Hearing aids are intricate devices that can make a huge difference in someone’s life who has hearing loss! They allow an individual to communicate more effectively and efficiently with their loved ones. Hearing aids allow the user to participate in activities that bring them joy and most importantly to be able to hear the life they love. Hearing is one of our main senses, but it’s also a really personal one. Whether you want to hear a loved one, listen to music, or listen to a baby laugh, your favorite sounds are important and special to you! Hearing aids are the tools your audiologist will use to help give you those beloved sounds back into your life.
While hearing aids are pretty incredible tools, they are tiny devices and can get dirty easily, especially since they live in our ears. Even outside of our ears, the world can be dirty and dusty which can get trapped in all the small parts and pieces of a hearing aid. Therefore, it is important you maintain the functionality of your hearing aids by keeping them in tip-top shape. Shared below are some easy at-home troubleshooting tips on hearing aid care and how to keep them squeaky clean! If these tips don’t work, you may need to visit your local audiologist for a little more care.
You wake up in the morning, take your shower, get dressed, and reach for your hearing aids. You place them in your ears and …. nothing happens… What is your next step?
- Check the batteries.
- Do you use disposable batteries? Try a fresh set of batteries.
- Are they rechargeable? Is the outlet plugged into the wall? Are all cords secure?
- Place them in the charger and see if the indicator lights turn on.
- The batteries are good, but there is still no sound coming out of the devices.
- Check the dome or ear mold for cerumen, or ear wax. Do you visually see anything blocking the opening that sound goes through to reach your ear? If yes, clean it using your audiology specific hearing aid wipes. Remember to avoid using alcohol based solutions when cleaning the devices.
- Take the dome or ear mold off and check the wax trap for wax. The wax trap is a little white ring at the end of your receiver. Its job is to catch ear wax prior to getting into the instrumentation portion of your hearing aid. You aren’t sure if there is anything blocking it. when in doubt, just change it! The wax trap filters will have an empty end and on the opposite side of the stick a clean, white filter. Place the empty end into the dirty wax filter, pull it out, turn the stick over, and place the clean, white filter into the empty space. This correction should fix most of your wax related problems with your hearing aids. If you are still having issues call your local Audiologist. There may be cerumen or wax in your ears.
If none of those tips worked, it is best to call your audiologist to set up a clean and check or troubleshooting appointment. Your audiologist will most likely complete all of the same steps, plus use a commercial dryer to ensure there is no moisture in your hearing aids. As needed, your Audiologist may replace any physical parts, such as tubing or a receiver. Ask if you can watch your audiologist work on your hearing aids so you can learn more tips in order to improve your at-home troubleshooting skills for next time!
Sometimes, even your Audiologist cannot fix your hearing aids. If your provider cannot get your hearing aid fixed in-office they will offer to send the hearing aid into the manufacturer to have it corrected at the manufacturing level.
Do’s and Don’ts
Things we do not want you to try at home:
- Do not stick sharp objects into your hearing aid. You could damage the integrity of the shell protecting the computer chips inside.
- Do not wash your hearing aids in alcohol or water. Alcohol is a harsh cleaner which can break down porous plastics, such as the body of the hearing aid. Water can also cause unwanted damage to the aids as they are water resistant and not waterproof.
- If your hearing aids accidentally got wet, do not attempt to dry them in an oven, microwave, or in a bag of rice! Yes, the natural response is to want to dry them, but often drying techniques used on other items could be fatally damaging to hearing aids.
- If something has broken, that is ok! But don’t tape or superglue your hearing aids back together!
- If you feel your ears are full of wax, please do not clean your ears at home. Allow your audiologist to clean your ears safely! Part of cleaning your ears is visualizing what is going on in your ear canal.
In general hearing aids are low maintenance if you care for them a little bit each day.
Common hearing aid problems
1) Never skip daily cleanings! The first thing you might do in the morning is put on your hearing aids. This can be even easier if you already know the devices are clean. At night, when you take out your hearing aids, check them for any earwax or debris on the rubber dome or earmold. This can easily be removed using a hearing aid cleaning wipe or the brush tool included in your cleaning kit. You can also wipe or brush off the base of the hearing aid as well. Staying on top of cleanings will keep your hearing aids working properly and in their best shape!
2) Regularly replace the wax filter. Depending on the style of hearing aid you have, you may have a little white wax filter that protects your receiver wire/hearing aid from becoming clogged with earwax. This filter is either attached to the shell of the hearing aid if you have a custom device, or underneath the rubber dome tip or custom earmold. The filters can be changed in three easy steps. Step one is to remove either the rubber dome tip or custom earmold from the attached wire. If you have a custom hearing aid device, you can skip this step. Step two is to locate the little white filter and replace it with a new one. This will include getting a new filter stick from your white/gray packet, sticking the empty end into the old filter and pulling it straight out, and then sticking the new filter end straight into the opening and replacing it. Once you use a wax filter stick, you can throw it away. Step three is to replace your rubber dome/custom earmold on the end of the wire. Make sure it is secure to ensure it does not fall off.
3) Replace other parts as needed. There are many parts on a hearing aid that can be easily changed at home. If you notice your rubber ear tip has cracked, you can ask for extra to replace these at home. If you have hearing aids that have rubber tubing, make an appointment to have this replaced. The general rule of thumb for tubing is every 6 months, or as it becomes hard and stiff.
4) Keep your hearing aids dry. Hearing aids are water resistant, not waterproof. Therefore, you can wear them out in light rain or while you are exercising but should remove them to shower or swim. When removing your hearing aids, make sure to store them in your case/charger and within a safe, dry spot; this is especially true for battery powered hearing aids. Moisture can sneak into the devices through the battery door, more easily. If you accidently expose your hearing aids to water, you can call the audiologist office to schedule an appointment. Our office has a Redux machine that can help remove excess moisture from the hearing aids and give them a good dry out!
5) You may have cerumen (wax) in your ears! Ears are an organ that cleans themselves fairly well, but, the caveat is that we can’t interfere with their self-cleaning ways! When we use Q-tips, bobby pins, keys, and even more terrifying, needles in our ears we interfere with the ears natural ability to clean itself, which causes an overproduction of cerumen, and ultimately an unwanted buildup. Our ears produce new wax at the innermost portion of the outer ear canal. New wax is produced and pushes the old wax towards the entrance of the ear canal. Once the wax is near or at the opening when we shower and wash our faces we can remove the wax without bothering the natural process. Not all things in our ears are unwanted or bad! Depending on the style of hearing aid you wear or if you use hearing protection regularly it might inadvertently make the natural process for wax to get out of your ears a little more difficult which will require your audiologist to help remove it safely. Ear wax actually keeps unwanted things out of your ear canal so some wax is helpful but too much wax can make it difficult to hear and or clog up your hearing aids from working well.
Using these at home cleaning and maintenance tips should help keep your hearing aids in their best shape, while also giving your ears and brain the most benefit. It is important to remember that hearing aids are small computer chip technologies with fragile parts and pieces, and we should handle them with care at all times! When in doubt, call your audiologist. If you’re having trouble caring for your hearing aids or difficulty with changing the tiny pieces, just ask! As your audiologist, we’d love to help you keep your hearing aids clean and in good working condition!