What’s a hearing aid?

Hearing aids are very small electronic devices that we can wear to help us hear better. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and can do many different things. Here you can learn a little bit about them.

What do hearing aids look like?

hearing-aid-examples
photo credit http://www.lakesideaudiology.com

There are many different styles of hearing aids. Since children’s ears are still growing and developing, the style that is likely to be recommended for your child is a behind-the-ear style, otherwise known as a BTE. These are shown in the top row of the picture above. This unit sits back behind your child’s ear and connects into the ear using either a custom-made plastic earpiece called an earmold or a small slim plastic tube and soft plastic dome. BTEs come in many fun colors and some even have fun patterns on them or come with stickers so your child can decorate them.

Custom hearing aids are hearing aids made from an impression of your child’s ears, so that the housing of the hearing aid is custom made. These are shown in the bottom row of the picture above. They fit inside the ear rather than behind the ear. They come in several styles and sizes. Custom hearing aids are generally not recommended for smaller children because their ears continue to grow until adolescence and would need many costly shell remakes to keep the fit current and secure. Hearing aids that do not fit securely can cause problems like feedback (whistling), discomfort, or even possible loss of the hearing aid.

How do hearing aids work?

HearingAid
photo credit http://www.illinoissoundbeginnings.org

A hearing aid has three electronic parts: a microphone, an amplifier, and a receiver. First, the microphone picks up the sounds in your child’s environment. The microphone sends this signal to the amplifier, which is controlled by a computer chip. When your child is fit with a hearing aid, the hearing aid is connected either wirelessly or with a small wire to the computer. The audiologist enters your child’s hearing loss into the computer, and based on their hearing test, the computer chip decides how much each frequency should be turned up. The chip tells the amplifier what sounds to increase, and this amplified signal is then sent to the receiver. The receiver is a tiny speaker that puts the amplified sound into the ear.

Some hearing aids have volume controls on them, so that your child can turn the sound of the hearing aid up or down themselves. Some have program switches where programs for hearing better in different environments can be accessed. Some examples of different listening programs are for hearing better in background noise, watching TV or hearing well on the telephone, or accessing an FM program for a classroom. Many times in younger children hearing aids will be ordered without these features or have them disabled. This is to prevent the child from unknowingly turning the hearing aid off, turning it too loud or too soft, or choosing the wrong program for the wrong environment. Some will also have special battery doors that are child-proof so that the child cannot get to the battery and accidentally eat it or lose it.

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