What Can Parents Do To Check Hearing Aids

It is not enough to have hearing aids on. It is also essential that we know that they are working appropriately. Checking hearing aids is a two-part process. First, the hearing aids need to be checked by the audiologist to be sure all is okay. That means that the hearing aids need to be providing enough gain throughout the frequency range so the child hears normal and soft conversation in quiet and when there is competing noise.


What does a good aided audiogram look like?

A good aided audiogram means that the child is hearing at 20-25 dB at ALL frequencies – high as well as low. And good aided thresholds are needed in both ears. Two ears are critical for knowing where sound is coming from and for listening in noise.


What has to happen at home?

Once you know the hearing aids are working, the work is not done. Technology is technology – it breaks, just like all other small appliances etc. And these get batted around a lot more than your Phone or iPod. Here are some steps that might help:


Start by listening to the hearing aids – one at a time.

Every parent should have a listening tube. Attach one end to the earmold and the other to your ear and just listen. Repeat the Ling sounds (ah, ee, oo, sh, sss, mmm) and see what they sound like. Then repeat some sentences. In the beginning, you will have no idea what you are listening for, but as you become familiar with the sound of the hearing aid you will recognize if something is not working well.


What to expect for an infant?

Put the hearing aid on the baby and repeat the Ling sounds pausing between each sound. Look to see how baby responds. Is she alerting, quieting, do you see a change in breathing? Check each hearing aid separately.


What about toddlers?

Once kids get a little bigger, in addition to looking for responses, expect that the child will start to respond. You should expect him to try and imitate you when you make the Ling sounds. Say one and wait expectantly. In the beginning his imitation will not be great, but he will be getting the idea that you expect him to use his voice and communicate. As he learns to listen, he should begin to accurately repeat the sounds. Be sure to say them in different orders so he cannot guess what you are going to say. Again, check each hearing aid separately. Once he starts repeating you should also check at a distance. Children need to hear close by, but they also need to hear at a distance, so check listening at about 10 feel.


As kids get older

Be sure and add more complicated listening activities. Start with some simple sentences or questions to check listening. “What color are my shoes?,” “What did Daddy eat for breakfast?”  Check each ear separately, close and at a distance.


What do you do with the information learned from checking.

Hopefully the child will correctly identify all the Ling sounds at close distance (3 feet) and at far (10 feet) in each ear. But what happens if she does not? If a child hears some sounds but consistently misses others, that is important information. If a child hears at a close distance but not at far, that is important information. This is information that the audiologist can use to correct the hearing aid settings to improve performance. So keep careful notes of performance over time and share the information with all the professionals working with the child. And audiologists, pay attention and use the information to change technology settings and improve performance.

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.