When Alfie was fitted with his hearing aids at 7 weeks old, I remember thinking “how on EARTH” am I going to manage this. It took using two hands and about 10 minutes of repeated tries to get just one of them in, and once I had done it, Alfie would wriggle and it’d just pop right out again.
Fast forward to today, he’s 18 months and only pulls them out when he’s tired and ready to sleep. So I promise you, it does get better, even if you don’t think it will. I’m going to share with you a couple of thoughts. Firstly, why it’s so important to keep persevering with them and secondly, top tips to get your child used to their new passports to exciting new sounds…
Our hearing system is a complicated part of our bodies. Hearing loss can be caused by any part of this system not working, but like many things, if it’s not used it won’t develop in the same way, particularly our auditory nerves. If they aren’t used or aren’t exposed to sounds, our hearing won’t develop as well as it should. This is important for any child, but particularly a child born with a hearing loss. We need to give our children the best possible chance of developing as much hearing as possible, or even just keeping the auditory nerves active and functional.
Even if you have had a diagnosis which suggests your child is getting no benefit from hearing aids, keeping them in can potentially be stimulating the nerves which would be vital for any future possible implant surgeries, even if the sound waves aren’t strong enough for the brain to translate into noise. If we chose not to do this, the nerve will start to deteriorate and not provide good quality transmission from the electrical charges our inner ear produces, up to our brains.
So, now we know that any auditory stimulation is important, how DO we keep hearing aids in such little ears? The following part of the post is not an exhaustive list, but it’s what I did with Alfie and what I think worked well!
PLEASE don’t suddenly expect your baby or child to be okay with having these ear plugs in their ears for hours on end, or that they won’t try and pull them out after a couple of days.
Start with just the in-ear part. Pop ONE side in (assuming they’re using hearing aids bilatterally) when your baby or child is fed, well rested, and happy. Leave it in for 5 minutes and then remove it. Lots of positive language, reinforcement and smiles is very important. Every day, do the same, building up the time that they are wearing them. Once they are at about an hour, introduce the behind the ear part and do the same, building up the time. Eventually you can introduce the second one, and before you know it, they’ll be in all the time!
☆HEARING AID HEADBANDS☆
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good the fit is, hearing aids just won’t stay in. There’s a couple of options here. We found hearing aid headbands to work wonderfully for Alfie, with carefully positioned pockets to hold aids behind the ears in the right place. Just search hearing aid headbands here on Facebook, Instagram or in Google. Pilot caps are another option, however finding them in the UK proves challenging, but you can find them on etsy and have them shipped from America.
Sounds silly, but making sure your child is focused on anything BUT their hearing aids will help in a couple of ways. Firstly, it’ll stop your child reaching for their hearing aids as soon as you put them in, and secondly, it’ll help your child realise that their environment is different when they have their hearing aids in. If you make this a fun time, by singing to your baby and coo-ing lots, your child will quickly learn to understand they only get that experience when they have their hearing aids in.
This covers a couple of points. Routine is key. Babies LOVE knowing what’s coming next. With Alfie, after we had put his hearing aids in, I’d say “testing, testing, one, two, three!” and Alfie would give me the biggest smile. Build it into your routine and before you know it, you won’t remember life before it! The other thing to consider here is that they won’t learn to keep them in if you let them keep pulling them out, and leaving them out. If Alfie pulled his out, they’d go straight back on without any reaction, and then we’d distract him with something else to stop him doing it again. We also tried telling him “no” when he pulled them out, but found this wasn’t very effective. Simply pop them back in and carry on.
☆BELEIVE IN YOURSELF☆
I can tell you now, there will be many, MANY times where you feel frustrated, defeated, and that you can never win this seemingly endless battle! As I said before, there IS an end. It will stop and one day, your child will just keep them in, and you won’t notice until the end of the day when you reflect and realise “Oh… wait a second….HORRAY!”
Theres no magic trick to it, and yes it takes a long time, but if your child needed glasses and couldn’t see without them, you would encourage them to wear them all day, every day.
Let’s give our children the best possible chance to experience all the sounds the world is full of.
Hope this wasn’t too much of a drag to read and that it’s given you some good pointers!