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More than three million children in the US have hearing loss. Hearing aids can help improve hearing and speech, especially in children with sensorineural hearing loss (hearing loss in the inner ear due to damaged hair cells or a damaged hearing nerve). Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by noise, injury, infection, certain medications, birth defects, tumors, and problems with blood circulation.
Hearing aids are electronic or battery-operated devices that can amplify and change sound. A microphone receives the sound and converts it into sound waves. The sound waves are then converted into electrical signals. Children as young as two months can be fitted with hearing aids.
The type of hearing aid recommended for your child will depend on several factors, including his/her physical limitations, medical condition, and personal preference. There are many different types of hearing aids on the market, with companies continuously inventing newer, improved hearing aids. However, there are four basic types of hearing aids available today. Consult your child's physician for additional information on each of the following types:
|In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids
|These hearing aids come in plastic cases that fit in the outer ear. Generally used for mild to severe hearing loss, ITE hearing aids can accommodate other technical hearing devices, such as the telecoil, a mechanism used to improve sound during telephone calls. However, their small size can make it difficult to make adjustments. In addition, ITE hearing aids can be damaged by ear wax and drainage.|
|Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids
|Behind-the-ear hearing aids, as the name implies, are worn behind the ear. This type of hearing aid, which is in a case, connects to a plastic earmold inside the outer ear. These hearing aids are generally used for mild to severe hearing loss. However, poorly fitted BTE hearing aids can cause feedback, an annoying "whistling" sound, in the ear.|
|Canal aids||Canal aids fit directly in the ear canal and come in two styles: in-the-canal (ITC) aid and completely-in-canal (CIC) aid. Customized to fit the size and shape of the individual's ear canal, canal aids are generally used for mild to moderate hearing loss. However, because of their small size, removal and adjustment may be more difficult. In addition, canal aids can be damaged by ear wax and drainage.|
|Body aids||Generally reserved for profound hearing loss, or if the other types of hearing aids will not accommodate, body aids are attached to a belt or pocket and connected to the ear with a wire.|
Nearly all children who have a hearing loss that may be improved with hearing aids can benefit from these devices. The type of hearing aid recommended may depend on several factors, including, but not limited to, the following:
Once the hearing aids have been fitted for the ears, your child should begin to gradually wear the hearing aid. Because hearing aids do not restore normal hearing, it may take time to get used to the different sounds transmitted by the device. The American Academy of Otolaryngology recommends the following when beginning to wear hearing aids:
Hearing aids need to be kept dry. Methods for cleaning hearing aids vary depending on the style and shape. Other tips for taking care of hearing aids include the following:
A medical examination is required before purchasing a hearing aid. Hearing aids can be purchased from an otolaryngologist (a physician who specializes in disorders of the ear, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck), an audiologist (a specialist who can evaluate and manage hearing and balance problems), or an independent company. Styles and prices vary greatly. The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders recommends asking the following questions when buying hearing aids:
Hearing aids typically need to be replaced after about five years. New, programmable and digital hearing aids, that can be adjusted as the level of hearing changes, may reduce the need for replacement.
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