Assistive Technology Devices for Young Children

As children grow, parents help their children learn to do many things by themselves, such as dressing, brushing their teeth, and crossing the street. Helping a child become independent in communication is also important. Assistive devices help people who are deaf or hard of hearing become more independent in many situations.

Phone Devices

Talking on the phone is a big step for children. Hearing devices can wirelessly stream audio from phones through a telecoil or wireless connectivity, like Bluetooth. Streaming the audio through the hearing devices makes sure that the audio is adjusted to the child’s hearing levels. Some cell phones customize the audio for headphones based on a person’s specific hearing levels. Even with well-fit hearing aids and cochlear implants, some children will need extra help to use the phone. 

For children who have difficulty listening and understanding voices on the phone, 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. Speech-to-text captioning is also available through various cell phone applications (a list of captioning and telecommunication apps can be found here). 

Many older children and teenagers also communicate well using text messaging and video calls on cell phones, tablets, and computers. Video calls are 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 video call software platforms include captioning options, as well.

TV Devices

Personal Listening Systems allow a child to listen to the TV (and play video games!) at a comfortable listening level without disturbing others in the room. These systems use wireless signals to send the sound directly from the TV or a small interfacing device to a headset or the child's hearing devices. 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.

These same devices can also be used in conjunction with the Remote Microphone systems at school.

Alerting Devices

Some children may not be able to hear important warning signals when they are using hearing devices or when they are not using hearing devices. Alerting systems help a child be aware of important events that happen in the home such as when a doorbell or phone rings, smoke and fire alarms go off, and when an alarm clock signals it is time to wake up. 

Alerting devices use amplified sounds, vibrations, or visual signals such as flashing lights to get a person’s attention. 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.

Where can I find assistive devices for my child?

In many cases, your audiologist will be able to order assistive devices for you. Your state may have a department that supports people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Typically these departments provide education and services, including assistive devices, for free or low cost. A list of apps for accessibility, captioning, telecommunication, and many others can be found here. Your audiologist can help you decide which apps may work best with your child’s technology.