Utilizing simple tools like a tube blower (above) can make the difference in hearing aid life and performance.
The following is a guest post by Carolyn Pinkerton, Au.D. Carolyn joined the Starkey Hearing Technologies team as an Education and Training Audiologist in June 2012. She recently completed the Au.D. program at Northeastern University. Her clinical experience includes evaluations for and fitting of hearing aids and assistive listening devices, vestibular evaluations and testing of the auditory brainstem response. She has also worked closely with tinnitus management groups and pediatric patients. Pinkerton has been focusing largely on student initiatives with the Starkey University program and has presented at a number of university programs and regional trainings across the U.S.
Portions of this article appeared in the July 2013 issue of Innovations Magazine.
With any investment, there is a certain degree of maintenance required to be sure that money is being well spent and the purchase is well kept. A hearing aid is no different. While there are certain maintenance items that only the manufacturer or your hearing care professional should use, there are many other preventative measures that you can complete regularly to ensure that your hearing aid is well-maintained and functioning at its full capacity.
The most common culprit for hearing aid repair across the industry is cerumen, or ear wax. At Starkey Hearing Technologies, an estimated 60 percent of repairs are caused by wax or foreign material getting into the internal components of the hearing device. Ear wax is often described as the hearing aid’s worst enemy, and rightfully so. While ear wax is a healthy, normal occurrence in the ear canal, it can create a number of problems for a hearing aid. The ear canal contains not only the solid or soft components of ear wax but also vapor that can migrate deep into the hearing aid where it can become solid and settle on critical mechanical components.
Daily cleaning of hearing aids is recommended. In order to prevent wax from clogging critical components of the hearing device, such as the microphones or receivers, it is important for the wearer to wipe off the hearing aid each morning with a cloth or tissue. Tissues should not be used if they contain aloe or lotions. Cleaning cloths should be cleaned regularly in order to avoid re-depositing of wax or other debris onto the aid. While it is instinctive to clean the devices at night after a day’s use, it is best to wipe the aids down in the morning when the wax has had the opportunity to dry and will remove with more ease. It is also important to be careful to not wipe debris onto the microphone ports from another part of the aid. When hearing aids are fit with either thin tube or standard-sized earmold tubing, often times the wearer will receive a tool used to clean the tubing when it is removed from the hearing aid itself. This cleaning should be performed regularly in order to prevent wax buildup within the tubing.
Any exposure to water, humidity, condensation or perspiration can cause serious damage to a hearing aid. Today, many hearing aids are designed to be highly water (hydrophobic) and oil (oleophobic) resistant. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the design of today’s hearing aids, it is difficult to protect hearing aids from all oil and moisture hazards. While accidental immersion in a bath or swimming pool can happen, preventative measures can help guard from moisture build up within the device during normal usage.
The first step to preventing moisture damage is to avoid accidental exposure to water. Try to adhere to a routine when it comes to daily use of your devices. If you typically shower first thing in the morning, leave the hearing aids in their storage case, preferably not in the bathroom, in order to avoid forgetting to take them out before bathing or accidentally knocking them into the sink or toilet. Moisture can collect on the inside of earmold tubing through condensation as warm moist air from the ear canal migrates out to the cooler tubing walls exposed to the environment. If moisture is noted in the tubing of a standard BTE hearing aid, a tube blower (pictured above) may be used to force the moisture out of the tubing after removing the tubing from the earhook.
At night, hearing aid battery doors should be left open to allow air to flow through the device; this has the added benefit of preserving battery life. Ideally, the aids should be stored in a dehumidifying container. These kits are typically an inexpensive solution for nighttime storage and provide a safe place to keep aids during sleep as well as a moisture absorbing environment to draw moisture from the aids into the crystals within the jar. Take note of instructions on proper use and maintenance of the jar as the crystals may require reactivation via heat after a certain amount of usage. Appliances with more aggressive dehumidifying capabilities are also available as recommended by your hearing care professional. In case of accidental moisture exposure, the aids should be placed in the jar and your clinic should be contacted for further instruction.
To prevent damage, hearing aids should be stored in a consistent, safe manner nightly. They should be placed out of the reach of small children and pets, as animals tend to be drawn to the devices due to the human scent. When damage occurs, gather all components of the hearing device and schedule an appointment with your provider as soon as possible. The devices should not be worn if there is damage to the casing as sharp edges may cause irritation or abrasion to the ear and surrounding areas. Damage to the tubing, either tears or pinches, should be addressed as soon as possible as such happenings can have severe effects on the sound quality of the hearing device
Make sure to utilize these tips to get the most out of your hearing aids and to keep them in optimal working condition!