We remember well when our son first got fitted with his hearing aids. He was 14 months old and we felt like we didn’t even know where to begin with getting him to keep them in. We scheduled a whole two weeks to be out and about constantly to distract him in the hopes of him not noticing they were there. Turns out that wasn’t entirely necessary, but we remember how tough it was getting him to adjust and we really appreciated a lot of the tips we got on the NDCS website and also from the literature that we picked up from the audiologist. Below are some of the things that we did straight away during the first few weeks, and things that we learned to do later to help our son keep his hearing aids in and to help him understand that they are a positive thing.
The first week our son had his hearing aids in, he constantly wanted to feel what it was on his ears that was making everything sound completely different. He actually seemed to like the fact that he had them, and was noticeably more engaged with us and other children, but just wanted to play around. So the first thing we did was hood him up. Online, you can get different bonnets and things that tie up to stop babies and toddlers from taking their hearing aids out. For us, we didn’t know about those until later, but luckily, he had a very light shell-suit style hoody that we kept on, so whenever he felt that his ears were different, he would fiddle with the hood, giving us time to distract him with something else.
This one was difficult but we made sure that he was constantly doing nice things the week he got his hearing aids, so that he would associate the difference with something happy, and also so that he would be too engaged with what was going on around him to be interested in pulling out his hearing aids. We bought him new toys that week, and we invited different relatives to come over to play with him when we couldn’t go out, as obviously, that can get expensive day after day.
One thing that we were really concerned about was not having his hearing aids become a negative thing to him – people constantly poking around at his ears, and telling him off when he tried to. So whenever he would touch his ears or try to pull out his children’s hearing aids, we absolutely avoided saying “No” and instead, would say, “Hey, it’s your ears! Wow, they’re nice new ones,” and then distract him with something else. The thing is, as much as we wanted him to keep them in, we had to appreciate that his ears are in fact his property, and I would be pretty narked if somebody told me I wasn’t allowed to touch mine!!
From the start, we decided that he wouldn’t wear his hearing aids at nap times. The audiologist say that it would be fine for him to wear them then, but might be a bit less comfortable during sleep times, but we figured that he would need to give his ears a rest physically from having the hearing aids resting on them, and also, it meant that we could leave him alone for his nap without worrying he would take one out and have a chew on it when he woke up! Nap time was a good tool for making him positive about his new hearing aids, as when they were in, he was playing with his toys and having a whale of a time – as soon as they came out, ‘Oh, it must be boring ol’ nap time now.’ Today, over six months later, as soon as we say ‘Time for nap’, he takes out his hearing aids, passes them to us and is ready to go down – well, unless he’s feeling a terrible two’s tantrum coming on!
This one paediatricians and dieticians would most definitely tell us off for but in the beginning at least, and now when he is feeling a little defiant, we do offer chocolate rewards for putting his hearing aids in. We are aware that food shouldn’t be used as a treat and what not, but if there is nothing else he can be tempted or cheered up with, it’s all for the greater good in my opinion, and still gives him a positive attitude towards having his ears put in. We have to watch out that this doesn’t go on for more than a couple of days in a row though, and ease up as there was a short time where he decided that he would get more treats after if he pulled them out again. Didn’t take us long to wise up to that one, so it’s a tip to be cautious of, we reckon.
After a good few times of him pulling out his hearing aids while we were out and us treading on them or losing them, we decided to use the children’s hearing aid retainers that the audiologist had supplied us with. They always seemed a little bit drab though, and we thought he might like something a bit more fun to look at so we looked online for some nicer children’s hearing aid retainers. We found a few online and bought them but when they broke, we considered buying more but then thought I’d prefer to just make my own so he could have more of them. The older he gets, the more he loves picking out which children’s hearing aid retainer he wears each day. He has hearing aid retainers in the style of Pirates, Minion, Pixar Cars, Toy Story Woody, and Sully from Monsters Inc is his favourite. Whenever he gets grumpy over his ears, we take them out and line them up and he gets to pick which one he wants and put it on his toys. We also bought him Tube Riders from an online shop and he likes those too.
So that’s it. That’s what worked for us and our little boy is super happy with his hearing aids – has been almost from the start so we’ve been very lucky.
If you have any tips, tricks or ideas on how to help little ones to keep their hearing aids and cochlear implants in, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.