One important goal is for children to be independent. Parents help their children learn to do many things by themselves, such as dressing, brushing their teeth and crossing the street. Becoming independent in communication is also important. Assistive devices help people who are deaf or hard of hearing become more independent in many situations.
Talking on the phone is a big step for children. Even with well-fit hearing aids and cochlear implants, some children with hearing loss need extra help to use the phone. Telephone amplifiers can provide a louder sound to the hearing aid or send a signal that works with a special hearing aid setting.
For children with more severe hearing losses, listening and understanding voices on the phone may be too difficult. The use of a TTY (telephone typewriter) or telephone relay services can allow communication with typed messages. As children learn to read and write, these systems can bring independence when communicating with family and friends.
Many children and teenagers also communicate well using text messaging and video messaging on cell phones, tablets and computers. Video messaging is especially helpful for those children and families who communicate through sign language or prefer to have the additional support of lip-reading with the audio signal.
Some hearing devices also connect to telephones through Bluetooth or wireless connectivity.
Personal Listening Systems allow a child to listen to the TV at a comfortable listening level without disturbing others in the room. These systems use frequency modulated (FM), digitally modulated (DM) or infrared signals to send the sound directly from the TV to a headset or the child's hearing aids or cochlear implants. The advantage to these systems is that they are wireless and allow freedom to move around. As children learn to read, closed captioning for televisions and computers can give them extra information.
Many hearing aid and cochlear implant manufacturers have the ability to communicate directly to a cell phone, computer, MP3 player or television via Bluetooth technology in the hearing aid using a small interfacing device worn around the neck. These same devices can also be used in conjunction with the FM systems at school.
Alerting systems help a child be aware of important events that happen in the home such as doorbells, phones, smoke and fire alarms and alarm clocks. Some children may not be able to hear important warning signals, even when they are using hearing aids. It also is important to alert children to some alarms at times when they are not wearing their hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Alerting devices use amplified sounds, vibrations, or visual signals such as flashing lights. The method that works best to alert to different sounds may vary from child to child and from situation to situation. It is important to experiment with different options to see what works best for your child.
In many cases, your audiologist will be able to order assistive devices for you.