What can parents and clinicians do to check how well children are hearing, now that we can’t easily get in to see the audiologist? First, we need to be sure we are monitoring every child’s hearing. It is not a good idea to assume that, because a child was hearing well two months ago, that they will be hearing well now. Hearing needs to be monitored daily.
Morning check in
Hearing needs to be checked every morning. If your child is wearing hearing aids, start by listening to the hearing aids using a listening tube. Put the tube in your ear, turn the hearing aid on, and repeat the Ling sounds (ah, i, u, sh, ss, m) and be sure they sound crisp and clear.
If your child has a cochlear implant, you cannot listen directly but you can still check listening. The newer cochlear implants come with monitor earphones which you can you to check the sound. Many CI’s have an app which you should have on your phone so you can troubleshoot.
Put the technology on your child. One ear at a time. Repeat the Ling sounds in random order and have the child repeat them. Why the Ling sounds? Because they cover the entire speech spectrum from low frequency (u) to high frequency (ss). Know that a child hears low, mid, and high frequency stimuli is obviously important. Once your child is able to answer questions start adding them to the listening check. “where are your green shoes?, who is wearing a red shirt? What time did mommy come home yesterday?” As a child’s language improves and expands, ask more complicated questions. “When was the last time you ate tomatoes? Name all the people in your class who’s names start with ‘w’”?
It is important that you ask questions the child cannot anticipate. You want to be sure that the child is hearing and not just remembering the series of questions from yesterday.
Test the right technology alone, the left technology alone, and both together standing a few feet away. Binaurally, (with both ears), test standing about 10 feet away. If you have a remote microphone, test with the remote microphone also at ten feet. If you don’t have a remote microphone, you need one! Record the errors so that you can share the information about perception errors with the audiologist. That will help your audiologist understand what to do to improve your child’s hearing. If you test everyday you will quickly become comfortable testing and will be able to recognize when something is wrong.
What to do if your child is not hearing well?
First check the equipment. For hearing aids, check that the earmold is not clogged with wax. Check the tubing. Is it clear? Make sure there are no cracks. For CI’s, if they are not working, try changing parts. Cords are fragile and often break. Try replacing them. Remember to change the mic cover. They can get clogged. Mini-mic’s are also fragile. Check and try and exchange if you have another one.
In normal times you would call your audiologist. Actually, even in the midst of a pandemic you should still call your audiologist. You would be amazed at what the audiologist can do remotely. The audiologist will be able to direct you through a check and if equipment is not working on, will help figure out what to do.
Many current hearing aids have an app that you may download on your phone and your audiologist will be able to make remote adjustments. Some audiologists are arranging for a drop off of broken equipment without contact – such as a drop box near their office. The audiologist can then check the equipment and arrange for repair and/or a loaner. Cochlear implants may be returned to the manufacturer who can send a new speech processor. Remote programming of cochlear implants is in the near future (hopefully).
The point is, even if school is closed and things seem more relaxed (or maybe more chaotic), it is absolutely essential that kids are hearing well. Even in this situation they need opportunities to develop and build language skills and they cannot do that if they are not hearing. It just cannot wait. Make sure your child is hearing well. We are talking about their future!!!