Hearing Aid Maintenance
Hearing aids are highly sophisticated, tiny technological wonders that operate in anything but ideal conditions. Constantly exposed to earwax, body oil and perspiration, hearing aids require regular maintenance in order to function at optimum levels. Because these little marvels are such a significant financial investment, it is wise to learn how to properly maintain your hearing aids.
Treating your hearing aid with due care will keep it in good working condition and minimize any potential trouble caused by everyday use. Regular at-home cleaning combined with scheduled professional maintenance will give you years of dependable service from your hearing aid.
At-Home Care for Hearing Aid
Caring for your hearing aid should be part of your daily routine, as your hearing aid will last far longer and work much better if properly taken care of. Your audiologist will help you learn how to perform regular checks and maintenance. Here is a list of the special tools available for home hearing aid maintenance:
• Battery tester
• Listening tube
• Drying container
• Forced air blower
Cleaning Your Hearing Aid
Your hearing aids need to be clean at all times to work at optimal efficiency. It is best to remove, inspect and clean your hearing aids before you go to bed. This will allow several hours for the hearing aids to thoroughly air out before morning.
Gently wipe the hearing aid with a soft, dry cloth or tissue. Never use solvents, such as alcohol, or other cleaning agents. Special cleaning products formulated specifically for hearing aids can be obtained from your hearing-care professional.
Inspect the side of the hearing aid that enters the ear canal and remove any buildup of earwax at the end of the aid. It may be easier to remove large deposits of wax buildup the following morning, as the wax is typically easier to remove after it has dried out slightly.
Earwax can plug the receiver or microphone of your hearing aid, blocking sound from reaching your ear, making everything sound muffled. Excessive accumulation of earwax may also result in the hearing aid receiving electrical feedback, resulting in a “whistling” sound. If left long enough, earwax can solidify in the hearing aid and cause permanent damage to the electronic circuitry.
As earwax is an exceptionally dense material, when the hearing aid amplifies the sound the signal will bounce off the wax and then back to the receiver where it is amplified a second time, causing the whistling sound. This works in a similar manner as throwing a rubber ball against a wall. Visit your audiologist or physician if you are having unexplained feedback as you may have earwax buildup in your ear canal.
There are several types of hearing-aid cleaning tools available and most hearing-aid manufacturers will provide a cleaning tool with your device.
• A multi-tool is versatile, all-purpose option as it integrates a brush with a wax loop. The loop is designed to reach safely inside hearing-aid openings to remove stubborn wax and other debris.
• Some brushes incorporate a magnetized battery-removal tool that makes taking the batteries out easier for people with dexterity issues.
Your hearing-care provider can help you figure out what tools are best for your style of hearing aids and personal needs.
In-The-Ear Hearing Aid
Also called ITE hearing aids, in-the-ear hearing aids are so small the devices are almost invisible when worn. Because the hearing aids fit inside the ear canal, the devices will accumulate a coating of body oil and earwax.
Always hold the hearing aid with the part you are cleaning facing downward. This will allow loose particles to fall out of the device. Failure to hold the hearing aid in this position can result in the debris falling further down inside the hearing aid.
Wipe the entire hearing aid with a soft, clean, dry cloth to remove wax, oil and loose debris from the outside of the hearing aid. With the brush on the cleaning tool, gently work around the outside and inside of the plastic tubing to clean out the wax. You can use the wire loop on the cleaning tool to carefully scrape out any wax inside the tube, however, if caution is not used, this can sometimes force the wax deeper into the tube. Some people prefer to use a toothpick, as the wax tends to cling to the wood.
Switch off the hearing aid and open the battery compartment door so air will be able to enter and circulate inside the aid more freely. This will both reduce moisture inside the hearing aid and help prolong battery life.
The basic cleaning procedure for behind-the-ear style hearing aids is virtually the same as for in-the-ear devices. The only significant difference is there is an ear mold that is commonly made of Lucite or silicone. Here you can be slightly more aggressive cleaning with a wire loop, brush or toothpick as there is no circuitry in this part of the device. There are specially-made sanitizer sprays designed for cleaning hearing-aid ear molds that your audiologist can recommend.
It is critical to note that some behind-the-ear style devices, such as RITE and RIC hearing aids, do have electronic circuitry in the ear mold section and can be damaged with tools and cleaners. These types of hearing aids typically have a removable wax guard that shields the electronics and these guards can be removed for cleaning. Your hearing-care professional can show you how to remove the guards.
Some ear molds, especially ones made from softer plastics, may become stained or develop a mild odor over time. Removing the ear molds from the hearing aids and soaking them in a warm soapy-water solution once a week will help prevent discoloration and odor buildup. Never use alcohol or chemicals to clean the ear molds. Consult your ear doctor if an ear mold develops a strong odor, as this can indicate the presence of an ear infection.
Dry the molds thoroughly with a soft cloth or use a bulb-type blower to push water out and then allow the molds to air dry, preferably overnight. Do not use a hair dryer, as the high heat can damage the molds. Never put the molds back on the hearing aids until completely dry, or damage to the electronic circuitry may result.
Protect Your Hearing Aid from Dirt
The hearing-aid microphone is very small, so it can easily become clogged with dirt or debris from improper handling. Always be certain your fingers are clean of dirt and grease before inserting or removing your hearing aid.
Protect Your Hearing Aid from Moisture
Moisture, including condensation, has the potential of shorting out the electronic circuits in your hearing aids. Be sure your fingers are dry and your ears are clean before touching, inserting or removing your hearing aid. Remove your hearing aids before bathing or swimming and never leave your hearing aids in the bathroom, laundry room or anywhere else with high ambient humidity levels.
It is recommended that you remove the battery from your hearing aid at night or anytime the device is not in use. Leave the door of the battery compartment open to let the battery chamber air out. You can also use a special drying aid designed for hearing aids, available from your audiologist or hearing-care professional.
There are specially designed dehumidifiers for hearing aids and desiccants that will do a great job in drying out hearing aids. If you perspire heavily, live in an exceptionally humid region or spend significant time outdoors, a hearing-aid dehumidifier may be a good investment. There are two basic types of hearing-aid dehumidifiers. The first type is a plastic container holding a desiccant that pulls moisture out of the devices overnight. The second type uses ultraviolet light to both sanitize and dry the hearing aids. Both types of dehumidifiers are available through your hearing professional or online.
Children and Animals
Keep your hearing aids away from children and pets. If taken out and left on, hearing aids emit high-frequency sounds that can be aggravating to some pets, such as cats and dogs. Animals chewing on or swallowing the device will destroy your investment in a matter of seconds.
Young children like to play with just about everything and can accidentally swallow batteries or even the newer micro hearing aids. Notify your physician and call the National Button Battery Hotline at 1-800-498-866 if hearing aid batteries are swallowed.
Avoid Contact with Cosmetics
Take hearing aids out during your daily hygiene routine. Fine particles of makeup, hairspray, talcum powder and other toiletries can easily clog the microphone input, speaker and volume-control switch. Chemical in cosmetics can damage the plastic of the hearing-aid casing. Always remove your hearing aid before using any body-care products.
Store Your Hearing Aid in a Secure Place
Always remove the batteries and keep your hearing aids in the provided case to protect the devices from dirt and damage. It is best to keep your hearing aids in a drying set, if you have one, when not in use.
Protect Your Hearing Aid from Heat and Cold
Never expose your hearing aids to direct heat or sunlight, such as leaving them in a car on a hot day or on the poolside table. While it may be tempting to set your hearing aids in the sun to dry, the heat can build up quickly inside the device and damage the circuits. Never put a hearing aid in the microwave, as this will immediately short circuit the device.
Below-freezing temperatures can also damage your hearing aids. If you take your hearing aids out when doing outside chores, like shoveling snow, leave the devices in the house instead of your pocket.
Protect You Hearing Aids from Falls
It usually will not cause the hearing aid any damage if you drop it on the carpet, a rug or upholstered furniture. However, dropping your hearing aid on a hard floor or countertop can cause the circuitry or casing to break. It is good practice to put your hearing aids in while learning over a bed or sitting down with a pillow or towel in your lap.
Perform Regular Checks
Use a listening tube to perform a daily audio check on your hearing aids. Check that the sound is clear with no breaks or whistling sounds. Feedback occurs when sound comes out of the ear and goes back into the microphone. You can reduce feedback by turning down the volume on your hearing aid, but you will, of course, not be able to hear as well. Be sure your ear canal is clean and consult your audiologist if feedback is an ongoing issue.
Hearing aids work best when the batteries are at full strength, so check the batteries using a battery tester. Batteries should last one to two weeks. Store batteries in a cool, dry place and always keep spares with you. As they are toxic, be sure to dispose of batteries properly.
Leave Repairs to a Professional
The delicate electronic technology inside of hearing aids is highly sensitive and easily damaged by improper handling. Metal tools and oil can cause a quick death for hearing aids if either comes into contact with the micro-mechanical or electronic systems. Always consult your hearing-care professional if you are experiencing problems with your hearing aid.
Professional Care For Hearing Aids
You should have your hearing aids professionally cleaned and checked on a regular bases, as recommended by your hearing-care provider. Professionals have the special equipment needed to keep your hearing aids in top operating condition. Over time, earwax, dust and other debris can become deeply embedded in hard-to-reach places in your hearing aids, such as vents, windscreens, receivers and microphone screens. One professional tool hearing-care specialists use is a specially-designed vacuum cleaner that will safely clean out these hard-to-reach areas without damaging the delicate electronic circuits of the device.
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