The benefits of newborn hearing screening and early intervention for infants and young children identified as Deaf or hard of hearing are well established. Research has focused less on the challenges of hearing aid management for parents and caregivers for infants who are fit early on in their journey.
Visram and her colleagues enlisted 81 female caregivers of infant hearing aid users and had them complete a questionnaire regarding hearing aid management. The questionnaire was completed when the infant was 3-7 months old (1-6 months after hearing aid fitting) and again at 7-21 months of age. Hearing aid data logging was then compared with caregiver reports for 66 infants.
Results revealed that hearing aid use was low when compared to the number of hours an infant is expected to be awake. Hearing aid use as a percentage of waking hours was 73 percent in the first few months of life but fell to 44 percent when the babies were older. Mean daily hearing aid use, obtained from data logging, declined significantly over time from 6.6 to 5.3 hours. Reduced hearing aid use was primarily among infants with profound losses. Caregivers overestimated daily hours of use at both time points.
The main hearing aid challenges reported by caregivers were listening checks and troubleshooting, although these challenges reduced over time. They also reported difficulty with infants pulling out their hearing aids, especially as they aged. Feedback from the hearing aids, the needs of other children and difficulties getting into a set routine were all factors that contributed to decreased wearing time. Parents also reported they were simply overwhelmed by the amount of information given to them.
“It is understandable that caregivers may be overwhelmed by this information and the need to manage hearing aids effectively, and this has the potential to have a negative impact on effective and consistent hearing aid use,” said Dr. Anisa Visram.
The team is now planning to work on intervention by first developing a better understanding of the difficulties families face using hearing aids, then explore how best to support families to increase hearing aid use.
Visram AS, Roughley AJ, Hudson CL, Purdy SC, Munro KJ.(2020) Longitudinal Changes in Hearing Aid Use and Hearing Aid Management Challenges in Infants. Ear Hear. Publish Ahead of Print. DOI: 10.1097/aud.0000000000000986.
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