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As families shelter in place due to COVID-19, children with hearing loss may need additional help. ASHA offers this guidance to parents:
- Make sure your child is using their hearing aids and cochlear implants as much as possible.
Hearing amplification should be turned on during the day, regardless of what kind of activity the child is doing. Keeping device(s) on a child’s ear(s) and in good working order gives them the best access to daily communication, language, and learning. The more exposure to language input, the better: It takes children 20,000 hours of listening before their brains are ready to learn to read. Keeping hearing aids or cochlear implants turned on can help children develop other communication skills, too, including written communication. It also allows them to participate the most in interactions at home and online.
- Practice good communication habits and promote togetherness.
Everyone in the family can practice good communication habits, which helps the child with hearing loss while also strengthening family bonds:
- Make sure you are in the same room before you start talking. This offers a child the best chance to hear your voice while also seeing visual cues such as facial expressions and body language. Does your child have a phone? Send them a text to let them know you want to talk.
- Speak one at a time (as much as possible) in groups. If a child is too young to understand this concept, use a talking stick—only the holder of the stick can talk. This will make it easier to follow conversations and also helps teach a key social skill of turn taking. Making a talking stick is also a great arts-and-crafts opportunity for young children at home (do a web search for online examples).
- Turn on closed captioning. Even if your child knows every line of a movie by heart, practicing reading along can help them keep up with new dialogue when you switch to a different movie or show. Most streaming services offer closed captions or subtitles.
- Set aside time for regular face-to-face activities. These could be a board game or meal together. Make sure all screens are down and eyes are up during this time, so everyone can fully capture what is being communicated.
- Prioritize regular care, routine, and preparedness.
Steps like the ones below can make maintaining and caring for your child’s hearing health from home for an uncertain period of time more manageable:
- Add a daily “listening check” to your morning routine. It is important to know if the hearing devices are working properly. Otherwise, your child might not be benefiting from wearing them. A video and step-by-step guide on how to perform a listening check is available from the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management.
- Add hearing aid or cochlear implant batteries to your stay-at-home preparedness list. Make sure that your child has enough batteries for at least 3 months. Your child’s audiologist may have some suggestions they can share by phone or email about where you can stock up on batteries. Check the size before ordering—not all hearing aid or cochlear implant batteries are the same.
- Keep a hearing journal. Pick a time each week to jot down notes about your child’s hearing (this doesn’t need to be in a formal journal—notes on your phone work, too). Document what has or hasn’t worked. For example: “Ben wore his hearing aids all week with no problem,” “Ben misunderstood some of the conversation during our family lunch and refused to wear his hearing aids for the rest of the day,” or “Ben threw his hearing aid in the bathtub. We used his dry aid kit and it seems to be working okay.” Take note of audiologist and other doctors’ appointments that may have been canceled during this time.
- Once you get the all-clear by your state, reschedule your child’s appointments. When you go to your next audiologist appointment, bring your journal. They will be eager to hear your account of how caring for your child’s hearing health has gone, in addition to where you think matters stand, and any questions or concerns you might have.
If you have concerns about your child’s hearing but haven’t had a hearing evaluation, visit ASHA ProFind to find an ASHA-certified audiologist in your area. Make an appointment once it is safe to go out again.