Long-time hearing aid wearers are well aware of the golden rule of hearing aid care: to never delay maintenance, cleanings, and minor repairs. Perhaps it’s because they’ve also learned the “Murphy’s Law” that seems to apply to hearing aids (and likely any other complex electronics that we’re heavily dependent on). This law appears to go something like this: when you’re counting on your hearing aid to perform it’s best, it will break at the worst possible moment…if you’ve neglected it’s needs.
For those of us who have experienced this sort of ill-timed technical failure, we might recall feeling like it was an intentional move that our hearing aids performed out of spite. Of course, that was just a projection of our residual guilt for having postponed the timely maintenance or cleanings that our hearing provider had carefully reminded us about. Regardless, it only takes one experience of an unfortunate loss of amplification for us to transform into model hearing aid caretakers.
It turns out, for all that hearing aids give us – often 16 hours or more of audible sounds and clarity – they need relatively little in return. Below is a quick refresher on the best practices for keeping your hearing aids happy and working well.
Wipe them down
Similar to brushing our teeth and taking our vitamins, wiping down our hearing aids (with a dry, lint-free cloth) after every use is critical to their performance and lifespan. The main reason for this is obvious: we want to keep their vents and filters from getting clogged with earwax, dust, and debris. For the few of us with dry earwax, this is less of a concern (although still important), but for the many of us with “wet” or waxy earwax, even just one night of skipping a wipe down can translate into diminished performance the next day.
Take them out
The batteries, that is. Taking your batteries out of your hearing aids each night not only helps extend the charge on the batteries themselves, it also gives your hearing aids a break from circulating power. Although the amount of power discharged from batteries in hearing aids that are not turned on is very small, the overall sum turns out to be measurable when batteries are left in night after night. The electrical components within your hearing aids are liable to wear over time, and by removing the charge from those components while you sleep, you’ll help to extend their life. It’s also a good practice to gently wipe the contact points within the battery compartment on your hearing aids, once you’ve removed your batteries.
Lock them up
You might not actually need a lock, but putting your hearing aids in a special dry kit case (designed to dehumidify the air) is an excellent way to prevent their delicate electronics from slowly being degraded by moisture. Hearing aids are designed to be able to withstand a certain amount of moisture, as our ear canals are often more humid due to sweat and changes in our environment, but the drier they stay, the longer they’ll last. If you don’t have a dry kit to store your hearing aids in overnight, at least leave your battery door open on each one so that the inner compartments can get some air circulation and dry out as much as possible.
Clean them well
This is one item that doesn’t necessarily require daily attention, as a weekly detailed cleaning is enough for even the most heavily worn hearing aids. The aim of this cleaning is to clear out any wax or debris that’s settled deeper into your hearing aids. If your hearing aids have filters, you can clean around their filter compartment with a dry, lint-free cloth or a small hearing aid brush, and change the filter out as needed. You can also use that brush to clear out the crevices and vents that your hearing aid might have. It’s important to highlight that you never (ever) should use water or a cleaning solution on your hearing aids. Save that level of cleaning for in-office cleanings. Your hearing professional will advise you on the best professional cleaning schedule for your specific model of hearing aids, as some need to be cleaned in-office more frequent than others.
Consider that some hearing aid wearers only get 2 to 3 years of optimal use from their instruments, while other wearers find their devices performing well even a decade later. These small daily choices make all the difference.