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Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Gigi Newton, Teacher Trainer, TSBVI Texas Deafblind Outreach

Editor's Note: Gigi Newton is no longer with TSBVI. To reach a member of the Deafblind Team contact David Wiley at (5/2015)


As I travel around the state, visiting children with deafblindness in their homes and classrooms, I always check the child's hearing aids. Since these children need to make use of all of the sensory information available to them, having hearing aids that fit and work properly is very important. Unfortunately, many times I have found hearing aids that weren't working properly. In one instance I checked the hearing aids on a child when I arrived at a school mid-day, and I discovered that for two hours he had been listening to a "hiss" because the aids were set on "T" for use with a telephone. His hearing aids had effectively blocked any possibility of him hearing any sound other than that hiss. The reason this had happened was because the teacher and the paraprofessional did not know how to check the hearing aid. This should not ever happen to any child with a hearing impairment, but especially not to a child with deafblindness!

The classroom that has a child with a hearing impairment should have a hearing aid stethoscope and battery tester to check the hearing aid every day. Classrooms should also have a supply of extra batteries. In addition, IEP modifications and strategies should include the assignment of a staff person who will be responsible for checking the hearing aid on a daily basis. Regional Day School Programs for the Deaf (RDSPD) staff can demonstrate how to check hearing aids.

A videotape, Hearing Aid Management Skills for Families of Young Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (Item #206), that can help is available through Hope, Inc. for $42.00. Parent advisors are shown explaining and demonstrating basic concepts and skills related to the management of the child's hearing aids such as understanding the anatomy of the ear, hearing tests, the audiogram, identifying parts and function of the hearing aid, putting the aids on the child, giving the hearing aid a daily listening check, establishing full-time hearing aid use, and troubleshooting for the source of feedback. Additionally, the INSITE curriculum, Volume I (pages 300-397) also addresses hearing aid management. It includes the same topics as the tape in print format. The two-volume set is available from Hope, Inc. for $90.00. Order the video or reading information from:

HOPE Inc. (Home and Family Oriented Program Essentials)
1856 North 1200 East
North Logan, UT 84341
Tele/fax: (435) 245-2888
Web site: www.hopepubl.com
E-mail:

You can also purchase a Hearing Aid Care Kit from HARC Mercantile, Ltd. for $40.00 (http://www.harc.com/hearing-aid-care-kit.html). This particular kit includes: a dehumidifier and storage case, stethoscope, forced air blower to keep earmolds dry, a mini-brush for cleaning the outside of the hearing aid, a wax remover tool, and a battery tester and holder. Similar kits may be available from other sources; check with your local audiologist or hearing aid distributor. Their contact information is:

HARC Mercantile, Ltd.
Phone - Voice/TTY: (800) 445-9968
Phone - Voice/TTY: (269) 324-1615
Website: www.harcmercantile.com

Step One: Examine the aid for damage

Hearing aids take a beating, especially from children. Make sure the case is not cracked or broken, that there is no visible sign that the aid has recently visited the toilet, or that the earmold is not plugged with earwax. If you notice major problems, make sure that the parents know about it right away. Classroom staff can sometimes handle problems, such as wax in the earmold. Other times the aid will need to be returned to the dealer. Sometimes a good audiologist, speech pathologist, or teacher of the deaf and hearing impaired can address the problem, especially if it is just a broken cord or moisture in the aid or earmold. Staff members should be clear about who can address which types of problems and be instructed on regular maintenance.

Step Two: Check the battery

Battery testers can be purchased from any number of variety or hardware stores such as Walmart, Home Depot, or Radio Shack. Some will check any size or type of battery, and some are designed to check only the small, flat type of battery used in hearing aids and watches. They are fairly inexpensive; one that will do the job of checking a hearing aid battery can be found for as little as $7- $10.00. Different hearing aids use different size batteries, so it is important to make sure the tester is set to the correct setting for the size of battery your child's hearing aid uses. The size of the battery is written on the battery. Generally all you need to do is touch the + (positive) end of the battery to the + (positive) wire or point on the tester and then touch the - (negative) end of the battery to the - (negative) wire or point of the tester. An indicator of some type will register whether the battery is "good" or needs replacing. Batteries should be check every day, even if you put a new battery in just the day before.

Step Three: Use a stethoscope to listening to the hearing aids

Once you have examined the aid and checked the battery, you need to listen to sound quality of the hearing aid. It is not enough to hear a whistle (feedback) from the hearing aid and assume it is working correctly. You need to listen using a device called a hearing aid stethoscope. A hearing aid stethoscope looks similar to a doctor's stethoscope except that it has a coupler that fits onto the earmold. When the hearing aid is turned on, you can listen to the sound quality.

It is a good idea to listen to the hearing aid every day to detect sound problems that can occur as a result of a short in a cord, moisture or dirt in the aid, or other problems that impact the aid. You can also detect sounds that would indicate that the hearing aid is set on the telephone setting.

Be sure the aid is set on "M" for microphone, that the volume is at the lowest setting, and that the aid is turned on. Slowly adjust the volume. Listen to the environmental sounds; then listen to your own voice. Say the vowel sounds such as ah, ee, oo, i and also consonant sounds such as b, t, s, sh. The sounds should be clear. This is a nice place to start teaching the child to check his own hearing aid. You can have him vocalize for you, while you listen; then you can vocalize for him after the aid goes in his ear and have him listen. This is also a nice turn-taking activity and a way to work on vocalizing.

Step Four: Check for feedback

Place the earmold in the child's ear after the aid is set on the volume recommended by the audiologist. The earmold should fit securely in his ear and should not whistle (this is feedback). If you do hear feedback, remove the aid and cover the opening of the of the canal in the earmold with your thumb. Turn up the volume. Do you hear feedback? If you do there is a problem with the aid itself. If not, you know the problem is the earmold is no longer fitting the child. New earmolds need to be made frequently (every 4-6 months) for a young child who is growing rapidly.

CONCLUSION

Just like glasses, hearing aids will not help a child if they are not worn. They also will not help him if they are not working properly. No child should ever have to suffer an additional hearing impairment because the professionals are not making sure the hearing aids are turned on, set properly, and working. If you are not sure how to check your child's (or student's) hearing aid, contact a teacher of the deaf or hearing impaired or the hearing aid dealer or audiologist who prescribed the aid. You wouldn't let a child use a wheelchair that was broken. Why should you let him use a hearing aid that wasn't working?