There is a lot of data which shows that children with hearing loss who use hearing technology 10 or more hours/day have better language skills than children who do not use their hearing technology for 10 hours/day. Dave Sindrey has made a wonderful video for families in early intervention to help them understand why we need to monitor technology use (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HekrRwTPX9k).
First families need to understand why children need to hear. They need to understand that language is learned by hearing. The more a child hears the more language they will have. Dave Sindrey uses a very good example People use step counters on their phones or devices on their wrists to help monitor how many steps they take. We believe that people who walk 10,000 steps/day are healthier. Data logging does that with hearing aids. It measures the time the hearing aid is used. Data logging is useful because research shows that when families estimate how many hours the hearing aids are used, parents overestimate by 2-3 hours/day.
We need to help families understand that data logging is their friend. It helps us understand how many hours/day a child has the hearing aids on. If a child is using hearing aids more than 10 hours/day are getting what they need. Children who are not getting technology every day are not. We can help parents understand that if they are not using the technology 10 hours a day we are not yelling at them for not using it, we are going to try and help them figure out what to do to solve the problem.
As clinicians we should ask the family why they are having a problem having the child use technology for 10 hours. If the child is a baby, they may not be able to use the technology enough time because they are not awake more than 10 hours. The average that infants are away is 11 hours. Having them use hearing aids more than 10 hours will be difficult but not impossible. We need to ask families to think about the situations in which getting the child to keep technology on is difficult.
There are a number of difficult situations that families report. Breastfeeding is often difficult because when the baby is being held, the hearing aids may fall off and will certain present feedback. Sitting in an infant seat may be another example of when the technology will fall off or provide feedback. As children get older and are not being held, they will be awake more and keeping technology on for 10 plus hours will become easier.
Families sometimes feel like they want to give their kids a break from listening. We need to help families understand what that is not a good idea. Hours of listening count. It is not okay to get baby or child up and give them breakfast etc. before you put on technology. There is so much good language opportunity at mealtime when we can provide good and complex language exposure.
Language, language, language
Just having technology is not enough. We need to talk, talk, talk to children providing good, rich, exposure to complex language. We don’t want to just name objects in front of us. We want to talk about objects.
Parents often think they need to work on building vocabulary. And while building vocabulary is essential it is not sufficient. We need to do more than label. We can describe the object, talk about how it is used, talk about other things we can do with the object and whether there is another object that can do the same job. Families need to use a good variety of words, understand the importance of turn taking, and use language
Good variety of words, taking turns, and talk about what interests the child the most.
What makes for success? Hearing aids or other technology 10 or more hours/day and quality language every waking hour.