Hearing Aids and Devices for Children with Hearing Loss
Children with hearing loss often benefit from using/wearing a hearing device. There are different types of hearing devices. Your audiologist may recommend a device based on a variety of factors, including your child’s age; degree, type and severity of hearing loss; and physical factors, such as the shape of your child’s ears. If medicine and/or surgery cannot correct the hearing loss, a hearing device may be an option for your child.
Hearing devices can improve the ability of a child with hearing loss to communicate with friends and family, learn to speak more clearly and understand their teachers at school. The goal is to reduce delays in speech and language development, improve communication and lessen the risk of academic difficulties.
Hearing aids and devices are battery-powered and most are worn on and/or in the ear(s) to help children with hearing loss hear more clearly. They pick up speech and other sounds through tiny built-in microphones, make them louder, and send them into a child’s ears. Hearing aids and devices help to make speech more clear.
Hearing devices are “digital", which allow audiologists to use computers to tell the digital chip inside of hearing aids how much loudness to add at different frequencies or pitches based on your child’s hearing loss. Think of digital hearing aid “programming” like adjusting the bass or treble controls of your stereo, rather than simply just turning the overall volume up or down.
Some hearing devices are able to connect directly to smartphones and other Bluetooth-enabled devices, which allows your child to easily listen to music, hear the TV and talk on the phone.
Your audiologist will discuss options with you if your child is a candidate for a hearing device.
Types of Hearing Aids and Hearing Devices
Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aid with Custom Earmold or Dome
- The most common type of hearing aid for infants and children is called a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, because it sits behind the ear.
- BTE hearing aids send sounds into the ear by attaching to an earpiece, which can be either a small plastic dome that comes in a variety of sizes, or a custom-made earpiece called an earmold. Your audiologist may recommended a dome or an earpiece for a variety of reasons.
- Earmolds need to be re-made as the ears grow, while domes need to be replaced frequently due to wear and tear. Because infants and young children grow quickly, it is common for them to need three to four (sometimes more) sets of earmolds per year.
- If earmolds and domes do not fit well, sound can leak out of the ears, which can cause the hearing aids to make a “whistling” sound called feedback, causing them to not be as helpful as they should be.
Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE) Hearing Aid with Custom Mold or Dome
- Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE) hearing aids look similar to BTE hearing aids, except that the receiver is in the patient’s ear, rather than inside the hearing aid.
- The location of the receiver allows the hearing aid to be smaller, even when a powerful device is needed.
Feedback (whistling) is less likely with RITE hearing aids.
As with a BTE, RITE hearing aids send sounds into the ear by attaching to either a custom earmold or a dome.
The RITE style will not fit every child’s ear canal, and will not be appropriate for very young children or for those with severe or profound hearing loss.
In-the-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aid
- In-the-Ear (ITE) hearing aids are made out of a hard plastic and are custom-made to fit a child’s ears. This process is similar to making the custom earmolds that attach to BTE hearing aids.
- Since children’s ears grow quickly, ITE hearing aids are not recommended for young children, because a young child would need to frequently send his or her hearing aids away to be re-made, causing him to be without them.
- Once a child is at an age where they are no longer growing quickly, ITEs may be an option.
Bone Conduction Hearing Device (BCHD)
- A Bone Conduction Hearing Device (BCHD) delivers sound vibrations through the bones of the skull directly to the inner ear, bypassing the outer and middle ear. This process is called bone conduction.
- A Bone Conduction Hearing Device (BCHD) may be recommended for a child who is unable to use a conventional hearing aid (listed above). There are surgical and non-surgical BCHD options.
- Non-surgical options include wearing the device on a soft or hard head band or attached to the skin with a sticky adhesive.
- Surgically implanted BCHDs have two parts: an internal component and an external processor. Options for surgical BCHD can include either an external post (abutment) or a magnetic attachment that connects the internal implant and the external BCHD processor.
Contralateral Routing of Sound (CROS) Hearing Aid
- A CROS hearing aid may be recommended for a child with significant hearing loss in one ear and better hearing in the other ear.
- CROS hearing aids consist of two parts:
- The CROS device with a microphone, which picks up sounds/voices from the ear with the hearing loss;
- The hearing aid, which receives the signal from the ear with the hearing loss and sends it the better hearing ear.
- The CROS device allows your child to hear sounds coming from the ear with the hearing loss, without having to turn his better ear towards to person speaking.
Remote Microphone (RM) System (formerly known as an FM System)
- A remote microphone system may be recommended for children with hearing loss, and is typically used in the classroom to help children to better hear and understand the teacher, as well as classmates and multimedia devices.
- Remote microphone systems consist of two parts:
- A transmitter, which has a microphone that picks up the voice of the person speaking.
- Receiver(s), which picks up the voices and sends it directly to the child’s ears. Receivers may be worn alone on the ears, or if the child wears another hearing device, may be attached to the device(s), may be a device worn around the neck or may be inside of the device. A receiver may also be a speaker or set of speakers in the classroom, or a small speaker on your child’s desk.
Cochlear Implants (CI)
- Cochlear implants are surgical devices that use both internal and external components.
- This device may be recommended for children with hearing loss that is not helped by other hearing devices.