Hearing Aid Maintenance

You wouldn’t let a car go years without a cleaning or tune-up, and the same principle should apply to hearing aids.

Today’s generation is more attached to technology than ever. We depend on our devices for communication, finances, entertainment, self-care, and much more, which makes protecting them a top priority.

However, few devices are tested by the elements as severely or as often as hearing aids, and improper care could quickly lead to problems that may not always be resolvable. While you will likely need to change them out periodically over the years, good care and maintenance are the keys to keeping your hearing aids in top condition.

The Dos and Don’ts of hearing aid care

Do…                                                                    

  • Store your hearing aids in a safe place that is not only dry, but also cool.
  • Wash your hands before handling your hearing aids to prevent dirt and oils from contaminating the electrical units.
  • Check your batteries, and if they are not rechargeable, change them well before they run out of life.
  • Turn off your hearing aids when not in use. You may want to remove the batteries and clean their contact points occasionally to make sure everything connects properly.
  • If your hearing aids are rechargeable, remember to place them in the charging unit each night to maintain optimal performance.
  • Change the filters occasionally to avoid dirt buildup, and clean the hearing aids using the small brush or cloth that came with them.
  • Remove your hearing aids above a soft surface in case of an accidental drop.
  • Talk to a hearing care professional about having excessive earwax cleaned out of your ear. This will help improve your hearing by removing wax that can block the canal. Do not attempt to do this yourself, as using cotton swabs could perforate your eardrums.

Don’t…

  • Wear your hearing aids in the shower or when swimming. Water will damage the inner workings of typical hearing aids.
  • Use a hair dryer, hair spray, or any other type of spray with your hearing aids on.
  • Store your hearing aids in direct sunlight, in a car, or near a heating unit.
  • Use any tools on your hearing aids, as this may result in serious or permanent receiver malfunctions.
  • Leave your hearing aids or batteries in a place where they could be chewed or swallowed by pets or small children. Beyond the destruction of your devices, consuming hearing aid batteries can be deadly.
  • Wear your hearing aids during a CAT, MRI, or other electromagnetic scan.
  • Ignore your hearing aids. If you can’t clean your hearing aids or your hearing aids aren’t working properly, always contact a hearing care professional for advice and repairs.

Cleaning your hearing aids

Keep it gentle

How you clean your hearing aids will depend on whether you wear a behind-the-ear (BTE), in-the-ear (ITE), or receiver-in-canal (RIC) model. Regardless of style, you can always use a soft, dry cloth to polish the external speaker units. When handling your hearing aids, hold them above a soft surface for protection, just in case you drop them. Do not clean with disinfectant wipes unless the packaging states that they have been approved for use with a hearing aid. Never use water or any kind of cleaning fluid to wipe your hearing aids—a gentle rub should be enough to remove dirt and moisture from the external shell.

It is best to clean your hearing aids before bed so that they can air out overnight. To keep debris from getting lodged further inside the hearing aids while cleaning any interior compartments, hold the hearing aid upside down. The seat for your hearing aid battery should also be wiped down every time the battery is replaced to maintain the length of charge stated on the battery packaging.

Cleaning your BTE hearing aid

For BTE hearing aids, it is important to separate the electrical shell from the plastic earmold and amplifier that sit in your ear. If BTE is an open fit, do not clean the silicone dome fitted at the end of your speaker, as this piece should be replaced at least once a month. Avoid compacting any wax or debris when handling the microphone and receiver ports, as this can severely lower performance. Instead, use a soft-bristled brush to remove any materials from the microphone cover. To clean the earmold, use a brush to wipe debris from the surface before applying a wax pick or wire loop to remove any extraneous materials.

This wiping and brushing routine should be repeated daily to avoid clogs and other hearing aid malfunctions. A wax pick or wire loop can also be used to more thoroughly clean your hearing aids, though this only needs to be done once a week. These tools are perfect for unclogging wax and dirt that cannot be removed with a cloth or brush alone, but they can cause damage to some parts of your hearing aids if used improperly. Keep the wire loop away from the microphone and receiver ports to prevent any breakage. Your hearing aid manual should also provide specifics on how to clean the exterior without damaging the device.

Cleaning your RIC hearing aid

Brush the surface of your RIC hearing aid to remove any debris. Making sure your microphone port is free of dirt and wax will allow sound to travel more freely into your ears, so it helps to brush this part of your hearing aids a couple of times daily. Next, remove the soft dome at the end of the wire attached to the shell. You can remove any extraneous material from the dome by gently rubbing it with your thumbs. You’ll likely want to replace the domes entirely depending on how frequently you clean your hearing aids, the amount of buildup when you check them, and their general state of repair.

While the dome is still off, you can also brush the exposed wax filter that sits below it. If your wax filter is too clogged to be cleaned with a brush, you can replace it yourself. On the bottom of every new wax filter is a pin that allows you to remove the old one safely. Using the other side, insert the new wax filter and check to make sure it’s fitted the same way as the previous one before covering it with the  dome.

Cleaning your ITE hearing aid

Your ITE hearing aids can be brushed in the same way as models worn behind the ear, with extra attention paid to the removal of particles from the vent openings, as well as the microphone and receiver. After brushing, use a dry cloth to wipe the exterior surface of the hearing aid.

Because of their location inside the ear canal, in-ear devices are built with a vent that runs through the shell to catch wax and debris. To remove this material, insert the vent cleaner that came with your hearing aids into this vent and pull it out once it exits the other side. Depending on the custom fit of your ITE hearing aid, your vent may require additional cleaning measures. Consult the manual or visit a hearing care professional if you suspect that your cleaning tactics aren’t doing enough to protect your hearing aids from damage by foreign objects.

Need assistance? Contact a hearing care professional

While regular cleaning is one of the best ways to keep your hearing aids protected, they will eventually need to be inspected by a professional. Your hearing care professional has the equipment necessary to completely clean your devices during a follow-up visit and can replace any tools you may have lost or damaged. They can also provide you with additional domes or batteries if needed. With our online locator, you can find a hearing care professional in your area to preserve your hearing and hearing devices