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  • Writer's pictureDavid Engelman

Hearing Aid Maintenance: What’s Involved?


Audiologist servicing a hearing aid.

If you’re considering hearing aids for yourself or a loved one, you may be wondering what sort of maintenance, if any, is involved in the upkeep of hearing aids.  Hearing aids are highly technologically advanced instruments with tiny moving parts that are constantly exposed to dust, dirt, debris, and moisture.  Like many other devices and appliances that are used regularly, hearing aids do require regular maintenance and care to ensure they stay working at their best.  However, in most instances, this maintenance shouldn’t take up more than a few minutes of your week.  The type of maintenance required for your hearing aids will vary somewhat and depend on the specific model and style of hearing aid that you are using.  Hearing aid maintenance will usually be discussed with your audiologist as part of your hearing aid fitting appointment, but it can often be a lot of information to take in all at once.  If you’re ever unsure about the appropriate care and maintenance procedures for your hearing aids, it’s best to check back in with your audiologist.  For the purposes of this article, I will review the most common aspects of hearing aid maintenance required amongst the various types of hearing aid models. 

 

1)      Replacing/Charging the Batteries

 

Hearing aids are battery operated, and will either use a replaceable, button-sized zinc-air battery, or will use a rechargeable battery.  If you are using a replaceable battery, then this will need to be changed regularly to ensure your hearing aid is working.  How often the battery needs to be replaced will depend on the specific battery your hearing aids require.  This will range from anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.  Your audiologist can usually give you a good estimate of battery life for your hearing aids.  Your hearing aid will also give you a “low battery warning” by either putting a little chime in your ear, or perhaps even saying the words, “low battery”.  It is important that when replacing the batteries, that these are inserted into the battery compartment properly, with the positive side (the flat, shiny side of the battery) facing upwards.  If not inserted correctly, the hearing aid will not work, and the hearing aid could also be potentially damaged. 

 

If your hearing aids are rechargeable, then you need to make sure that the hearing aids are placed properly inside the charger every night before you go to bed.  It is critical that the hearing aids are placed the correct way around inside the charger, otherwise they will not charge.  The hearing aid instruction booklet will often have a picture demonstrating this, but if you’re not sure, it’s best to check with your audiologist.  Doing this will usually provide more than enough charge for a full day’s use of the hearing aids. 


From left to right: Rechargeable hearing aid inside charger; standard battery operated hearing aid, with battery compartment open; pack of hearing aid batteries
From left to right: Rechargeable hearing aid inside charger; standard battery operated hearing aid, with battery compartment open; pack of hearing aid batteries

 

2)      Replacing the Filters

 

If you are using either a receiver-in-canal (RIC) or in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid (these are the two types of hearing aids fitted most in the private sector), then it usually will have a small filter that protects the speaker of the hearing aid from earwax and other debris. This filter can become blocked very easily, which will cause the hearing aid to sound as if it is not working. The filters should be replaced at least once a month, but some people may need to replace them more frequently, especially if they get quite a regular build-up of earwax. If your hearing aid is not working, and the battery has been charged or replaced, then I would recommend changing the filter before trying anything else. Most often, this will resolve the problem. The procedure (which once you are practised at, will only take a few seconds) for changing the filters will be shown to you during your fitting appointment, but I find that this is something people often forget about and may not remember how to do. The filter is usually changed with a small disposable tool, which will be provided to you when you first get your hearing aids. The specific tool/filter that you require and the method for changing it will vary depending on the hearing aid manufacturer so be sure to double check with your audiologist about this.


Hearing aid on the right of the picture, with the wax filter circled in blue; pictured with various hearing aid wax filter replacement tools.
Hearing aid shown on the right of the picture, with the wax filter circled in blue, pictured along with various hearing aid wax filter replacement tools.

 

3)      Replacing the Domes

 

Many receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids will use a small piece of rubbery plastic that sits on top of the hearing aid speaker and fits inside the ear.  This is referred to as a “dome” and this need to be replaced regularly as well.   Replacing the domes monthly is usually often enough for most people, and it makes sense to replace the dome while you are replacing the wax filter (if your hearing aid uses one).  The domes should also be wiped clean, ideally every night before you go to bed, with a dry cloth or slightly moist wet wipe.

 


Packets of various hearing aid dome sizes and styles.
Packets of various hearing aid dome sizes and styles.

4)      Cleaning the Microphone Ports

 

Hearing aids make use of tiny microphones that transmit sound via an amplifier, and then into the ears via a receiver.  The microphones will be located under small ports on the body of the hearing aid.  Dirt and dust can collect on top of these ports, degrading the hearing aid’s sound quality.  It is therefore a good idea to be familiar with the location of these microphone ports so that these can also be cleaned regularly.  The ports can be gently brushed (often a small brush and cleaning tool will be included in your hearing aid package) every so often to ensure they are staying clear and working their best.  Some in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids will also make use of small filters (like the wax filters described above) to protect the microphones, and these can and should be changed regularly.


Example of a hearing aid, with the microphone ports circled in blue.
Example of a hearing aid, with the microphone ports circled in blue.

 

5)      Keeping the Hearing Aids Dry

 

Many hearing aids nowadays are water resistant, and some select models may even be waterproof.  It is still a good idea, though, to keep your hearing aids as dry as possible.  Most hearing aids can handle a normal degree of moisture—such as an average amount of perspiration, getting caught in the rain for a bit, etc.  Some hearing aids can be more susceptible to moisture than others, and this can also vary based on the individual patient’s ears. There are times where it may be recommended to store your hearing aids in a jar with a desiccant inside to absorb excess moisture. There are also more advanced devices you can purchase that can help remove moisture electronically.


Example of a jar with associated desiccant pellets, for dry storage of hearing aids.
Example of a jar with associated desiccant pellets, for dry storage of hearing aids.

 

6)      Replacing the Tubing

 

If you use a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid (commonly fitted by the NHS), then the hollow tube that the sound travels through will need to be replaced at least every six months.  This is because the tubing hardens over time, which degrades sound quality.  The tubing can also be cleaned out in between these regular tube replacements, as wax and debris can easily clog the tubes. 


Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, with tubing that needs to be replaced every six months.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, with tubing that needs to be replaced every six months.


7)      Regular Servicing by Your Audiologist


Your hearing aids should also be regularly checked and serviced by your audiologist. Usually about twice a year is sufficient for most people. This is to have the hearing aids deep cleaned and checked to ensure everything is working optimally.  Your hearing should also be rechecked on a regular basis.  In the private sector, this is typically done annually.  That way, if there have been any changes to your hearing, the hearing aid prescription can be updated, to ensure you’re hearing at your best.


Conclusion


As you can see, hearing aids do require some maintenance to ensure they stay working at their best. It's important to keep your hearing aids dry and clean, and to replace any associated filters or domes on a regular basis, or as needed. It's also a good idea to check-in with your audiologist for a thorough servicing of your hearing aids about twice a year. If you're ever unsure of what kind of maintenance your hearing aids require, your audiologist can help you with this.


If you'd like to learn more about the kind of hearing care we provide for our patients at Finchley Hearing, please explore our website and feel free to get in touch with any questions.


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