Parents of babies with hearing loss typically have mixed emotions, including sadness, fear, shock, denial, confusion, anger, guilt, disbelief, denial, and even relief, about their child’s diagnosis. Most parents suggest it takes time to accept the diagnosis and how it will affect their baby’s and their lives.
Combined with treatment (or intervention), education and support can help make it easier to accept and manage your baby’s hearing loss.
Communicating and Building Conversations
Even in the first few months of life, babies begin listening as they prepare to speak and communicate. Before they are a year old, most babies have begun mimicking many sounds they hear. Without the ability to hear normally, your baby’s speech will likely be delayed and he or she might have problems communicating.
Identifying and treating hearing loss as early as possible can help prevent delayed speech and communication. Treatment (or intervention) for hearing loss includes the use of hearing aids and support services for your baby, your family, and you. Support services can include family coaching to help boost your baby’s communication skills. Through coaching, you and your family will learn how to recognize, understand, respond to, and reinforce your baby’s communication signals.
Although speech is a large part of how your baby and you will communicate, gestures, facial expressions, laughing, and crying are a few of the ways your baby expresses his or her feelings and desires.
There are some important steps you can take to cultivate speech and communication in babies with hearing aids or cochlear implants, including:
- Staying close
- Using a clear, pleasant tone when you speak
- Ensuring your baby knows you’ve responded to him or her
- Ensuring your baby can clearly see all sign language gestures
- Using simple signs and gestures
- Matching your baby’s facial expression
Advocating for Your Baby
One of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver of a baby with hearing loss is to support (or advocate for) the baby. Advocating for your baby means:
- Learning enough about hearing loss and intervention to ask questions, make important decisions, and prioritize information
- Learning about services and resources for your baby, you, and your family
- Finding out about your rights regarding your child’s treatment and education
- Understanding professionals’ roles in your baby’s hearing loss treatment and education
- Connecting with other parents who have babies with hearing loss
Hearing Aid Options
Nonimplantable (external) hearing aids detect and amplify sound. Although hearing aids cannot restore hearing to perfection, they will improve your baby’s ability to understand speech and distinguish between a variety of sounds. Although there are a variety of hearing aids, most baby’s and children are fitted hearing aids that are positioned behind the ear (behind-the-ear hearing aids or BTEs).
Behind-the-ear Hearing Aid
Behind-the-ear (BTE) aids are enclosed in a small plastic case that rests behind the ear. The case is connected to an ear mold or earpiece with a small tube. Available in traditional and mini sizes, BTEs are suitable for children and adults and can be used in patients with all levels of hearing loss. They are easy to clean and handle and they are relatively durable.
Important General Information About Hearing Aids
- It will take time for your baby and you to adjust to using a hearing aid
- A hearing aid will not cause your baby additional hearing loss
- If your baby has hearing loss in both ears, he or she will benefit from having an aid in each ear
- Hearing aid batteries usually need replacing every 7 to 10 days
Evaluation and Consultation
After your baby’s hearing test, an audiologist will discuss the extent of hearing loss, hearing aid options, costs, and what you and your baby can expect. The hearing aid will be fitted to your baby’s ear, carefully checked, and programmed. You will be given instructions about how to place and use the aid.
After 2 weeks, you and your baby will return for another doctor’s visit to have the aid checked and adjusted. Your audiologist also will determine whether your baby is benefiting from the aid.
If you are dissatisfied with the aid, you may return it within 30 days for a refund. The dispensing fee, however, is not refundable. Most hearing aids come with a 1-year warranty for loss, damage, and repair. Be sure to keep the purchase agreement you receive when your aid is fitted. It will include the refund policy.