17 October 2017
This week the weather here in South Australia has started to warm up as we hurtle towards summer.
For most Aussie kids the warmer weather means trips to the beach, swimming and running through sprinklers, but for children with hearing loss there are a few considerations before they dash into the surf.
Hearing aids and cochlear implants are electronic devices with batteries in them, which means that they can’t really get wet, so how do you ensure safety, especially around water, when your child can’t use their hearing technology.
We’ve put together a few tips that will hopefully help you have a stress-free summer.
For users of Cochlear Nucleus cochlear implants there is an option of an additional accessory called an Aqua Plus which is a silicon sleeve that covers the processor and has a special waterproof coil.
For users of MEDEL cochlear implants there is an option of an additional accessory called Water Wear which is a plastic waterproof cover that goes over the processor and/or coil.
As mentioned before these waterproof technologies might not be an option so it’s important to think about how you, and your child, will remain safe while in the water without any hearing technology.
One of the best ways you can ensure water safety for a child with hearing loss is to have them take swimming lessons and discuss water safety prior to getting into the water.
You shouldn’t need to find any special swimming lesson providers, any swimming teacher should be able to support you. Explain your situation to them and help them understand the best way to communicate with your child while in the water.
A few tips to suggest to the instructor are:
- Talk about the lesson with the child prior to them taking off their hearing technology. This will mean that the child will know what is to come.
- Stick to what was discussed. In order for the child to feel comfortable they should know what was discussed will happen.
- Create a laminated check list of what is going to be done during the class. This can also be taken home and looked at as part of follow up therapy.
- Become a visual instructor. Rather than explaining what they need to do, it will be easier to show the child while they are in the water.
Understanding water safety
Before you head to the beach or the pool make sure you talk with your child (assuming they are old enough to understand) about water safety. This is a good time to make sure that they understand that once in the water they won’t be able to hear you and so it is important for them to be safe.
For hearing children the rules of water safety are often reinforced incidentally throughout a day (another parent telling their child not to run, a life guard blowing their whistle), but for children with hearing loss they may not hear these reinforcements, therefore it is important to talk to your child about water safety as much as possible.
At the Beach
Beaches can be crowded and things can take a dangerous turn quite quickly, so preparing before any water play happens can be vital.
Talk to the lifeguards
If there are life guards on duty at your beach let them know that you child is hearing impaired and may not be able to hear whistles / sirens while in the water. They will be able to suggest visual signs to communication with your child should it be needed. Also encourage your child to keep looking towards the life guards in case there are signals being made of which they should be aware.
The beaches can be very crowded during summer, so help the lifeguards know who they should be signalling to by wearing brightly coloured or very distinctive swimming costumes or clothing.
If your child is prone to ear infection or has grommets your child should wear swim moulds. You can talk to Australian Hearing about getting these made.
Remember that hearing technology is valuable and easily lost. Be sure to have a safe place to store hearing aids and cochlear implants at the beach, or in a public area. A sealed container or bag will help keep sand out and keep them dry.