Fitting Children with Hearing Aids

Fitting a hearing aid is a process of determining the right type of hearing aid to accommodate the child's hearing loss.

Children need to wear hearing aids that will give them the appropriate amplification in order for them to develop optimal communication skills. The first step to fitting a hearing aid is to get a good behavioral audiogram. This will determine the child's "threshold; which is at what intensity level (decibels or dB) the child can detect sound. You need to know the child's hearing threshold without a hearing aid to determine what their threshold should be with a hearing aid. The difference is how much gain is needed at that frequency. Hearing aids are picked and adjusted to provide the child with just the right amount of gain for each frequency tested. This is why it's important to have an unaided audiogram and then redo the testing with the hearing aid. This process will enable you to measure the actual gain the child is getting.

If the child can repeat words, it is best to do word discrimination testing with and without any form of hearing aid. During word discrimination testing, the child repeats a list of words and the percentage of words they can repeat correctly is the word discrimination score. If the score doesn't significantly improve then the hearing aid isn't a good fit for the child. However, some children are too young to do word discrimination testing so aided and unaided behavioral audiograms are even more essential in hearing aid fitting for children.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are usually recommended for children because they are quiet and durable. BTE hearing aids fit behind the child's ear and are connected to the ear via an ear mold. BTE aids are practical for most children because they are less reliant on the size of the child's inner ear. Many parents also like the fact that they can easily monitor and control behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids.

Even though BTE aids are relatively small, they can look large compared to a young child's head. Often times a child's ear just isn't large enough to hold the BTE against their head. However, adjustments to the tone hook or ear mold can usually help hold the hearing aid in place more securely. BTE hearing aids also make use of a piece of tubing called a Huggy for added hold. This tube connects to the hearing aid and helps to hold it against the child's head.

Children fitted with hearing aids should have their hearing tested, with and without the aid, every year to see if their hearing has changed and if the hearing aid is still a good fit for the child.

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