One of the biggest challenges for parents of children with hearing loss is getting them to actually wear their hearing aids.
Dr. Kevin Ruggle is an Audiologist who is very familiar with this problem. Below he gives some advice for parents:
We have all heard the stories of the young child getting dropped off at school or climbing onto the school bus, only to have them remove their hearing aids and place them in their backpack as soon as the parent is out of sight. I know it happens, as I hear this from both the parents and the kids I treat for hearing loss.
So how do we fix this problem so that the kids actually use these aids every day? The easy answer is to “get them to own their hearing loss.” In other words, letting them see that the hearing loss is their obstacle to overcome so that eventually they take on the responsibilities of using their hearing aids every day.
As an Audiologist, my responsibility somewhat ends with the proper fitting, verification and counseling of the parents and the child. I am not there every morning before school to fight with them or discuss why they should be using their hearing aids that day. I understand this is difficult and sometimes a daily fight for parents.
Here are some pieces of advice to help you as parents get to them to accept them.
Set Mandatory Times and Break Times
Parents need to be unified and work as a team to encourage their children to use the hearing aids and accept them. Set non-negotiable times for mandatory use (example: school and home
and/or social situations) and set a few times where the child may choose to take a break from the hearing aids. Yes, you can give them a short break at home if you deem it prudent. When you do this, please pre-select certain times that you have already approved as “break times” with your spouse and consider letting your child choose one of those times for themselves. Make sure they are not choosing an activity like gaming or TV watching if that activity goes on for hours every night. This gives them the sense of control, even though you controlled the choices before they chose! Sneaky parenting, isn’t it?
Beginning to Take Ownership
Make your child change batteries, clean the hearing aids and even call for an adjustment with their Audiologist (if they are old enough). I realize that you paid for the hearing aids, but this may be the time to slowly release the reins and have them take some ownership. Let your child work with your Audiologist to choose the hearing aid color and molds that they like. This helps the acceptance process very early on. Remember that your ultimate goal is the total care and use of the hearing aids to be in their hands, or in this case, in their ears!
Assuming Full Ownership
Find an Audiologist who has your same belief system. I tell my parents and my patients that I will do whatever is possible to try to allow that child to continue to do the activities and events that they enjoy. I am not pleased when a patient is not able to do what they enjoy because of the hearing loss. A good Audiologist will also transition parents slightly out of the picture as the child gets closer to adulthood. When the children are younger, visits involve parents and children with most of the questions answered by the parents. As the child gets older, I tend to direct more questions to the child and have the parent many times sit in the back of the office as more of a resource than a participant.
Realize it is a marathon. You may not be lucky enough to have a child fully accept the hearing aids on day one. You will have good days and bad, and you will face resistance for a while. I believe this is normal. Stay positive, encourage them and look for steady but slow improvement in their acceptance.
Ask Your Audiologist for Advice
Ask your Audiologist for advice. This is not our first rodeo and we have seen both good and bad examples of parents trying to get their children to wear the hearing aids. We are trained in the science of Audiology, but we gain wisdom from experience of working with the parents and children.
Keep in mind, I have directed this article to children, not infants. My experience is mostly in working with children over the age of four. Children younger than that require the experience and training of a Pediatric Audiologist, which I am not.
One of my best learning experiences involved an 8-year-old boy who was getting hearing aids for the first time. After a long explanation of how others may view him or treat him when they saw he had hearing aids, he politely turned to me and said “I don’t care what other people think, as long as I can hear.” He could not have said it better!
Dr. Kevin Ruggle practices in Manhattan, KS and may be reached by email at [email protected].