As mentioned in my Finding out our Baby was Deaf post, Harry received his first set of Phonak hearing aids when he was just 7 weeks old. It was quite a scary thought that our little baby would have to wear equipment on his ears, and that we, as his parents, would have sole responsibility of managing them. Thankfully, our local Audiology team was fantastic. Daniel, our audiologist, made us feel completely at ease, and was so gentle while he took Harry’s first ear impressions for his molds.
When it came to choosing a color for his hearing aids I really wanted him to have a cute baby blue. My partner, Scott, was a little apprehensive about having a colored device, as he didn’t want them to stand out too much and for people to stare. But Harry had such a bald little head, and whatever he wore would have been on show! So, I managed to convince him that blue was the way forward.
Of course, every now and then we would catch people staring at Harry, but it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I was so proud of our little boy the way he was, whether he wore hearing aids or not. I never experienced any negative or nasty comments. People seemed to be genuinely intrigued to see such a small baby wearing hearing aids and had tons of questions to ask.
For the first few months, Harry’s molds had to be made almost weekly as he was growing at such a fast rate. If the molds weren’t a snug fit then we would experience terrible feedback. (I think feedback was the worst part of Harry getting his hearing aids at first. He was growing so quickly that the molds would become loose and they would whistle like crazy!) As he grew bigger this improved immensely, and with the help of some special cream on the molds we managed to keep feedback to a minimum.
We also had a lot of tuning appointments in the beginning, as Harry’s full hearing loss diagnosis wasn’t really known, so there was a lot of settings to be played around with. This became more and more difficult as Harry grew as he became very aware of what was going on and he didn’t like people poking and prodding his ears!
Managing his hearing aids added a whole new routine to our already busy days. We would have to clean and check them on a daily basis to ensure they were in working order and we would need to check the battery life and replace them quite regularly. We also had to listen to them daily via headphones to ensure they were giving a clear sound.
We soon became professionals at it all though, and our friends and family learned the basics so that they could also help when possible.
Because Harry was so tiny, his hearing aids would flop around quite a lot on his little ears, so we decided to use tape behind his ears to keep them in place, which we found really useful! At first, this also helped prevent Harry from pulling them off himself, but as he got older this was our next huge challenge…
Harry started to get quite irritated with his hearing aids and would pull them out at every opportunity. We had to keep constant watch on him, which was quite stressful. We were terrified he would choke on the molds if he managed to get them in his mouth! We quickly realized we needed to take his aids out for every car ride, as this was a dangerous place to be if he did decide to chew on his molds.
I think one of the main reasons Harry was pulling his hearing aids off was because they weren’t actually benefiting him at all. I think if he was getting some sound through them he might have been less keen to play around with them and would have realized with them on he could hear. Although we do have a friend the same age as Harry who gets great hearing from his aids but went through the whole “pulling them out” stage as well!
When Harry was around 6 months old, he had to complete a hearing test where he was expected to turn and react to different sounds at varied pitches, volumes and frequencies. He failed the test miserably with and without his hearing aids in, but we weren’t shocked or surprised in the slightest. Unfortunately, we knew quite quickly that his hearing aids just weren’t giving him any sound. It was then that we were given the option of referral for cochlear implant assessment.
Although it came with its struggles and obstacles, and they didn’t actually give him the hearing he needed, we had a good experience with Harry’s hearing aids. It got us used to managing equipment on a day-to-day basis, and Harry got used to wearing something on his ears. Our audiologists told us that the aids also helped keep his auditory nerve stimulated, which gave us encouragement to keep using them as much as we could until his CI operation.
If I could give any words of “wisdom” or advice to a parent struggling to keep their baby’s hearing aids in, or finding it hard to get used to them wearing them, I would say: keep the pressure to a minimum. Try to be relaxed about putting them in and taking them out. If you are calm then your little one will be too. If your child pulls their hearing aids out don’t get angry or frustrated, just take them away for a minute and distract them with something else, then try again in a little while. I would also advise you to BE PROUD! Be confident in your baby wearing their hearing aids and they will grow to be confident wearing them too.
Lucie is a lifestyle and parenting blogger from Hampshire, UK. She is mummy to 2-year-old Harry who is profoundly deaf and a bilateral Advanced Bionics cochlear implant user. She loves drinking tea, cozy nights in with her family and pinning on Pinterest!
You can follow her here on Open Ears on a regular basis, or on her personal blog, Lucie and the Bump.