When Should Children Be Fit With Directional Hearing Aids

Adults are very good at knowing to look at the person who is speaking if they want to understand speech better. Adults with hearing loss and adults with normal hearing will turn to face the talker. This is more than being polite. We all get benefit from both seeing and hearing the person who is speaking. What about children?


Benefits of directional microphones

Directional microphones are designed to reduce the sound coming from the side and back and enhance the sound coming from the front. This is usually accomplished by reducing the noise from side and back and keeping the sound from the front at the same level. This enables the listener to hear the important speech and hear less of the background noise.


School-aged children

By the time a child is in school he knows to face the teacher or the child who is speaking. Directional microphones could be useful in a school setting. But will the child be using the skills of looking at the talker on the playground or in other play situations? If the child cannot, will it make listening in those situations more difficult? School-aged kids can learn to change the HA program so they can have the directional microphone on when they are in an educational situation, and turn it off when they are not in an educational situation.


What about littler kids?

Little kids will not do well with directional microphones until they learn to look at the person who is speaking. Once kids are able to face the speaker they will be able to benefit from directional microphones. But even when a child can look at the person talking, will they be able to adjust the hearing aid to turn the directional mic on or off? And if they can, should they?

Little kids may not be completely reliable with hearing aids, occasionally taking them off when they are stressed or tired or annoyed at the adults in their lives. Teaching them to switch their hearing aid programs may not be a good idea. It may be best if parents or teachers are responsible for making any changes in settings.


Do not fit directional hearing aids on little ones who are not looking at the talker

It is important that we use technologic advances, but they need to be used appropriately. We should not assume that every hearing aid setting is appropriate for every  child in every setting. If a child is not ready to manage a directional microphone, we can wait and turn it on at a later date.


Training children to change hearing aid settings

Before we send a child to school with directional microphones on, we need to be sure that the child is trained to change settings as needed. In addition, the child needs to be able to recognize when directional microphones should be on and when they should be turned off.

About Jane Madell

Jane Madell has a consulting practice in pediatric audiology. She is an audiologist, speech-language pathologist, and LSLS auditory verbal therapist, with a BA from Emerson College and an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin. Her 45+ years experience ranges from Deaf Nursery programs to positions at the League for the Hard of Hearing (Director), Long Island College Hospital, Downstate Medical Center, Beth Israel Medical Center/New York Eye and Ear Infirmary as director of the Hearing and Learning Center and Cochlear Implant Center. Jane has taught at the University of Tennessee, Columbia University, Downstate Medical School, and Albert Einstein Medical School, published 7 books, and written numerous books chapters and journal articles, and is a well known international lecturer.