Many people are very reliant on their hearing aids and can’t afford to be without them. Hearing aids are sophisticated instruments and poor care and maintenance can impair their performance and reduce their life span. Hearing aids also go into your ear every day, so you want to keep them clean from a hygiene perspective and to prevent infections. There are many different brands of hearing aid and each brand has a variety of styles of hearing aid including behind the ear (BTE), a receiver in canal (RIC), in the ear (ITE) and completely in canal (CIC). Each has its own specific cleaning requirements which your audiologist will go over with you in detail. Below are some common cleaning and care requirements of all hearing aids.
WHICH HEARING AID GOES IN WHICH EAR
The first step to correctly using and caring for your hearing aids is to identify which is left and right. Thankfully colour markings on hearing aids are universal so no matter what brand or style you have the hearing aid for your LEFT ear will be marked with BLUE and the hearing aid for your RIGHT ear will be marked with RED. Hearing aids are programmed and designed specifically for each ear so they are not interchangeable between ears.
Because hearing aids are sophisticated pieces of electronic equipment, they require batteries to run. Some hearing aids contain inbuilt rechargeable batteries and need to go in a charger at night to be recharged. All other hearing aids need to have fresh batteries to work properly. Hearing aids give warning tones to warn you that the battery is going flat, your audiologist will play this tone for you when you get your hearing aids and show you how to change the batteries so you know what to do when you hear the sound. When changing your hearing aid batteries, it is a good idea to wipe down the battery contacts gently with a clean, dry cloth.
Hearing aids need to be turned off when not wearing them, in general, this is done by opening the battery door. Hearing aid batteries can start to corrode if left for a long time so don’t leave hearing aid batteries in your hearing aid if for some reason you will not be using your hearing aids for a few days. Different hearing aids take different sizes of batteries so don’t assume any hearing aid battery will run your device. The 4 main sizes of hearing aid battery are 10, 13, 312 and 675. Check with your audiologist what size battery your hearing aids require and never force a battery into your hearing aid. Hearing aids batteries are very dangerous if swallowed so batteries and hearing aids should be kept out of reach of children and pets.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR HEARING AIDS
Hearing aids are far more robust than they used to be, but you should still handle them with care, and you shouldn’t get them wet. As such they shouldn’t be worn in the shower, bath or swimming. When they are not being worn, they should be kept in a cool, dry place. The bathroom is not a good place to keep hearing aids because it tends to be a very high humidity environment. Avoid exposing hearing aids to excessive heat and as such don’t wear your hearing aids when using a hairdryer.
Special electronic dryers are available for hearing aids to help remove residual moisture in the devices. In addition, dry aid cups with special silica sachets are available from your audiologist. These drying options can be especially important if you live in a part of Australia (or the world) that has high humidity. Don’t wear your hearing aids if you are applying perfume, aftershave, hairspray, etc as these products contain chemicals that could damage the hearing aids.
CLEANING YOUR HEARING AIDS
Any visible ear wax, dirt or debris should be removed from the hearing aids with a clean, dry cloth. A special brush is provided with hearing aids to reach hard to reach areas such as microphone ports. Depending on the style of hearing aid you have there may be a wax filter that will need to be changed periodically. Your audiologist will show you how to properly clean your hearing aids and provide you with replacement parts required for your specific hearing aid.
Behind the ear hearing aids can have either regular tubing with a custom -made ear mould or thin tubing with a custom mould or dome. Tubing on hearing aids can become blocked with moisture or wax. Sometimes this can be cleared using a cleaning wire or air puffer, or the tubing may need to be changed. From time to time tubing will need to be replaced as it becomes brittle over time. If appropriate your audiologist may show you how to clear your tubing or in the case of thin tubing they may show you how to replace it yourself and give you spares. Don’t attempt to do repairs on your hearing aid if you have not been shown how to by your audiologist.
Regardless of what sort of hearing aid you have, there will be a piece that goes in your ear- this may be a custom-made mould or shell or a replaceable dome. This earpiece should be wiped with a clean, dry cloth daily to keep it clean. If there is residue that remains after wiping the earpiece, ask your audiologist if there is a wipe that is safe to use on your earpiece (do not use household cleaners on your hearing aid). If you use domes on your hearing aid, the audiologist may give you spares to change them at home or may encourage you to bring the hearing aids in every month or two to have your domes replaced.
Taking good care of your hearing aids and doing some simple routine cleaning can prevent many potential issues. Even after you have been shown how to properly clean your hearing aid by your audiologist there will be additional cleaning and servicing that can be carried out by professionals. Ask the staff at your local Attune Hearing clinic how often you should bring your hearing aid in for this servicing. In addition, at least once a year you should have a check-up with your audiologist to recheck your hearing and optimise the settings in your hearing aids.