Modern hearing aids continue to become more complex electronically, and increasingly miniature. The decreasing size can mean a greater susceptibility to damage, particularly from moisture.
Once you’ve got hearing instruments, and are used to wearing them on a daily basis, the last thing you want to experience is time without being able to use them. In order to minimise break downs, and obtain the best performance from these digital wonders, careful attention should be taken to protect them from external influences.
Here are a few general tips:
- When cleaning or changing the batteries, do this over a table. This will help reduce the chance of the hearing instruments falling onto the floor. A soft cloth placed underneath the hearing aids will further prevent damage if it is accidentally dropped. Choosing a plain colour for the cloth will make it easier to find small parts quickly if required.
- Hearing aids are not generally waterproof and should therefore not be worn while swimming, showering, or in the sauna.
- Before inserting your hearing aid, make sure your hair and ears are dry. If you’ve been swimming then the application of a small amount of heat into the ear canal from a hair dryer is effective.
- Strong magnetic fields can wipe or corrupt the electronics of your hearing instruments. For this reason, your hearing aids should be removed if you undergo X-Ray, MRI, or CT scan. Or if you are welding!
- Dust and dirt can affect the performance of your hearing instruments. Take them out if you are in a particularly dusty place, such as a workshop.
- Cosmetic products such as make-up or hairspray can damage your hearing aids. It’s a good idea to insert your hearing instruments after applying these products, not before!
- Take a hard hearing instrument carrying case with you when you are away from your home. Then, should you need to take your hearing instruments out, you have a safe place to temporarily store them.
Hearing aids can only function with the correct batteries. How long a battery lasts depends on the device, the length of time it is worn, the size of the battery, and what you are doing with your hearing aids. For example, if you wear them only in quiet situations, the batteries won’t require much power to run. But if you are listening in a noisy environment, or streaming signals, that is very power hungry.
Batteries should be stored in a cool, dry place. Not a fridge – fridges are actually very moist. Batteries should not touch each other, so don’t be tempted to take them out of the packet that carefully separates each battery from the next, until you wish to use them – batteries that are touching another battery can short. You can find a bit more about this here.
Because batteries require changing regularly it’s useful to have a sufficient supply of spare batteries at home. And to think about taking replacement batteries with you on longer trips (the last thing you’ll want to be doing on holiday is seeking out a place to buy hearing aid batteries!).
If ACC contributed to the cost of your hearing aids, click here to find out how to get more batteries sent out to you.
Like many devices you have in your home, some maintenance on your hearing instruments is required to ensure optimal performance.
Hearing aids will sound distorted or weak if the microphone inputs are dirty, or if the loudspeaker of the hearing aid (audiologists call that the receiver), is blocked. If your hearing aid has batteries, then dirt or oil on the contacts, or on the battery itself, can cause intermittent performance. This is also the case if you have rechargeable hearing aids – except it is the contacts within the charging station and on the outside of the hearing instruments that need to be clean.
Before you carry out any maintenance, ensure your hands are clean and dry. Only use the cleaning brushes supplied with your hearing aid, or the parts recommended below. Take care not to mix up the left and right hearing aids. Each one is adjusted to your individual ear and hearing requirements. In general, hearing aids are colour coded to help (the right instrument will have a red coding, while the left instrument will be coded blue).
These are our recommendations when it comes to your at-home hearing aid maintenance:
- Microphone Ports should be checked for dirt and oil. A soft cloth, or the brush provided with your hearing aids, should lift this out. Wipe across the microphone ports, don’t dig into the port, even with the brush. Avoid any sharp instruments, as you may damage the very sensitive microphone.
- Battery Drawers and Contacts can be cleaned using alcohol wipes. Don’t use any other agent, as it may leave residue on the hearing instrument, or damage it.
- Loudspeaker/Receiver Ports should be checked for wax. If wax is visible, change the wax filter. If your hearing aid has a mould with a hollow tube, you should make sure that this is clean by running fishing line or denture floss through it.
If there is visible dirt that you are unable to clean yourself, we recommend that you bring your hearing instruments into the clinic. If we are unable to remove it, we will send the hearing instrument to the manufacturer for repair (if we believe it is affecting the performance of the hearing aid now, or could in the future).
Likewise, if your hearing aid isn’t working well, and you have carried out the steps above, it may be that a trip to the manufacturer is warranted.
Drying and Storing
Hearing aids are sensitive to moisture, radiation, and heat, so should always be stored in a clean, dry place. Don’t leave them in the kitchen, bathroom, or near a source of heat. Keep them out of reach of children and pets (we’ve seen a few chewed by dogs!).
Moisture that sits on the outside, or gets into the inside of your hearing instruments, can shorten their life. Most people know this, and are very careful not to get their hearing aids wet… but we know all too well that accidents happen. Perhaps you went for a run while wearing your hearing aids, and perspiration made it’s way in. Maybe you stepped into the shower, while still wearing your hearing instruments!
If your hearing aid got very wet, an insurance claim is normally recommended. This is because it might be that your hearing instruments still work, at least for a while, but corrosion has started. And, eventually, your hearing aid will no longer operate.
If your hearing instruments do end up getting wet, never dry them using a hairdryer, heater, microwave, or similar device. High heat can soften and distort the plastic parts and damage the internal technology. We recommend an immediate drying of the outside, and an overnight dry as well. And then, cross your fingers!
These are the three steps to follow:
- For drying of the outside we recommend using a kitchen paper towel. These towels are very good at drawing moisture out. But, if your hearing aids were submerged in salt water, run them under a fresh water before using the paper towel.
- If your hearing aid requires batteries, ensure that the battery compartment is open, and the battery has been removed prior to using a drying – it’s more effective that way.
- After that, for safe and gentle drying, use a specially designed, drying box, or drying container. We can order these in for you. A drying box works effectively by circulating dry air with a fan. Most types also deliver sanitising benefits via a UV light. Alternatively, use a drying container. These use silica gel to absorb moisture. Please note that the drying capsules normally last only 8 weeks, and while they can appear to be rejuvenated in the microwave, each time you do this they become less and less effective. We recommend considering them as disposable. If you don’t have either of these options, leaving your hearing instruments on a towel in a hot water cupboard would certainly help.