Ask the Audiologist
A parent sent these questions: "My child is not making as much progress in listening and speech as I'd like. I’m wondering if there is more we should be doing about cleaning and maintenance of the hearing aids, tests I should expect at the audiologists office, and when we should consider getting new hearing aids?” We asked Karrie Pargman, AuD, with the Elks Hearing & Balance Center in Boise Idaho, to share her responses. Dr. Pargman is also an Idaho H&V Board member.
Cleaning and Maintenance of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids should be cleaned by parents on a daily basis, and also be checked by your audiologist every three to six months. There are many different types of hearing aids -- each comes with cleaning needs that are particular to them. Many hearing aids will come with some type of filter. I recommend that filters be changed every three months. This can be done by your audiologist, or you can have instruction in changing them yourself. Filters can get plugged quickly, especially if you have a young child who may touch their hearing aids with dirty hands (i.e., while eating). Just as importantly, for behind the ear hearing aids (which children typically use)-the ear mold tubing should be replaced regularly. Again, this should occur every 3-6 months, depending on the child, and should be done by your audiologist.
On a daily basis, it is important for you to inspect the hearing aid. You should be wiping off the ear mold, and looking for any moisture that collects in the ear mold tubing. If you see moisture, you should remove the ear mold from the hearing aid and use an inexpensive tubing blower to remove the moisture. You should also be using a listening tube on a daily basis for a sound check. Children often cannot tell you if their aids sound distorted, or aren’t working. These accessories typically come with pediatric hearing aids, and if you don’t have them, ask your audiologist.
More about Testing
There are many different types of tests that you may encounter at the audiologist’s office. Beyond the standard hearing tests, it is important that your child’s hearing aids are verified to be appropriate for them. This should always be done when they first receive their hearing aids, and may be repeated following reprogramming of the hearing aids due to a change in hearing, or if your child grows significantly. This is typically referred to as “REAL ear measurements”. During this process, a small probe microphone may be inserted in your child’s ear canal to measure the exact volume of the canal. The hearing aids are then attached to the computer, and the gain of the hearing aids is “verified” to make sure it is appropriate for your child’s ear and hearing loss. There are certain circumstances in which it is impossible for the audiologist to measure your child’s ear canal directly (for example, when a child is upset), in which case a measurement of ear canal is assumed by the computer from the age of your child.
The audiologist may also do aided testing with your child. This may be done with each ear independently or aided simultaneously. Often, the audiologist may do aided pure tone threshold testing in the sound field of the booth as well as word or sentence recognition, depending on the age of the child. This test can verify the benefit the child is receiving from the hearing aids, but also to help determine if additional assistance, such as an FM system, should be recommended. (Pure tone threshold testing is conducted to determine the softest sound your child can hear at each specific frequency. There are many different methods to assess this; and these measurements are used to program hearing aids for your child.)
When to consider a new hearing aid
Behind the ear hearing aids (or BTEs) typically have an average life span of five to seven years Technology is changing rapidly, so you may find that your child’s three year old aids are considered out of date. This does not mean that they are not working well for your child, just that there are newer hearing aids that are considered superior. A good rule of thumb is to consider purchasing new aids every five years, or when there has been a change in hearing. Insurance often considers five years to be a standard replacement time for children as well.
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