If you are among the millions of Americans living with hearing loss, your hearing aid helps you stay connected to those around you. Today’s digital hearing aids can amplify the sounds you want to hear and manage background noise, making it easier to interact with others. Even though there are several styles of hearing aids, these small, electronic devices all consist of three primary components: amplifier, microphone and speaker.
The unit receives sound through the microphone, converts the sounds to electrical signals and sends them through the amplifier. The amplifier magnifies the sound vibrations and sends them through a speaker to the ear.
Although they are generally durable, proper hearing aid care is critical to keep them at optimal working levels. Hearing aids don’t require a lot of upkeep, but these steps can help you care for your hearing aids, maintain performance, reduce repairs, and extend their useable life.
Handle with Care
Despite being durable, handling with care is essential. Wash your hands before inserting, removing and cleaning your hearing aid. It can help you avoid damaging the device or its battery. Use a firm grip, but do not squeeze. Instead of placing it on a hard surface, such as a countertop, put it on a soft, clean towel if you have to set it down.
Store in a Safe Place
The ear canal is sensitive. Keeping your hearing aid out of the reach of pets and children can help ensure that hair, dirt and other debris do not adhere to the surface, which could damage your ear on insertion or removal. Also, do not use hair spray or a hairdryer when wearing the device as it could hinder performance.
Keep the Device Dry
Although hearing aids are generally water-resistant, immersing them in water can damage the inner components. Places that could result in serious or permanent damage to these units include:
- Sauna/Steam room
- Hot tub
Wearing a hearing aid when swimming or using water to clean it is not recommended. If it does get wet, dry gently with a soft towel. Do not use a hairdryer or other device to dry it as the heat can damage the components or cause it to melt, distort or stop functioning correctly.
Remove Earwax Build-Up
The ear canal produces a waxy oil called cerumen. Commonly known as earwax, this substance helps protect the ear from microorganisms, dust and foreign particles. It also protects against irritation caused by water. Although excess earwax typically finds its way out of the canal and is washed away naturally, it can build-up on your hearing devices, decreasing performance.
Clean Your Device Daily
Cleaning your hearing aid at the end of each day with a soft toothbrush or dry cotton swab can clear away excess oil, moisture, earwax and any other debris that may have accumulated. There are also cleaning kits that contain tools made especially for cleaning your hearing aid. Pay particular attention to the microphone and receiver. If you have a model that is worn over the ear, it is especially susceptible to physical debris and damage from sweat. Carefully clean the tube and hard plastic case that is attached to the earmold.
Replace the Earwax Filter
If you have difficulty hearing and things just don’t sound as crisp as they did when your hearing aid was new, and you have recently changed the battery, it may be time to clean the filter, also known as an earwax protection system. It may also be called a “shield,” depending on the type of unit you have.
The filters are small plastic yokes on the hearing aid that protect the receivers and filters from wax. These yokes have visible holes in the cup. If the holes are not visible, they are likely clogged. Replacing it can help improve performance.
Some brands provide instructions for changing the filters, while others recommend taking them to a professional. Receiver in-the-ear and invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids are more prone to falling out when the wax accumulates and typically require more frequent change.
Change the Batteries
Hearing aid batteries can cause issues when not properly maintained and frequently replaced. Moisture trapped within the unit can cause battery corrosion, which can damage the interior. If you don’t use your hearing aid every day, remove the battery and store it in a cool, dry place. When completing daily maintenance, use a dry cotton swab to clean the battery contacts.
Over time, you’ll know how long a battery typically lasts. Anticipate the cycle and have a battery ready so that you can replace it promptly. Turn off your hearing aid after removing it at the end of the day to help extend the battery’s life.
Schedule Professional Cleanings
You can help your hearing aid maintain its performance by caring for your unit properly. However, having it professionally cleaned at least once every six months can prolong its useable life. The hearing aid style and amount of earwax build-up may make more frequent deep cleaning beneficial. Happy Ears does provide professional cleaning of hearing aids at their offices.
At a professional cleaning, specialized tools are used to remove the dust, oils, sweat and other debris from your hearing aid’s outer housing. Particular attention is paid to the receivers, microphones and any tubing your device may have. Cleaning appointments are often quick, so you likely will not need to leave it with the professional overnight.
The degree of hearing loss, lifestyle and personal preference generally help determine which type of device fits your needs the best. Regardless of the style, even inexpensive units are not cheap. When well-cared for, in-the-ear units can last up to five years, while behind-the-ear devices aids may last up to six years. By keeping to a routine maintenance schedule, you and get the most out of your hearing aid investment.