KidsAudiologist

Teddies, dolls & toy hearing aids

Posted on: August 7, 2011

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, and perhaps many parents are comfortable with that. But I wonder though what message the child gets – that they only have to wear their aids when mummy is watching them? Does this store up trouble when they get to the toddler stage and that little bit rebellious?

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!

3 Responses to "Teddies, dolls & toy hearing aids"

This blog was originally posted on http://www.kidsaudiologist.info on 07/08/11 where Caroline from http://www.irishdeafkids.ie left this comment – reproduced for info:

Hi Vicki,

Saw this post via Twitter (@irishdeafkids) so wanted to say hello. We’ve had this exact same query from some parents who’d like their child to have a doll or teddy with similar hearing ‘devices’ to what they’re wearing.

Some suggestion of ours:

– if the child has a beloved teddy bear, try sewing a simple pompom to each of the bear’s ears, with ribbon for cables? Materials can be sourced from eBay, or a craft shop.

– ask someone who knits, to fashion (soft) tightly-knitted hearing devices for the child’s doll or teddy? Good knitters can create to order – best show an example of what the outcome should look like.

– check online craft and toy-making stores for hearing-accessories similar to the Build-A-Bear option you found. Again, eBay might have leads to these stores.

HTH!

Caroline

hi
I have plastic hearing aids suitable for a doll up to 23″ they were inexpensive from children educational suppilers and I have permenently fixed them to the doll with glue gun, so enable me to conform to safety standards. It has been very useful as I have a deaf child in mainstream and it has enabled safe questioning for other children and adults/parents

As you say yourself “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* “.

Children at the under-3-years, no-small-parts stage need to be supervised when they are wearing their own aids, and (in general) are supposed to be wearing their aids all the time, or as near as practicable, when they are awake. So WHATEVER toys the child has or doesn’t have he or she will be getting the message that aids are only worn when a responsible adult is watching, because that’s an accurate message conveying the reality of the situation at that age. If the child is being supervised, the toy’s hearing aids won’t pose any more danger than his or her own aids (in fact less, as they won’t have batteries in and the tubing can be permanently attached); if the child isn’t being supervised, then his or her own aids should be removed along with the toy’s.

Or am I missing some other factor here?

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