For parents and caregivers of deaf or hard-of-hearing children, especially those with additional and complex needs, helping their children accept and use hearing devices can be challenging. Devices such as behind-the-ear hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing aids, and cochlear implants may face resistance due to sensory sensitivity. Some children may be averse to having anything on their head or touching their head and hair, making them anxious and fearful of wearing hearing devices.
What can you do to help your child get used to wearing hearing aids?
De-sensitization is a gradual process that involves helping your child become more comfortable with being touched on the head and ears, leading to increased acceptance of hearing devices. Remember that this is a journey, and small steps forward are meaningful progress, even if it takes months rather than days or weeks. Stay committed, and do not give up on the process.
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Normalizing the Hearing Device
Make the hearing device a regular part of your child's everyday life, similar to a pair of shoes. Avoid presenting the device as something special brought out and put away after use. Keep the hearing device nearby during the day so it becomes a familiar background presence. Consider customizing the device with stickers to make it visually appealing, and let your child safely play with it, such as putting it on their toys or pretending it goes on a toy car or train.
Wearing the Device Switched Off
Encourage your child to wear their hearing device even when switched off, as this can help them get accustomed to its presence without the added sensory input. If the device has a soft headband, have them wear it without the hearing device initially, and once they are comfortable with that, gradually introduce the hearing device.
Try various activities to help your child overcome sensory sensitivity. Remember that each child is unique, so experiment with different approaches to find the best for your child. Some suggested activities include:
- Using toys (cars, teddies) to touch different parts of their body and gradually move towards their head.
- Bouncing a soft sponge or squishy ball against their skin, slowly working towards their head.
- Get used to brushes by incorporating them into a playful song or letting your child brush your hair before they try it themselves.
- Singing "Incey Wincey Spider" while moving a toy spider or fingers up their body towards their head. Encourage them to touch their own body too.
- Using a head massager or gentle scalp massage to help them get accustomed to head sensations.
- Role-playing as an animal that pulls its head in (e.g., a turtle) to familiarize them with covering their head and gradually peeking out.
- Playfully wearing hats and involving toys, family members, or pets in the fun.
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Introducing the Hearing Device
Once your child becomes more comfortable with having their head touched, begin introducing the hearing device. Let them feel the vibrations, hear the sounds, and get used to the lights associated with the device. Massage or gently rub the area where the hearing device will be placed, gradually increasing the pressure and duration while they are distracted or engaged in activities.
As your child becomes less anxious, motivate them to wear the hearing device, initially with it switched off. Gradually increase the time they wear it while engaged in other activities. When they are ready, switch it on to see if they can tolerate it. Celebrate even the slightest progress, as it indicates positive steps forward.
Consistency is Key
Incorporate de-sensitization activities into your child's daily routine to maintain consistency and reinforce the process. The more they are exposed to these activities, the more comfortable they will become with their hearing device.
What are some common challenges that children face when first wearing hearing aids?
- Sensory Sensitivity: Children may have aversions to having anything on their head or touching their head and hair, making wearing hearing aids uncomfortable or anxiety-inducing.
- Rejection of New Sensations: Wearing a hearing aid might be unfamiliar and overwhelming for some children, leading them to resist or reject it initially.
- Discomfort or Irritation: The physical presence of the hearing aid may cause discomfort or irritation on the skin or in the ear, making it challenging for children to wear it for extended periods.
- Frustration with Sound Amplification: When children first wear hearing aids, they may experience amplified sounds, which can be overwhelming and require an adjustment period.
- Fear of Stigma: Children might be worried about standing out or being stigmatized by wearing hearing aids, especially if they are self-conscious about their appearance.
How can you support your child through the adjustment process?
- Encouragement and Positive Reinforcement: Praise your child for small progress they make, progress is progress. Positive reinforcement can boost their confidence and willingness to adapt to wearing hearing aids.
- Empathy and Understanding: Be empathetic and patient, acknowledging their feelings and concerns. Understanding their challenges can help you provide appropriate support.
- Gradual Exposure: Introduce the hearing aids slowly, giving your child time to get used to the sensations and sounds. Gradual exposure can ease the adjustment process.
- Collaboration with Audiologist: Work closely with the audiologist to address fit or comfort issues and ensure the hearing aids are appropriately adjusted for your child's needs.
- Role Modeling: If other family members wear hearing aids or assistive devices, their positive attitude and example can uplift your child.
- Seek Support: Connect with support groups or other families undergoing a similar adjustment process. Sharing experiences and advice can be beneficial for both parents and children.
- Professional Counseling: If your child is experiencing significant difficulties, consider seeking professional counselling or therapy to help them cope with the adjustment challenges.
Assisting your child adjust to their hearing aid or cochlear implant may require patience and persistence. Still, with gradual de-sensitization and consistent efforts, they can become more comfortable and accepting of these devices. Celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, and remember that every step forward is a significant achievement in your child's journey toward better hearing and communication.
Hearing aids have transformative benefits for children with hearing loss, enabling them to overcome communication barriers, thrive in academic and social settings, and lead fulfilling lives.
Contact Listening Lab Malaysia today and schedule a consultation with our expert audiologists. Our dedicated team is committed to providing tailored solutions and ongoing support to ensure your child reaches their full potential. Let's create a sound world for your child's future. Book an appointment with any of our hearing centres in Malaysia today!