When you’re a child, a lot can change over summer break. This checklist is a reminder of what you need to consider when you see your school-aged children next.
As the summer fun is winding down, it is time to leave the beaches, pools, and sunscreen behind and head back to school.
All those summer fun activities can create additional wear and tear on hearing devices and create the need for extra vigilance from Educational Audiologists, Hearing Itinerants and parents to keep them in good working order for the school year ahead.
While there are many resources for parents on advising them what to pack for their kid’s hearing aid care bags (extra batteries, cleaning equipment, instructions for educators, etc.), what should audiologists be looking at to get kids with hearing aids ready for their new school year.
Back-to-school checklist for audiologists
- Is there general ‘wear and tear’ on their devices?
Summer can be hard on hearing devices and molds. Microphones can become clogged from sand, lotions, and maybe the odd cookie crumb! A good visual inspection and listening check may offer insight into what the device may need. Perhaps cleaning of microphones, replacement of moisture-filled earhooks.
Is the earmold tubing impacted or full of moisture? Often with the excitement of seeing the pool or ocean, aids are quickly pulled out of ears, causing tearing of the tubing or the earmold itself, resulting in greater feedback risk. Lotions, skin oils and sun exposure can cause the tubing to harden and lose its flexibility, or can cause it to shrink and harden, affecting fit and comfort.
- Are their earmolds loose?
On the first day of school, we often see a child who looks nothing like the one who left for summer break. They look a foot taller than when they left. This growth spurt can also affect how their earmolds fit in the ear and can cause the molds to become loose.
Look for a loose fit and slit leaks around the outside of the mold. If not addressed, this can cause annoying feedback when the child is moving their head or sometimes just sitting still. Or perhaps the “everything-has-to-be-purple” phase ended, and a new ear-mold color needs to be considered for the new school year. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix here and new molds will need to be ordered.
- Has there been a change in their hearing?
Hearing loss in young children can progress over time and may have changed significantly over the summer. A check of hearing thresholds is needed to ensure that changes are applied during reprogramming of their hearing aids. Look for recent visit records from the clinical audiologist to update records and teachers on any changes that may have occurred.
- Are real-ear measures needed?
Even though Real Ear Measures are now universally recommended for all hearing aid fittings and programming, it is especially vital for children who may not have the language or voice to tell us when things have changed.
McCreery and Walker (2017) recommend measuring Real-Ear to Coupler Differences (RECD) at least annually on children over the age of three. With school aged children, probe-tube measurements can be done to make sure that amplification is appropriately adjusted to their ear canal volume. Real Ear Measures should be performed any time a change is made to earmolds or changes are observed in hearing thresholds.
- Are their devices Roger™ and Bluetooth ready?
So often children arrive back to school with new devices. Having a bank of audio shoes for popular pediatric devices is always a plus. Day one is always a challenge to ensure that new and old devices are ready to have Roger™ activated once they get into school.
Perhaps the child is now at an age that connectivity to a phone or tablet can be a consideration. Ensuring that the devices are Bluetooth ready should be on the list of preparations for the school year.
- Are they now old enough to make self-adjustments?
Lastly, consider whether they could benefit from using an app like myPhonak Junior, to navigate their ever-more complex listening environments.
As always, close communication between the clinical audiologist, parent(s), and school audiologists will be the key in identifying and solving any problems with the child’s hearing systems before they may have a negative impact on listening, learning, and socializing in their new year at school.
We invite you to read a previous blog article by Dr. Kris English discussing a communication tool designed to support your conversations with families and improve the effectiveness of your recommendations. Find the article here.
McCreery, R. W., & Walker, E. A. (2017). Hearing Aid Verification for Children. In Pediatric Amplification: Enhancing Auditory Access. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing.
Dawn Violetto Au.D. Director of Audiology, Child’s Voice
Child’s Voice is a listening and spoken language school that prepares children with hearing loss for their education in the mainstream for ages birth through second grade. We empower families to make the journey with their children through education, advocacy, and encouragement. Child’s Voice has an Early Intervention, Audiology and School program.
Nikolas Klakow, Au.D. Clinical Trainer at Phonak US
Nikolas works as a Clinical Training Manager in the western US. He received his education from Emerson College (BS), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (MS-Audiology) and Pennsylvania College of Optometry- School of Audiology (AuD). He spent nine years in clinical practices, including hospital and dispensing office settings. Since 2002 he has been working for hearing instrument manufacturers as a sales representative and, most recently, manager of clinical trainers.