Hearing Aids 101
Hearing Aid Accessories
Extend the lifespan and functionality of your hearing aids with these additional products and services.
Being fitted with hearing aids is only the first step toward rehabilitating lost hearing. Once your devices are working properly, it’s important to know what accessories are available to expand your hearing aids’ functional capabilities and keep your devices functioning at peak performance without sacrificing discretion or accessibility. Accessories help you stay connected to the full world of sound offered by your new hearing aids.
If your hearing aids are battery-operated and not rechargeable, packs of extra batteries are going to be your most essential accessory. You want to choose batteries that last long and have high, stable voltage, to ensure excellent amplification and distortion-free sound. Look for batteries in packs that dispense easily and are resealable—this will help keep the remaining batteries in the pack fresh and safe for travel.
The most common disposable battery for hearing aids is the zinc-air button battery, which activates once a seal is removed from the back. For best performance, wait a minute or two after removing this seal before inserting the battery into your hearing aids.
In general, the larger the hearing aid, the larger the battery required to operate it. There are four common hearing aid battery sizes available, and even the largest is still smaller than a dime. Each size is designated by a specific color printed on the removable tab. The following list shows the colors and their corresponding sizes arranged from smallest to largest, along with their average battery life:
- Yellow = size 10 (5.8 mm wide by 3.6 mm high, 3-7 days)
- Brown = size 312 (7.9 mm wide x 3.6 mm high, 3-10 days)
- Orange = size 13 (7.9 mm wide x 5.4 mm high. 6-14 days)
- Blue = size 675 (11.6 mm wide x 5.4 mm high. 9-20 days)
To keep your batteries operating as long as possible, shut off your hearing aids when they are being worn and keep the battery compartment doors open while you sleep. Zinc-air batteries tend to drain when exposed to heat and humidity, so be sure to store them at room temperature. It is also recommended that you keep batteries out of your pockets, as contact with metals like those found in pocket change can damage a battery’s circuitry. Issues with low battery life can generally be resolved by replacing the faulty battery. However, if this problem persists, it could be a sign that your hearing aids are not working efficiently. Before making any repairs at home, contact your hearing care professional to determine the best course of action to keep your hearing aids in top working order.
It’s always a good idea to keep spare batteries with you in case yours unexpectedly lose charge. Your hearing care professional will inform you of the exact specifications, and may even provide a supply of batteries as part of your hearing aid purchase as well as during any subsequent fittings and follow-up adjustments. If you’re concerned about the cost of disposable batteries adding up over time, your hearing care professional can guide you toward a number of organizations and subscription services that can help ease the burden of having to buy new batteries.
*Hearing aid batteries are highly toxic and, because of their small size, can pose a choking hazard to children and pets. For safety reasons, keep all batteries stored in a place where they won’t be accidentally swallowed. If you or a loved one has recently ingested a battery, call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at (202) 625-3333 immediately.
Disposable batteries hurt more than just your wallet—even when recycled, they create massive amounts of waste and can release dangerous toxins in the air such as mercury and lead. Thanks to rechargeable batteries, most modern hearing aids are now environmentally friendly.
By eliminating the need to replace tiny batteries and stock up on extras, hearing aid wearers can save money and reduce their carbon footprint. Rechargeable hearing aids are sold with a small charging station that can sit on your nightstand. Simply flip open the lid and place the hearing aids in their allotted slots at night. When you wake up, your units will be fully charged and ready to wear. Silver-zinc or lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries typically remain charged anywhere from 12-24 hours even while streaming audio. Many chargers also include a drying function to protect hearing aids from moisture damage.
Over time, rechargeable batteries will not hold as much of a charge. Although you can change silver-zinc rechargeable batteries the same way you do regular disposable batteries, Li-ion inductively charged batteries are completely sealed into the hearing aids’ housing. In the unlikely event they stop functioning, you can contact your hearing care professional on how to get them replaced. However, Li-ion batteries are made to last for the average lifespan of the hearing aids, so the majority of wearers will never have to worry about them at all.
Cleaning and maintenance tools
These usually come with your hearing aid purchase, and include the following:
- Cleaning brush: These soft, miniature brushes allow you to polish the accessible interiors of your hearing aids without having to bring them to a hearing care professional. If you are worried about damaging the battery, many brushes come with a magnet that allows you to safely remove the battery before cleaning.
- Wax pick or wire loop: Accumulated earwax reduces the performance of your hearing aids by blocking sound from entering the ear and could damage the interior electrical parts if not removed. A wax pick or wire loop allows you to eliminate these deposits at home, though you should take care to scrape gently and avoid touching the microphone or receiver ports.
- Multifunctional stylus: A combination of a brush and wire loop, these pen-sized tools can help you cut down on cleaning time. Brushes on some models can be replaced.
- Storage case:Upon purchasing your hearing aids, you should receive a carrying case that will allow you to keep them secure and portable when they are not needed. Keep this with you while traveling in case you unexpectedly find yourself in a storm and need to keep your hearing aids dry.
- Vent cleaner: Designed for in-the-ear hearing aids, this thin rod can be inserted into the open vent running along the side of your hearing aid. Once the vent cleaner exits the other side, pull it back out to capture any built-up wax or debris.
Your hearing care professional will show you how to use these tools to clean and protect your hearing aids during your fitting. If you need any replacements, these products are available online and can also be purchased in-store from your hearing care professional.
With the purchase of a dehumidifier, you can keep your hearing aids safe from moisture exposure in one secure location These containers are recommended by hearing care professionals for overnight use, and can either be electric or non-electric. Electric dehumidifiers are built with an electric fan to air out water inside the hearing aid, while the non-electric models use a desiccant or gel to absorb any moisture.
To operate, remove the batteries from your hearing aids and place them in the dehumidifier receptacle. This accessory is essential if you live in a humid environment or otherwise expose your hearing aids to moisture frequently. However, if your hearing aids are rechargeable, the charger will also dehumidify your devices while they charge, eliminating the need for this separate accessory.
Almost all of today’s digital hearing aids are Bluetooth® compatible. With the use of certain easy-to-use accessories, you can connect your hearing aids to your cell phone, TV, stereo system, game console, and other audio devices. This connection is always secure, so you don’t have to worry about interference or unwanted sounds coming through your hearing aids.
The most common tool that enables Bluetooth connectivity is a streamer remote. These transmitters with remote controls turn your hearing aids into high-end earbuds capable of connecting to multiple audio sources, such as a home theater system or smartphone. With this remote, you can easily switch between devices to receive all the audio you need throughout the day directly through your hearing aids. If discretion is a concern, many hearing aid manufacturers also offer apps for Android™ and iPhone® that allow you to pair with other channels and make adjustments to fit your listening preferences. If available and compatible with your particular hearing aids, these remotes and supplementary apps allow you to adjust the volume, switch between listening environments, and turn your hearing aids on and off.
If your hearing aid is fitted with a T-coil, you can also benefit from Bluetooth functionality. In lieu of having to ask for a bulky receiver any time you visit a movie theater, sporting event, or other location where audio is important, you can simply switch to the “T” setting to connect your hearing aids to the nearest induction loop. With this system, a magnetic field installed within the venue allows anyone within a certain distance to pick up the audio signal and transmit it directly to their hearing aids. A list of venues that offer induction loop systems free of charge is available at: https://www.aldlocator.com.
Though full hearing aid compatibility is still only available with Apple® products, Android users can also benefit from new hearing solutions on their smartphone. For those who have trouble hearing speech in noisy environments and can’t lip-read, voice-to-text dictation apps are available on most smartphones. Using voice-recognition technology, these apps can translate speech into text in real-time on your screen, so you can read what your conversation partner is saying without asking them to repeat themselves.
Other applications can help prevent further hearing loss by alerting you to dangerous sound levels. Depending on the severity of the noise, these apps can tell you how long you can stay in the noisy environment before risking damage to your hearing. In many cases, hearing loss can be prevented simply by knowing the limits of safe hearing and keeping your ears protected. Should you discover that your workplace is excessively loud and you don’t receive ear protection, speak with your employer to make sure the environment meets the government standards for hearing safety.
Basic hearing tests are available on your smartphone. These tests ask you to indicate if you can hear certain tones of varying volume and frequency. The limits of your hearing are then compared to the standard to determine your degree of potential hearing loss. While the quality of these tests may differ, their results should never be taken as a substitute for a formal diagnosis of hearing loss. On that note, passing these tests does not always guarantee that your hearing hasn’t been damaged. If you feel the need to test your hearing at home, chances are you’ve already noticed a problem and are looking for solutions. Before self-diagnosing and potentially worsening the situation by trying to treat your hearing loss with inadequate or ineffective hearing aid alternatives, contact a hearing care professional for a proper test and fitting.
For medical professionals, the rise of telehealth is a way to stay connected with their patients and lower the cost of care. While the word “telehealth” may sound like something from a science fiction movie, doctors have actually been using technology as a medium to communicate with their patients for some time now. For those with hearing loss, this means you can speak with a hearing care professional from home, either in real time (synchronous) or through a system that reviews and responds to messages (asynchronous), to answer any questions you may have about your hearing aids and hearing in general. Through this system, patients can follow-up on their fittings and even complete a diagnostic test using a smartphone or other communication device, making it easy to maintain your hearing health no matter your location. Some even allow hearing care professionals to make adjustments to your hearing aid settings remotely, reducing the number of in-office visits normally required to troubleshoot any difficulties that arise.
For those with hearing aids, telehealth services are often free. If you are on Medicaid and live in an area that has been designated by the government as a Health Professional Shortage Area or if your county is outside of a Metropolitan Statistical Area, your telehealth service may be covered. Speak with a hearing care professional to find out if they offer telehealth services before purchasing a new set of hearing aids.
Contact a hearing aid professional for advice
You can learn more about hearing aid accessories and features by using our online locator to find a hearing care professional and making an appointment.