My Kid Needs a New Hearing Aid

Jane Madell
November 13, 2012

I got an email this morning from a mom asking for advice about a new hearing aid for her teen-aged son. He has a profound hearing loss, has been wearing an AVR transposition hearing aid  that is very old and needs replacement. He relies on sign language to receive information, but communicates orally. Without the transposition hearing aid he is not hearing any high frequencies. They have tried the Phonak Naida and not liked the results. Mom wanted my advice.


What do I recommend?

My first thought is that it takes time to learn to use a new hearing aid. It does not happen quickly. As we moved both kids and adults from analog to digital hearing aids years ago, almost everyone hated the digitals when they first put them on, but in a few weeks they were fine. They did not seem loud enough and, kids, especially, just felt like they could not hear if it was not loud. I used to bargain with them. You just wear it for a week (or two) and if you want your old hearing aid back it will be right here in this drawer in an envelope with your name on it. They were annoyed but they did it. I made the decision not to let them take the old hearing aids home because I knew that they would be impatient and unwilling to learn to use the new ones. I can tell you that, in all the years I did this, I had very few kids who did not learn to accept the new hearing aids. Sometimes the settings required adjustments, but there was no problem getting the kids to accept the digital hearing aids.


How much does transposition help?

Transposition hearing aids that transpose high-frequency information to lower frequencies allow people with very poor high-frequency hearing to get some high-frequency information. How much benefit they receive will vary and depends largely on their hearing loss. For example, if a person has usable hearing through 3000 Hz they are likely to get more benefit from transposition than a person who has usable hearing only through 1000 Hz, because with a smaller available range too much will need to be compressed into a small area resulting in more distortion.


So what would I really recommend?

The goal of technology is to have the person hear throughout the frequency range, which includes hearing in the high frequencies – all the high frequencies – at least through 8000 Hz. For a person with a severe to profound hearing loss, the answer, to me, is clear. This kid needs a cochlear implant. He has the best chance of hearing high frequencies with a CI since high frequencies are what CI’s do best. Since this young man has been using hearing aids all along, and knows he wants to hear high-frequency sounds, this seems like the right solution. I am sure this is a difficult decision for him or he would have done this already, but he really does need to have a CI. I hope they take my advice.

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