Hearing aids are intricate devices that can make a huge difference in someone’s life who has hearing loss! They allow an individual wearing them to communicate efficiently with their loved ones, participate in activities that bring them joy, and hear the life they love. Hearing aids 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. It is important you maintain the physical cleanliness of your devices so the functionality of your hearing aids can keep working in tip-top shape. Shared below are some easy at-home tips on hearing aid care and how to keep them squeaky clean!
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, as moisture can sneak into the devices easier through the battery door. 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 moisture from the hearing aids and give them a good drying!
5) Take your hearing aid batteries out at night. Most hearing aids are rechargeable now, but some still operate by batteries. If you have battery powered hearing aids, it is part of your routine to open the battery doors at night to extend the lifetime of the battery. You can protect your hearing aids further by completely removing the battery and shutting the battery door to keep moisture and debris out. The batteries can be stored with the hearing aids in the case. If you are having trouble with changing the batteries or the battery life of your hearing aids, make an appointment to discuss upgrading to rechargeable devices.
6) Troubleshoot your hearing aids at home! If you are having any issues with your hearing aids, try to troubleshoot at home. For example, if your buttons on your hearing aid do not seem to be working try to restart your hearing aids by either placing them in the charger or replacing the batteries. Then try the button on each hearing aid to see if it is one or both. Then try a quick 1-2 second push versus a 4-5 second push. Does the short press not work, but the longer press does? All of these troubleshooting techniques can help give the audiologist a better idea of what is not working with your hearing aids and how to best help you.
7) Be on the lookout for technology updates in your hearing aid app. Every year hearing aid manufacturing companies will update the computer chip within hearing aids to make sound quality, connectivity and streaming, and overall functionality better. These updates are called firmware updates and apply directly to the hearing aids. Sometimes these must be completed in the office, but other times they can be directly completed through your hearing aid app. You should also monitor for any software updates, whether that be your phone software or your hearing aid app software. These updates can be done within your phone’s general settings or within the app itself. It is important to keep these up to date as phones continuously update their own technology to better work with hearing aids.
8) Schedule at least two to four hearing aid checks with your audiologist. At our office, we recommend quarterly professional cleanings which would mean once every 3 months. Professional cleanings are a great extension of at-home cleanings, but we can dive deeper into ensuring your hearing aids are working properly. When we complete a professional cleaning, we replace all removable parts and pieces like the rubber ear tips, retention lines, wax filters, and microphone filters. We then perform a listening check of the devices, which is when we use a listening stethoscope to listen to the hearing aids to make sure they are giving appropriate volume and do not crackle, whistle, or cut in and out. If we notice anything wrong with the sound quality, we can replace the tubing or receiver wire and see if this resolves the issue. We can also put the hearing aids through our dryer to remove any moisture. By having these professional cleanings every 3 months we can extend the lifetime of the hearing aids and keep them working to their full capability.
9) Schedule an appointment with your audiologist for severe hearing aids issues or if your at-home cleanings do not resolve your issues. If you notice that your hearing aids have low or poor volume or are just not working as well, try the above at-home cleaning tips first to see if this fixes the issue. If it does not, you can schedule a reprogramming appointment with your audiologist to make changes to how the hearing aids process sound and noise. If you have not had your hearing tested within the past year, we might recommend that we get an updated hearing test to see if you have had any shifts in your hearing. Sometimes when our hearing shifts, this causes us to perceive the hearing aids as not working as well when really, we just need a little more volume now.
10) Check device and service warranties. When you purchased your hearing aids, they most likely came with a repair warranty. This means that within that time frame (usually 2 or 3 years) any parts or pieces that break on the hearing aids are completely covered. Once this warranty expires though, parts and pieces then start to cost you money out-of-pocket. Keep track of your warranty date, as our office can send your hearing aids in for repair right before it expires so the manufacturing company can take a deep look at the device, internal computer chip, battery, and microphones to make sure they are working properly. Often, they will replace these parts and pieces essentially acting as a “face lift” for your hearing aids! This can help extend the overall lifetime of the hearing aids. You should also keep track of any purchased service warranty within the audiology clinic. Service plans. Also known as bundled hearing aids, they are purchased for each individual audiology office and will cover any hearing aid services provided by that office. Once your service warranty expires though, you will need to start paying for each individual visit out-of-pocket.
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 essentially small computer technology with fragile parts and pieces, and we should handle them with care at all times!