March 11, 2009

Water Aids

"The beach is awful for kids with a hearing loss."

A year into AVT, an experienced professional whom we highly regarded shared this opinion with us. This was the very first time we had heard of anything being hard or restricted because of Hadley's hearing loss. Until that point, all of our conversations with cert AVTs and other professionals who believed in oral communication had been centered around building Hadley's listening and talking so she could fully participate in all of life. We had never talked of things being impossible, and this one floored me.

I grew up in a beach community. Our summer days were spent by the ocean or in a pool. I basically lived in a bathing suit from June to the end of August. Sharing endless summer days at the beach with my daughter was something I planned on doing. Of course she would love the beach! I just needed to figure out how.

I spoke with Hadley's audiologist about my interest. Although she did not sell many, she recommended a Japanese waterproof hearing aid that could withstand being submerged in water. We purchased one-- hearing aids are expensive and not covered under insurance-- and tried it out. The Rion HB-54 (aka Dolphin) was fantastic! Hadley wore her "water aid" to the beach, giving her the freedom to move in and out of the water without any of us worrying about keeping her regular hearing aid dry. She loved listening to the surf, the calls of the sea gulls, the splashing water. We spent that summer on the beach or in the pool, getting every penny's worth out of the $1,100 purchase.

July 2003 (her water aid is attached to her suit with a pink clip)

The following summer, we decided to purchase a second water aid. One aid gave Hadley enough access to sound for safety and basic enjoyment, but only from one side of her body. A second water aid could only make things better and easier for her. What amazed us was how much better and easier things became! We met Hadley's cert AVT at the beach for one session, and Lea was amazed that Hadley could stand at the water's noisy edge and repeat the Ling Sounds from 10 feet...then 20 feet...then 30 feet away. We played the same listening games at the beach as we did in the office, and Hadley performed as aptly at the beach as she did in indoors. While the water aids were far inferior to her regular aids, they gave her enough power to hear, and her excellent discrimination skills and coping strategies took care of the rest.

Celebrating Hadley's 4th Birthday at Duxbury Beach (September 2005)

Hadley has now used her water aids for six summers. As her swimming skills have improved and she goes underwater more, she's found that she prefers to leave her water aids out while in the pool. The water aids cut out while water is draining out of them and sometimes crackle, both of which she finds annoying. After some trial and error, I've decided that it's best to have adult swimming instructors who have the skills to teach a child who can't hear them (many beginning programs in our area are staffed by high school and college aged instructors). We seek out smaller classes and I stay at the pool's edge to assist when needed. I take pictures and even shoot short videos of the lesson to help focus on a specific skill. We're learning to adapt as necessary.

Swimming Lesson, July 2008

Hadley loves the beach, and easily switches between her two sets of aids during the warmer months. We now live in the same beach town where I grew up, and I love that she'll have similar memories of being a kid on Duxbury Beach.

September 2007

Tips for Using Water Aids
1. Hadley always wears a strap with her water aids-- I do not want to be looking for a lost aid on the beach! We buy all of her straps from The Ear Connection.
2. Water aids need to be really dried after use. I rinse them in clean water, remove the batteries, then immediately put them in the Dry & Store when we get home.
3. I replace the batteries each time we use the water aids. Being submerged in water does drain the batteries faster than usual, plus the batteries get wet and corrode. To avoid this, I just throw out the batteries and replace them the next time.
4. I use a Q-tip with a tiny amount of rubbing alcohol to remove any corrosion from inside the battery case.
5. We keep a set of hearing aid supplies in an OtterBox. I have a small one (1000) that fits in my bag and a large one (8000) that has all the supplies. You can even put a desiccant pack in there to help with moisture.
6. At the end of the season, when you know the water aids will no longer be in regular use, send them out for a cleaning and performance check. This keeps the aids in great condition and prevents any damage from incurring during the months of non-use.

May 2008

1 comment:

  1. Awesome information! Thanks.

    I wish they made a waterproof BAHA for my son to use. (Someday...)