Talking to grandchildren about hearing loss
As doting grandparents, you'll do most anything to promote the health and safety of your grandchildren, right? And even though it’s highly likely that yours are the smartest, most talented and unbelievably beautiful grandchildren on the planet, you may need to explain a few things from time to time -- especially if you have hearing loss and wear hearing aids.
Before you pull up their photos on your smartphone to share with all of us, take a few minutes to read these tips for talking to your grandchildren about hearing loss and your hearing aids.
Why did you put that in your ear, grandma?
Our mothers told us not to put anything larger than our elbows in our ears and you likely told your children the same thing. Yet here you are putting a small object into your ear canal and little inquiring minds are wondering why. How do you explain hearing loss to a young child?
- First, acknowledge the activity especially if you’ve noticed they are watching intently.
- Tell them you don’t hear as well as you used to. Explain that the small device in your hand helps make sounds louder so you can hear better -- like when they say “I love you.”
- Help them understand your experience. Ask them to place their hands tightly over their ears, then say their name softly. Ask “Can you hear me?” Now ask them to remove their hands from their ears and say their name again. Ask “Can you hear me better now? That’s how I feel when I wear my hearing aids.”
Hearing aid safety with children
Children are gloriously curious, which can be a blessing as well as a curse. The same intuition which helps them learn can also cause illness or injury. Although you don’t want to stifle their inquisitive nature, how do you keep your grandchildren -- and hearing devices -- from harm?
- First, explain that your hearing aids are not toys and, although they help you hear better, they won’t work for anyone else.
- When they aren’t in your ears, store your hearing aids in a case or dehumidifier, away from curious hands. Not only are these medical devices expensive, they can also be dangerous if a child decides to try and stick them into their own ears or another body orifice, such as their mouth.
- Keep batteries out of reach, too. According to the National Capital Poison Center, more than 2,000 children under the age of six ingested a button battery in 2016. Although they look relatively harmless, these small energy devices can lodge in the esophagus or stomach. When mixed with bodily fluids, they create a caustic soda which can cause internal burns, bleeding and even death.
If a child swallows a hearing aid battery, call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333 immediately!
Going on vacation with your little darlings? While we all relish the memories made during extended visits with the family, traveling with children can present it’s own set of challenges when you wear hearing aids.
- Be careful in the pool. No doubt about it, you're going to get wet when you play in the water with your grandchildren. Unless you wear water resistant hearing aids, moisture can ruin the microphone and receiver in your hearing aids. Play it safe by removing your hearing aids and storing them safely or covering your ears with a waterproof cap or headband.
- Ask your grandchildren to “help you hear” when you’re in airports, train stations or other noisy transportation facilities. Wear your hearing aids, but explain that you might need help understanding announcements made over the loud speaker. If they’re small enough, knowing they are being helpful might be enough of an incentive for even squirmy kids to hold tightly to your hand.
- If you’re behind the wheel, make sure all occupants understand how important it is for them to keep the volume down and help you reduce distractions. Explain this will help you do your job of getting everyone to the destination safely. If your grandchildren are young, make sure they have a lot of fun activities to occupy them for the duration of the trip.
No doubt your grandchildren are loving, curious, active little people who enjoy spending time with you almost as much as you enjoy spending time with them. Discriminately sharing information about your hearing loss and hearing aids can help them develop an appreciation for the challenges you face with your hearing. It can also help them grow up to be sensitive to others with the same condition or a disability.
Additionally, consider how you model good hearing health habits. Keep the volume on the television and car radio low. Wear your hearing aids proudly. Show them getting help for hearing loss is easy by scheduling regular checkups with your hearing healthcare professional. By watching you, your grandchildren are more likely to develop the habits they need to keep them hearing their best for years to come.