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Today let’s talk about what to expect as far as maintenance, care, and cleaning goes. So, you’ve purchased hearing aids, and they are no small investment, but they are an investment that can drastically change your quality of life! And that means…you want to preserve them and keep them working well for as long as possible. Here are some tips and strategies for you to maximize their lifespan and their working condition, because it is NO FUN when your hearing aids quit in the middle of something important!
- Ear wax is the most common thing that stops hearing aids dead in their tracks! So many of the in-office repairs we see are caused by ear wax and are pretty easily preventable, if you are familiar with how to best care for and clean your hearing aids. Your aids should have come with a little kit that includes some cleaning tools or wax guards, and your hearing healthcare professional will show you how to gently remove the wax from the hearing aids without damaging any inner components. When you take the aids out of your ears at night, wipe them down with a dry cloth or tissue to remove any excess wax or oils around the edges. DO NOT USE ANY SORT OF LIQUID SOLUTION TO CLEAN THE INSTRUMENTS UNLESS YOUR HHP GAVE IT TO YOU AND IT IS SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR HEARING INSTRUMENTS. I cannot stress this enough. While it might seem like a good idea to use rubbing alcohol or Clorox wipes or other household products, they are very bad for the materials in the hearing aid casing and can leave them weakened or damaged. They are also not the best for your skin! Okay, so wipe those down when you take them out at night, and put them in your case or your dry and store. Then, in the morning before you put them in, you will take your cleaning tool (looks like a little wire loop or a brush) and gently remove any wax you can see. Turn the holes where you are cleaning and brushing downwards so that any wax you loosen up/pick out will fall on the floor and not back into the hearing aid receiver.
- If ear wax is a persistent problem, your hearing healthcare professional may recommend that you use an over-the-counter wax removal kit in order to keep the buildup in your ears to a minimum. If the problem still persists, it may be recommended that you see your primary care physician every few months to have the ear wax removed from your ears. This will go a long ways helping to clean and care for your hearing aids.
- Moisture is one of the single most damaging things to hearing aids. Moisture from the air, perspiration, body, and humidity/other environmental factors will cause the hearing aids to corrode inside, allow tubing to get blocked off with moisture, and corrode the battery contacts, all of which render the hearing aid useless and DEAD! One of the best investments a hearing aid wearer can make is to purchase a Dry and Store box for their hearing aids. Dry and Stores have a desiccant inside them that dries out the hearing aids, as well as sanitizes and cleans them on the “inside” (aka the parts you can’t see). Dry and Stores add years to hearing aid life and a great way to care for your aids between visits to your hearing healthcare professional.
- So far we have discussed the portion of the hearing aid where sound comes out and how it can be stopped (wax, moisture, etc). But now we need to discuss how sound can be prevented from going INTO the hearing aids. A microphone clogged with debris will shut down a hearing aid just as fast as ear wax will! Your hearing healthcare professional will be able to show you where the microphone ports are located on the instrument; oftentimes they look like tiny screens or they are solid light grey materials. Use your cleaning brush to go over the area gently, again turning the instrument upside down so that anything you loosen or remove falls to the counter or table or ground instead of back into the microphone. I’d like to share with you that the absolute WORST offender for clogging up hearing aid microphones is actually HAIRSPRAY…so if you are trying to secure your coif, do so and spray it BEFORE you put your hearing aids in…you will save your microphones and your hearing aids will live to work another day.
Other notable things pertinent to hearing aid maintenance:
- If you wear a BTE style of hearing aid, have your tubing replaced every 3-6 months. If it starts to look a different color (yellow, or sometimes purple!) or if it is hard to the touch and no longer flexible, have your HHP change it for you. It will improve your sound quality greatly.
- Do NOT keep the hearing aids in a case in the bathroom. Trust me on this. There is a very high margin of error in the bathroom and way too many “wet” places the hearing aids can fall into…not to mention that the bathroom is the most humid room in the house.
- DO keep the hearing aids in a case at all times when you aren’t wearing them. When you take them out at night, place them in a Dry and Store or case in your bedroom, on a night stand or dresser.
- DO NOT keep them in the same area where you keep medications and pills. I know it sounds farfetched, but I have had MANY patients mix up their hearing aid batteries with their pills and swallow the battery while trying to use their blood pressure tablet to power their hearing aids. Not good.
See your hearing healthcare professional every 4-6 months for regular cleaning and maintenance, sooner if a problem arises that you are unable to fix yourself.
Until next time,