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Children and teenagers face unique challenges when dealing with hearing loss or hearing impairment—they often must work harder at everyday things than their peers who have healthy hearing. Because socializing is so integral to adolescent development, hearing loss and the use of hearing aids can affect their self-esteem and confidence level in all areas. 

For teens especially, hearing loss affects everything from their schooling to sports to their social life to jobs: 

  • Almost all areas of education can be negatively impacted by hearing loss, prohibiting students from excelling in school despite being capable of doing so, and possibly affecting college choices.
  • In sports, more stress and frustration are present if they cannot hear coaches’ instructions or a teammate call to them.
  • Socializing with peers may be difficult due to only hearing part of a conversation or missing jokes and whispers.
  • Studies have shown that for older teens with hearing loss, job choices may be limited, whether due to real or imagined barriers. 

Overall, adolescents may find themselves wondering where they fit in. They may experience anxiety and loss of confidence if they feel left out and awkward because of impaired hearing.

What Causes Hearing Loss in Teens?

Hearing loss in children and teens results from many causes and not through age-related hearing loss experienced by older adults. Genetics, birth defects or complications, illnesses, certain medications and injuries to the head or ear are just some of the factors that cause hearing loss in children. In the adolescent stage, however, the most common cause of hearing loss is prolonged exposure to loud noise, which is preventable.According to the Journal of Pediatrics, 12.5 percent of children ages 6 to 19 have acquired some level of hearing loss as a result of listening to loud music at unsafe volumes, particularly through earbuds. Think of all the excessive noise teens are exposed to daily: video games (especially with headphones), concerts, streaming music, sporting events, movie theaters and home surround-sound entertainment systems present an unrelenting attack on their hearing.

Common Hearing Aid Challenges

Hearing aids for kids are usually more durable, but that doesn’t mean they are indestructible, and their expense is not less than adult hearing aids either. These are some common challenges you may need to work on with your teen.

Challenge: Keeping hearing aids in 

Solution: Accessories, insurance and social reassurance

Younger children have a tendency to take out their hearing aids for a number of reasons. The batteries die in the middle of a sports game, the hearing aid is irritating them, they just don’t feel like bothering with them or for no discernible reason at all. 

  • For younger kids, you can often avoid losing hearing aids by using accessories such as a clip system, hat or headband that will keep the hearing aids in place while on and attached to the system if taken off. 
  • Check your insurance as well. Although not the ideal solution, many plans offer to replace hearing aids one time, or this may be an add on available with your insurance.

Teens may have more of an issue with being self-conscious about their hearing aids. Though most of the friends or new people they meet won’t even notice the hearing aids, your teen may feel like they are on display and everyone is looking. Teens want to fit in with their peers and not be seen as different. 

  • Assure your teen that their classmates and friends are more focused on themselves than on what your child is saying and doing rather than on whether or not someone else is wearing hearing aids. 
  • Even if their peers already know about your child’s hearing aids, they are still too hyper-focused on the same thing your child is (What is everyone thinking about me?) to pay attention to something as tiny as a hearing aid.

Though it will take some time for them to get used to the idea and feeling of wearing hearing aids, keep focusing their attention on how much more they can hear and all the benefits. That barely noticeable device allows them to be a part of the world around them in every way and offers some cool features their peers probably wish they had (Bluetooth connectivity, for example!).

Challenge: Taking hearing aids out

Solution: Establishing a routine and developing responsibility

Do you walk into a house strewn with sports equipment and dirty snack dishes? Do you shudder at the thought of what is lurking in your teen’s room? Teens may have a much easier time understanding the importance of proper hearing aid care, but they are still children—just larger ones.

Have them establish a bedtime routine so they don’t forget to take them out when they go to sleep. Think of wearing glasses and how you can forget they are on your face after a while, or you fall asleep in your contacts. You’ve been seeing fine all day and that becomes your norm, which is a wonderful thing. But that also means you may completely forget that you are using an aid to see, or in this case hear. 

Even if your child does remember, they still may not want to take out their hearing aids because they don’t want to give up the ability to hear, even if it’s just for sleep—an understandable feeling. But you also don’t want them hopping up in the morning and getting in the shower with their hearing aids because they forgot they were in.

  • Your teen may have a varied schedule due to sports, homework and social activities, but their routine for taking out their hearing aids and going to bed should remain the same regardless of time of day or night.

Having responsibilities teaches your teen independence and how to care for themselves. Having responsibility for their hearing aids is just another responsibility they need to learn. Be sure they understand the cost, how to care for them, when to charge them. Make reminder notes and post them next to your child’s bed and/or in the bathroom. Put a note in their backpack. If they have a smartphone or other device, set it to remind them at bedtime to take out their hearing aids, remind them to clean them, remind them to check the batteries, etc. Children, regardless of age, need lots of reminders.

Challenge: Avoiding water

Solution: Learning awareness and strategies to teach friends

Many hearing aids are water resistant. Water resistant is NOT waterproof. Your child’s hearing aids can handle some light rain or sweat, but not a torrential downpour, a pool party, a relaxing bubble bath or a day at the beach. They should never be immersed in water. Teens understand this fact. But understanding and remembering to take them out (or even wanting to) are two very different things. Remember the glasses analogy? They need to be aware, and this may take more reminding on your part as the parent.

Teens may also have trouble wanting to take them out if they are with friends. What if it’s a beach party? A pool party? The homecoming football game and it starts pouring down rain. They don’t want to miss out on this time. 

Avoiding water can be difficult to always remember to do, and I personally had a hard time giving myself the permission to take my children’s hearing aids out during these times. It made me feel like they were going to miss out on something. This is where parent prep with your teen is the solution. Giving them ways to stay with their friends and keep their hearing aids safe will calm their anxiety and also let them be prepared.

If they are spending time with friends, their friends likely know they wear hearing aids. Have your teen explain that the hearing aids cannot be in the water and have to be taken out. Your child can explain ways for their friends to interact with them without the hearing aids. Your child may read lips, for instance. Letting their friends know how to get their attention and also to face them when talking can keep them connected to the conversation. Giving their friends strategies to keep them included can also strengthen friendships.

Have a safe, watertight storage solution for the hearing aids for emergencies (and non-emergency water situations). If your child doesn’t carry a bag, they may need to start. Placing hearing aids in a pocket risks losing them much more than a travel bag, purse or expandable wallet.

Worst-case scenario, if your teen forgets and jumps in the pool or the shower, take the hearing aids out as soon as possible, dry them and immediately replace the battery. This should work for most cases. 
Hearing loss rates in children and teens have been steadily rising, presenting many academic and other challenges. If you suspect your child is experiencing hearing loss or has already been diagnosed with hearing loss, Sonora Hearing Care can help. Please contact us today to speak with one of our hearing specialists to discuss your options.