Hearing aids are essential devices for those that have an hearing impairment. However, historically, they have been very costly and many go without getting this necessary device because of it. In August, President Biden instructed the FDA to offer hearing aids over the counter, therefore reducing the cost and burden that is involved with getting this necessary health equipment.
On average, hearing aids can range wildly in price depending on the features of the aid itself and many go without them because the price is just too expense, limiting people’s quality of life by simply not allowing them to hear better, all because of cost. So as more Americans take advantage of this new savings come mid-October, it is even more important for us to know how to clean and maintain them regularly in order to maximize their lifespan.
Proper care means properly cleaning and maintaining hearing aids. So let’s talk about the specific details of how to do it.
Proper Cleaning Procedures
The proper cleaning procedure of a hearing aid depends on the style of the hearing aid. That is because each style has a different build. And there are three main styles of hearing aid according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIH): behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, and canal.
But before we talk about how to clean it, just make sure to prepare the necessary cleaning materials first:
- Wax removal brush
- Soft and dry cloth Wax pick/wax loop
- Disinfectant wipe Alcohol-free cleaner/Earmold remover
- A multi-tool that contains all of the above materials and ear canal camera
A behind-the-ear hearing aid is a style of hearing aid whose electronic parts (encased in a hard shell) sit behind the ear when worn. And the outside sound travels from the mic and electronic parts behind the ear, into the ear mold, and then to the eardrum.
The first step when cleaning a behind-the-ear hearing aid is brushing the hard shell which contains the mic and other electronic parts. While brushing, make sure that the microphone ports are clear of any blockage. Afterward, you can also brush the ear mold.
The next step is to clean the sound bore using the wax loop and make sure to remove all the remaining debris inside. If there is earwax, deeper inside the tube, or mold, you can use the vent cleaner to make sure it’s safe for others.
Now, if you notice any ear wax or debris inside the tubing between the ear mold and electronics, you can separate the tubing together with the ear mold and then wash it with warm and soapy water. Before putting it back together, it’s better to ensure that it is totally dry so that it won’t be able to damage the electronics.
As a final step, completely wipe off and dry the hearing aids using the soft and dry tower. However, depending on the situation, you can also apply an alcohol-free cleaner to the hearing aids.
The in-the-ear style of hearing aid, as the name suggests, has all of its electronic parts inside the ear mold. Due to this size constraint, its amplified volume output is lower than that of the behind-the-ear style.
Cleaning an in-the-ear hearing aid is quite easy. The first step to do is to brush off the hearing aid and make sure that there is no ear wax or other debris that is blocking the microphone. Afterward, the sound bore should also be cleaned using a brush and vent cleaner.
Then, check and clean the wax filters. If the wax and dirt buildup can’t be removed by brushing then it’s time to change the wax filters. Simply pop it off and install the new one.
The canal style of hearing aid is quite similar to the in-the-ear style. But the way it’s different is that the canal-style hearing aid can’t be seen easily because it is inserted quite deep in the ear. But because it is so small compare to other hearing aid styles, its amplification output is lower than behind-the-ear and in-the-ear.
The way to clean this is quite simple. First, brush the hard case and make sure that there is no debris or wax in the microphone ports. Then, check and clean the wax filter. If it looks like it needed replacement then do so. Simply pluck it up and then replace it with a new one.
Caring for Your Hearing Aid
Aside from a regular cleaning schedule, there are other ways that can help prolong the lifespan of your hearing aids.
The first one is avoiding putting your hearing aids away from heat and moisture. When exposed to heat, it affects the battery and case. For example, battery performance greatly decreases and the hard case hardens too quickly when it’s exposed to heat. Or, if hearing aids are exposed to moisture, then it will promote fungi and bacteria build-up.
Also, it is recommended to diligently turn off hearing aids when it’s not in use. Because this will help prolong the battery life of the aid. Another one is to avoid using hair products when wearing a hearing aid. This is because the aerosols might get into the microphone port and damage the mic.
In summary, regularly cleaning hearing aids will help prolong their lifespan. And it is easy to clean a hearing aid, you just need a few materials ready and follow a few simple steps like brushing the hard cases, wiping with cleaners, and replacing the filters. Additionally, many hearing aids also require software and driver updates now too which could impact their quality. Yes, just like your computer or mobile devices, those tiny hearing aids could use a software update, especially those hearing aids that are bluetooth and require you to connect to your phone in order to control the aid. Lastly, when in doubt always consult your local Audiologist if you are unsure about how to clean or update your pricey new in-ear gear.