Teddies, dolls & toy hearing aids
Posted August 7, 2011on:
I recently read this Q&A post on the NDCS Parents Place forum where a mum was asking about toy hearing aids and cochlear implants. This is something audiologists are asked for a lot and I certainly appreciate that one way to help a young child get comfortable with their new aids is through playing with their favourite toys. Parents had responded suggesting asking their audiologist/manufacturer for dummy hearing aids and using velcro or toupee tape to hold them on the toys. At first glance this seems like a great idea but after a bit of thought I began to think that actually this is an area we’d have to be quite careful about. A few years ago several of the hearing aid and cochlear implant manufacturers produced various teddies and soft toys using their devices. These were ‘promotional’ items and not meant for use as toys for young children. I remember this causing some upset in the clinic when parents couldn’t get hold of the beautiful Cochlear teddy that was available at the time! I recently spoke to one manufacturer about updating our dummy hearing aids for show and was told that the price of hearing aids, purchased in huge numbers by the NHS, was now so low that it financially cost them more to produce dummy aids and they weren’t going to provide them any longer. But perhaps more importantly, I think it’s worth remembering that hearing aids and moulds are smaller than the minimum part size allowed for toys for children under 3 years and are therefore a choke hazard.
So I thought I’d do a quick bit of research to see if I could find any suitable alternatives. There are one or two Special Educational Needs (SEN) toy suppliers as suggested on www.listen-up.org who sell dolls wearing hearing aids or alternatively separate plastic hearing aids to use on your own toys, but sadly they also come with a “CHOKING HAZARD – Small parts. Not suitable for children under 3 years” warning so not much different to dummy hearing aids. I also came across this ‘Build-A-Bear Workshop Plush Hearing Aid’ on Amazon which I thought looked like a cool idea and so far looks like the safest option. Sadly it’s not yet available in the UK Build-A-Bear workshops or website but can be ordered from overseas with quite high shipping costs so it’s worth clubbing together with some other parents if you can.
If parents are going to opt for designing their own solution and/or can get hold of dummy aids then it’s important that we counsel them appropriately to ensure they understand that their child needs supervising whilst playing with the toys in the same way as a young child needs supervising whenever they are wearing their own.
So I’m wondering whether you’ve come up with any more permanent solutions, or what you’re currently doing, and whether you’ve found a good supplier of toy hearing aids?
UPDATE 10th September 2012
Build-A-Bear hearing aids now available from the UK website and Milton Keynes store!
UPDATE 2nd May 2015
Also check out Rebecca Atkinson’s article on the Limping Chicken blog ‘Children should be able to play with a toy that reflects their deafness or disability’ and Deaf mum Melissa Mostyn, whose daughter has a disability and uses a wheelchair, @melissamostyn’s Twitter campaign #toylikeme