A young Ed Sheeran fan can now have the singer in her ears 24 hours a day thanks to a personalised hearing aid from Broomfield’s paediatric audiology team.
Mia Warren, eight, asked for a picture of the Suffolk superstar to be set into her ear moulds and was thrilled with the results.
Mia is just one of a number of children who have got creative and put their own stamp on their ear pieces with options to go colourful, glittery and add pictures.
“We try to personalise all of the children’s hearing aids to encourage their use, but we think it’s the first time that someone has requested a celebrity,” said lead paediatric audiologist Emma Stead. “Ninety-nine per cent of our children go for bright, colourful moulds and we encourage it.”
“It gives the child ownership,” added paediatric audiologist Kirsten Bradley. “They haven’t got any control over someone telling them they have to wear a hearing aid, but now they can say, ‘If I have to wear one, I want it to be this colour or have this picture in it.’”
“One of our children likes sailing and we were looking for a hearing aid that was more waterproof,” said Emma. “When we asked her to choose what colour she wanted, there was an ocean blue, and she said that the one she wanted. She has been able to wear that hearing aid in national competitions without any problems. It’s made a massive difference to her.”
The paediatric audiology team of Emma, Kirsten and senior paediatric audiologist Joanna Taylor, support 200 children and their families from their department at Broomfield Hospital.
Permanent childhood hearing impairment affects between one and two children for every 1,000 births. Thanks to improvements in screening and technology, hearing issues can be identified and treated quicker and more effectively.
Hearing aids can be fitted to babies as young as six weeks old, with some children with no hearing recommended for a cochlear implant – a surgically inserted device that stimulates the auditory nerve.
“The earlier you test and identify the hearing loss, the better the outcome is for the child’s speech and language and communication development,” said Kirsten. “With the right technology, a child’s hearing shouldn’t be a barrier.”
“Digital technology has come on and within the last 20 years and there’s been a massive leap,” added Emma. “It’s inclusive now and what the sound quality of digital hearing aids can do for a child has massively improved. It’s incredible. Connectivity to hearing aids through Bluetooth and wireless is so much better too so teenagers can still use their mobile phones and listen to music.”
The paediatric audiology service continues until a child leaves full-time education, meaning the team may have a relationship with a child from just after birth through to when they graduate from university. For Emma, this is one of the best parts of the job.
“I love my job. Seeing the children grow and achieve what they talked about when they were little, it’s nice to have been part of that and supported them and their family. It makes it all worthwhile.”