Hesperian Health Guides

Helping a Child to Hear Better

Children who are not completely deaf can sometimes be helped to hear better:

  • When possible, have the child’s hearing and ears examined by a specialist. A few children are born with a closed ear tube or other defect in the structure of the ear. Rarely these problems can be corrected by surgery, and the children can hear better.

Note: For children whose hearing loss comes from brain damage, surgery will not help.

  • Children who have hearing loss because of ear infections may begin to hear better if the ear infections are treated early and steps are taken to prevent more infections.
  • Some children can hear better with aids that make sounds louder. A ‘hearing aid’ allows some children to understand words fairly well, and can make a big difference in learning to listen and speak. For other children, an aid makes them more aware of sounds (which helps) but does not help them to tell the difference between words. If it appears the child will benefit a lot from a hearing aid, it helps to begin as early as age 1 or 2.
The simplest aid is a hand cupped behind the ear. Better is an ‘ear trumpet’. You can make one out of a cow horn, cardboard, or tin.
A girl with her hand cupped behind her ear
A child hoding an ear trumpet to his ear
Better still (for some children) is a ‘hearing aid’ with batteries. But usually these are very expensive. For best results, it should be fitted by a specially-trained worker after the child’s hearing has been carefully tested.
a hearing aid with parts described below.
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Piece that fits into ear (best if molded to fit the specific child). In a growing child it will need to be changed often.
CAUTION! If you get a child a hearing aid, be sure to ask for instructions on keeping it clean, dry, and working well. Be sure you have a supply of extra batteries and know how to get more.
  • Young children who do not hear well can sometimes be helped to listen more carefully, and to learn the difference between sounds:
A boy playing the drums

Make different sounds and encourage the child to take notice. When a donkey brays or a baby cries, say clearly and loudly, “Listen to the donkey,” or “What was it?” If the child answers or points in the right direction, praise him.

a woman speaking while feeding a child.
I give you soup.

Have the child make different sounds—hitting pans, drumming, ringing bells, and so on. See if he can move or dance to the beat of music or drums.

Talk a lot to the child. And sing to her. Tell her the name of different parts of her body, and other things. Ask her to touch or point to them. Praise her when she does. Experiment to find out how near the child’s ear you need to be, and how loud you have to speak, to get the child’s attention, or for him to repeat the sounds you make. Then try to speak near and loud enough. Speak clearly, but do not shout.

This page was updated:21 Nov 2019