A child's early years are important for speech and language learning. Finding the best hearing aids for your child will help ensure the child has access to speech and sounds in the surrounding environment.
It is important to work with a pediatric audiologist who has experience fitting and testing hearing aids on young children. Testing hearing aids on children is not the same as testing adults. Adults can tell the audiologist if the hearing aid is too soft or too loud, or if it is working correctly. Babies and young children cannot do this.
Hearing aids must be selected carefully for each child. When choosing what hearing aids are needed for a child, the audiologist will consider some important information:
If a baby or young child has hearing loss in both ears, pediatric audiologists almost always recommend hearing aids for both ears. Listening with both ears is needed to help speech and language learning and is important for a child's safety because it helps them know from what direction sounds are coming.
The best way to test hearing aid benefit is to see how the hearing aid is working in the child's ear. Audiologists measure the hearing aid output in the ear by using a probe microphone system.
Probe-microphone testing helps the audiologist judge how much speech will be heard through the hearing aid. This is called aided speech audibility. Using measures of aided audibility, the audiologist can compare different hearing aid settings and different listening situations. The differences between audibility with and without the hearing aid also can be compared.
Children have much smaller ears than adults, so it's important to take measures on every individual child's ear to make sure hearing aids make speech audible. These measures will be repeated many times as the child grows to account for changes in ear canal size.
A special test designed specifically for babies and young children, called the Real-Ear-to-Coupler Difference (RECD), can be used. It is considered regular practice for pediatric audiologists to use the RECD procedure when working with babies or young children who cannot sit quietly and still long enough to make the probe microphone measurements with the hearing aid in the ear. Research studies have shown that the RECD test is easy and safe for babies and young children. An RECD includes: