Children's Hearing Aids
Hearing aids may be offered to any child who has a hearing loss which is persisting over time. This can include hearing loss due to glue ear where surgical intervention (grommets) is inappropriate or where the family opt for hearing aids to help manage the condition rather than surgery. Hearing aids are always offered to children with a permanent hearing loss in one or both ears where this is likely to impact on their speech and language development or learning. Hearing aids can be fitted at any age from birth upwards.
Hearing aids work by making sounds louder as they enter the ear to overcome the hearing loss present. Hearing aids are individually fitted with an appropriate prescription for the type and degree of hearing loss in that ear.
What types of hearing aids are there?
Most hearing aids fitted are post-aural digital aids. These consist of 2 parts, an earmould and the hearing aid device which sits behind the ear. Children's Hearing Aid
Earmoulds are individually made to the shape of the child’s ear. Different models of hearing aid may be chosen appropriate to the type of hearing loss present, and the age of the child. Both hearing aids and earmoulds can be offered in a choice of colours. For older children slim tube fitings may be appropriate.
Modern hearing aids can have several different listening programs for different situations (for example, in normal listening situations, in noisy listening situations, listening to music and so on). When children are very young it is likely that they will only have one program and there won’t be any controls or buttons to worry about. As they get older and become able to control the hearing aids themselves, programs can be introduced. Hearing aids may have a digital volume control but often for young children this is also deactivated.
Some hearing aids now allow bluetooth connectivity for streaming of phone calls and music direct to the hearing aids.
For children with severe to profound hearing loss cochlear implants may be considered. This would be discussed with the family and referral made to a specialist cochlear implant centre if appropriate. Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices and stimulate the hearing by electrical stimulus.
For some conductive hearing losses where conventional aids are difficult to manage a softband baha hearing aid may be issued. This works by vibrating the bones of the skull and transmitting sound direct to the cochlear. A baha aid may be offered to babies and children under 5 years of age where there is evidence of glue ear impacting on hearing levels over a prolonged period of time.
Once hearing aids have been fitted your child will be reviewed regularly. The purpose of these reviews is to monitor progress with the hearing aids, also to monitor hearing levels, supply replacement earmoulds as your child grows and to make any necessary adjustments to the hearing aid prescription. For pre-school children this may mean several appointments per year. For most children once they are of school age they will be reviewed annually, this may require two appointments.
Additional guidance including useful tips from parents: Encouraging your child to wear hearing aids
Transition to Adult Hearing Services
Timing of transition
Young people transfer from paediatric to adult audiology services at the age of 16 -25. The exact age will vary but in general will coincide with the move from full-time education or apprenticeship to employment.
The paediatric audiology service provides annual hearing assessment and hearing aid reviews and a priority service for repairs and appointments. The adult audiology service currently provides five yearly reassessment and hearing aid upgrades with access to repair services.
Educational support for most young people (meeting visit criteria) has been provided by the Local Education Authority Teachers of the Deaf up to the age of 16. For students moving to Further Education (college) or in to Higher Education (university) this support may be available via the disability co-ordinator at the college or university, or for those remaining in school with sixth forms it would be expected to continue to be provided by TOD's.
Planning for transition
Awareness of the transition process will be raised at annual reassessment appointments from year 7 with issue of the transition leaflets and promotion of other suitable material.
Transition is provided by a specialist transition team, who consist of experienced audiologists who work in adult audiology, but have a knowledge of paediatric audiology and their systems.
Typically a child will see Paediatric Audiology up until year 10, and then when they will be transferred to the Transition team for their annual review in year 11.
At the year 11 appointment young people are encouraged to discuss their plans for the following year and identify any provision that needs to be put in place. An information pack containing useful contacts such as Access to Work and Disabled Student Allowance is issued. Longer term plans will be discussed if appropriate and contact information for sources of support will be highlighted.
If necessary further appointments will be made, and young people will be told how they may contact the transition team for further advice or assistance as necessary.