Maintaining your hearing aids

How much care and cleaning goes into the ownership of hearing aids? I am asked this question several times a week. The short answer is very little. Use a soft dry clothe, tissue, or paper towel to wipe off the hearing aids when you take them off. Any soft clothe will do, but don’t use an alcohol swap like a moist towelette, baby wipe, or pre-moistened eye glass cleaner. Just use a soft dry cloth. The other big issue is wax.

The person who wears hearing aids should be careful to keep wax cleaned out of the end of the hearing end that actually goes down into the ear. This would be the speaker end of a custom made device, ear mold connected by a tube to the behind the ear hearing aid, or the dome connected to a wire from the behind the ear hearing aid. In any of these configurations there will be a hole the sound comes out into the ear. That hole generally has a wax guard a very small plastic plug in it. If it is a tube connecting to an ear mold, the tube can be disconnected from the hearing aid and a stiff little plastic line placed through the tube and out the hole on the ear mold to remove wax. This line is small stiff section of fishing line or a very thin pipe cleaner. On the other two types, they will always have tiny replacement plastic wax guards. A new set of hearing aids will always come with these items. Your hearing professional will show you how to change them and the owners manual will have pictures that review how to do it. Replacing the wax guard is usually done with another piece of plastic about the size of a dime that has two little studs on it. Place the empty stud into the old wax guard to pull it out and then the new guard can be pressed easily into the open hole of the hearing aid. You can also keep the wax guard clean by daily picking out the wax with a tool enclosed with the aids or even a toothpick.

Professionals disagree about how often to change the wax guards. Some suggest every week. I suggest only doing so if the hearing aid doesn’t work. I tell my patients “if your hearing aid stops working, change the battery, then the wax guard. If that doesn’t bring it back to life then call me.” There is a very small fine wire mesh on the bottom of the wax guard that sticks down in the hearing aids. Sometimes even when the guard looks clean, the bottom, that mesh, can be filled with wax and preventing the sound from coming out of the hearing aids. If the sound is not coming out, always change to a new wax guard.

Those are the basics about cleaning. Here are two issues about protecting the hearing aids. They are moisture resistant, but not water proof. Try not to drop them in water, river, lake, pond, sink, shower, or…well, I think you get the picture.

If you should retrieve them from water or even get in the shower without taking them off, open and let the hearing aids air dry only. Never use a hair dryer and never put them in the microwave oven! Some professionals dispense a micro bead jar that is warmed in the microwave oven for the hearing aids to dry out overnight in that jar.

In addition from protecting the hearing aids from water and liquids protect them from animals…pets! The number one reason hearing aids are destroyed each year is due to pets. Cats will mostly play with hearing aids, batting them around until lost under the couch or down the ductwork. Dogs on the other hand smell the perspiration that has dried on the surface of the hearing aid. They want to lick them and then chew and even swallow the hearing aids. Maintaining a long and satisfying use of hearing aids involves keeping them clean, free of wax, and placed where pets can’t get at the hearing aids.

As a hearing aid user myself, caring for my hearing aids has become second nature and takes just seconds each day. Find out more about hearing aids and your hearing by contacting a hearing professional soon.

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Jeffrey L. Bayliff, NBC-HIS is the owner of Hear the Birds Hearing Aid Center, Lock Haven.

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