Hearing Aid Maintenance and Care Tips

April 03, 2024
Audiologist advising a hearing aid customer.
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Hearing aids are a remarkable investment in your quality of life. With a little care and attention, they can support your hearing for years to come. 

This guide will walk you through essential maintenance routines and cleaning tips to ensure you're getting the most out of your hearing aids.

Why is Hearing Aid Maintenance Important?

Just like any finely-tuned device, hearing aids need regular upkeep to perform at their best. Here's why taking care of them matters:

Optimal sound quality: Dust, earwax, and moisture can interfere with the microphone and receiver, making sounds muffled or distorted.

Prevention of damage: Properly maintained hearing aids are less prone to breakdowns or malfunctions caused by grime or moisture.

Increased lifespan: Extend the life of your hearing aids and minimize the need for costly repairs.

Hygiene and comfort: A clean hearing aid feels better in your ear and reduces the chance of ear canal irritation.

Essential Cleaning for Your Hearing Aids

Let's explore the basic everyday cleaning and care routines that make all the difference in your hearing experience:

The right tools: Invest in a basic hearing aid cleaning kit that usually includes a soft brush, a multi-tool with a wax loop and magnet, and a soft cloth. Avoid using household cleaners or water directly on your hearing aids.

Before you begin: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and ensure they're completely dry before handling your hearing aids.

Daily wipe-down: When you remove your hearing aids for the night, wipe them with the soft cloth to get rid of any moisture, dust, or earwax.

Cleaning the details: Use the brush to gently dislodge any debris from around the microphone and receiver. The wax loop is handy for carefully removing stubborn wax from the receiver openings.

Advanced Cleaning Tips

Here are some additional techniques and products for deeper maintenance:

Wax guards and filters: Many hearing aids have these small components that help prevent wax from getting into sensitive parts. Familiarize yourself with how to change these according to your hearing aid model.

Hearing aid dryers & dehumidifiers: These devices gently remove excess moisture with warm air or desiccants. They're especially beneficial if you are active or live in a humid climate.

Professional cleanings: Schedule regular maintenance appointments with your audiologist for a thorough cleaning and checkup of your hearing aids.

Battery Care for Extended Power

Your hearing aid batteries are the power source, so ensure you're looking after them:

Handling with care: Remove batteries with clean and dry hands. Avoid dropping them or exposing them to moisture.

Change them regularly: Even if you think the battery has a bit of life left, swap it out according to the schedule recommended for your hearing aid type.

Night-time routine: Leaving the battery door open when storing your hearing aids helps air them out and can extend battery life.

Proper storage: Store spare batteries at room temperature in their original packaging, away from moisture and metal objects.

Protecting your Hearing Aids

Beyond cleaning, some simple habits will keep your hearing aids safe and functional:

Avoid harsh environments: Don't expose hearing aids to high heat, steam, or direct sunlight. Remove them before showering, swimming, or getting your hair styled (hairspray can be damaging!)

Careful handling: Avoid dropping your hearing aids onto hard surfaces. When changing batteries or cleaning, work over a soft surface like a towel.

Safe storage: When you aren't wearing your hearing aids in the ear, keep them in their designated case in a dry place out of reach of pets and children.

Remember: Your audiologist is a great resource if you have questions about maintaining your specific type of hearing aid. By following these tips, you can enjoy optimal hearing and the long-term benefits of your hearing technology!

What Happens If You Neglect Hearing Aid Maintenance?

While cleaning and care might seem optional, ignoring these tasks can have consequences:

Reduced hearing clarity: Built-up wax can block the flow of sound, making everything seem quieter or less defined.

Discomfort and irritation: Dirty hearing aids can lead to ear canal itchiness or even increase the risk of infections.

Feedback (whistling): A common issue with poorly maintained hearing aids, feedback can be embarrassing and disrupt your ability to hear properly.

Frequent repairs: Allowing moisture or debris into the internal components of your hearing aid increases the need for more frequent and potentially expensive repairs.

Troubleshooting Common Hearing Aid Problems

Even with careful maintenance, you might encounter occasional hiccups. Here's what to look out for:

No sound at all: If your hearing aid seems completely dead, here's your checklist:

●    Is it turned on?
●    Is the battery fresh and inserted the right way around?
●    Are the battery contacts clean?
●    Is the microphone or receiver blocked with debris?

Weak volume: Even if you hear sounds, the volume might seem inadequate. Check if the volume control needs adjustment, the battery is running low, or there's excessive wax buildup.

Static or distortion: This could indicate a damaged microphone, buildup in the tubing (for behind-the-ear models), or an internal problem requiring your audiologist's help.

Caring for Different Types of Hearing Aids

While the general maintenance principles apply to all types, there are some nuances:

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids:
Pay extra attention to cleaning the earmold and tubing. Regularly check the tubing for condensation and replace it when it becomes stiff or discolored.

In-the-ear (ITE) and in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids:
These are more susceptible to wax clogging since they sit closer to the ear canal. Be extra vigilant about cleaning, and don't hesitate to use wax guards as advised.

Invisible-in-canal (IIC) hearing aids:
Their deep placement in the ear canal makes them even more prone to wax buildup. Meticulous cleaning and frequent wax guard changes are crucial.

When to See Your Audiologist

Good maintenance goes a long way, but there are times when professional help is essential:

Adjustments and programming: As your hearing needs change, your hearing aid settings might need fine-tuning by your audiologist.

Signs of damage: If there are cracked parts, the hearing aid isn't working even after troubleshooting, or you've dropped it, have it assessed professionally.

Unresolved problems: If you cannot fix an issue with volume, sound quality, or comfort, it's time to consult your audiologist.

The Value of Prevention

Remember, a little daily attention to your hearing aids prevents a lot of future frustration. By making these maintenance routines a regular habit, you'll get the most out of your hearing technology and enjoy the benefits of amplified sound for as long as possible.

Dealing with Moisture: A Hearing Aid's Enemy

Moisture from sweat, high humidity, or accidental splashes can damage the delicate electronics inside your hearing aids. Here's how to combat it:

Storage matters: Always store your hearing aids in their case, in a cool and dry place. Avoid the bathroom, as the humidity from showers isn't ideal.

Use a dehumidifier: Consider investing in a hearing aid dryer or dehumidifier, especially if you live in a humid climate or are prone to sweating.

Sweat protection: Ask your audiologist about accessories like sweatbands or protective covers designed for certain hearing aid models.

After water exposure: If your hearing aid does get wet, remove the battery immediately, wipe it down gently, and leave the battery compartment open to air dry completely.

Travel Tips for Hearing Aid Wearers

Traveling shouldn't mean leaving your good hearing behind. Here's how to be prepared:

Packing essentials: Make a travel checklist that includes:

●    Extra batteries (enough for the entire trip, plus some spares)
●    Your cleaning kit and any essential tools
●    A sturdy case for safe storage
●    Dehumidifying packets (silica gel) to keep spares dry

Airport security: You don't need to remove your hearing aids to go through security, but it's a good idea to inform the TSA agent that you wear them.

Altitude changes: Air pressure shifts can cause some discomfort in your ears. Having gum or mints to chew can help, and consulting your audiologist about special settings if your hearing aids are programmable.

Staying Comfortable with Your Hearing Aids

Even with properly-fitted hearing aids, there might be an adjustment period. Here's how to ease into it:

Break them in gradually: Start by wearing your hearing aids for short periods, increasing the duration each day as you adapt.

Own voice awareness: Your own voice may sound different initially with hearing aids. This usually improves over time, and reading aloud to yourself can help adjust.

Tackling irritations: If your hearing aids feel scratchy or cause ear pain, don't ignore it. Your audiologist can make adjustments to the fit for improved comfort.

Dealing with background noise: While hearing aids amplify important sounds, they also pick up more background noise. Ask your audiologist how to manage settings for noisy environments.

Making the Most of Your Hearing Aid Investment

Your hearing aids represent a significant investment in your overall well-being. Here's how to protect that investment:

Understand your warranty: Know the length of your manufacturer's warranty and what it covers in terms of repairs or replacements.

Consider additional insurance: Some insurance plans specifically cover hearing aids and can be a lifesaver in case of accidental damage or loss.

Follow guidelines: Heed your audiologist's instructions regarding use and care to prevent issues that could void your warranty.

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