking moments, and eventually they’ll barely even notice it and even start asking for the device in the morning when they wake up.
Keeping Technology on Little Ears
Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Here are 3 tips that should help keep hearing devices worn during all waking hours.
- Distract: Draw their attention away from the device and to an activity
- Adhesive: Medical or wig tape may help keep the device on when used appropriately
- Hats: Use a hat or cap to discourage touching
But, keep in mind that if your baby insists on pulling their devices off, there could be an underlying problem, like earmolds that don’t fit anymore or ear infections causing discomfort. Share all of your concerns about hearing device wear time with your LSL interventionist and your pediatric audiologist.
Today’s hearing technology is truly amazing; it’s constantly evolving to provide the brains of children who are deaf or hard of hearing with access to speech and other sounds. Making sure your baby’s hearing technology is always working properly is just as important as wearing it during all waking moments. Infants and toddlers aren’t able to tell us when their hearing technology isn’t working, so it’s vital that you and other caregivers learn how to monitor the technology right from the start.
DAILY DEVICE CHECKS
Knowing that the brains of children need as much listening time as they can get, daily device checks make that possible by confirming their hearing technology is functioning correctly. You should be shown the use and care of the devices and taught how to perform daily checks. Most audiologists will check to see if you’re able to demonstrate that you can correctly place the device(s) on your child, operate the controls, and carry out a device check.
You should also be given written information and an equipment kit, as well as demonstrations on how to use, care, and troubleshoot your child’s technology.
Don't forget to keep an eye on those earmolds!
Little ears grow rapidly during the first few years. Because of this, earmolds must be re-made often. This is a pretty simple process, and earmolds can easily be re-made to keep up with growing ears. If earmolds don’t fit right, clear auditory information will not be delivered to your child’s brain. So, earmold fit is very important.
What you do in the first five minutes of the day can make a big difference for your baby learning to listen, talk, and read. Hearing devices should be put on your baby first thing each and every day.
DAILY LISTENING CHECKS
After checking your baby’s hearing technology, go ahead and conduct a daily listening check to monitor the baby’s response to sound. This listening check is another way to verify that the hearing technology is working. The daily listening check is usually done first thing in the morning when the device is put on.
To carry out this check, you’ll learn how to perform the Ling Six-Sound Test. You’ll produce six specific sounds, to see how your baby reacts without being able to see your mouth. These six sounds represent all the frequencies or pitches of speech. Observing a response to each sound tells you that your child’s brain has access to all the sounds of speech. Older children may be expected to perform an action, like dropping a block in a container, clapping, or placing a ring on a post when they hear one of the sounds. As your child grows and is able to speak, you can ask them to repeat each sound as you say them.
This test can also be used to help monitor your child’s distance listening. The Ling six sounds can be presented at varying distances between you and your baby. You can observe how close you need to be for your child to detect and identify each sound. This information is helpful to share with your LSL interventionist.
Also, the Ling Six-Sound Test helps you notice when your child’s hearing has changed, or if there might be problems with their technology. Any change in your child’s response to the Ling Six-Sound Test should be shared with your LSL interventionist or audiologist
SCHEDULE REGULAR APPOINTMENTS
Seeing the pediatric audiologist on a regular basis is key to creating the best listening and spoken language outcomes for your baby. As they grow, the visits will usually become less frequent. For example, when an initial hearing aid fitting is made in early infancy, it’s not unusual for ear impressions to be taken and new earmolds dispensed 6 or 7 times or more in the first year. Return visits for earmold fitting can provide an opportunity for hearing aid checks and for tests to monitor middle ear status and to verify the overall function of the ear/doorway.
Your audiologist will guide you on how often you and your baby need to return for appointments based on their hearing technology and health. But if you ever suspect a problem with the hearing device or a change in your baby’s hearing, contact your audiologist quickly. It’s not unusual for hearing loss to progress. But don’t worry, there are technologies to access the brain, even if the hearing loss progresses.
The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has a guide on best practices for audiological evaluation and management of hearing loss in infants and children with key information for the different tests and procedures recommended for the best LSL outcomes.