Senior Living Tips: How to Best Care for Hearing Aids

cleaning hearing aids

If you’ve had trouble with your hearing, your doctor might have recommended hearing aids. The CDC reports that the use of hearing aids has increased in recent years, with a 2.3% jump among those aged 45 to 64 and a 14.4% jump among those aged 65 and older. So if you get a hearing aid, you’re in excellent company!

Even those with mild hearing loss might want to consider hearing aids, as the longer you go without hearing certain sounds or frequencies, the more your brain rewires itself. That can lead to difficulty in “bringing the sound back” when you begin using hearing aids. Getting them early on in your journey of hearing loss can make it much easier to hear everything around you well into the future[1].

Hearing aids can be a vital component to fall prevention. That’s because there is a link between hearing and balance, and those who can’t hear as well are at a greater chance of falling down. This can lead to serious injury, including broken bones – that’s what happens to about 20% of elderly adults who fall[2]. In addition, untreated hearing loss has been linked to dementia, cognitive decline, depression, and isolation[3].

When you get hearing aids, it’s a good idea to also consider a medical alert device. One with fall detection is especially ideal. Tiny sensors in the device can register that a fall has occurred. When that happens, the device itself can alert trained professionals without you even having to press the emergency button alarm. This peace of mind can boost your confidence, which in itself has been proven to help prevent falls from happening in the first place!

As with the medical alert systems with fall detection, it’s important to wear your hearing aids throughout the day. Once you’ve gotten hearing aids, you’ll want to keep them in good condition. This helps ensure they do what they are intended to do – to give you better hearing. Keeping them clean should be at the top of your to-do list. The Mayo Clinic lists six different types and styles of hearing aids as the most common for seniors; caring for and cleaning each type might have small differences. That’s why it’s so important to get proper training from your audiologist or other hearing professional on how to properly care for your hearing aids.

Three Areas that Need to be Kept Clean

As you might imagine, something as intricate as a hearing aid has more than three parts. But there are three basic parts that need your attention on a regular basis to help keep the hearing aids working properly. These include the shell, the microphone, and the receiver.

·         The shell. The shell is the outside of the hearing aid. It can be affected by wax buildup. The most serious consequence could be difficulty in moving some parts of the hearing aid, such as the volume control, and a hearing aid that doesn’t fit properly.

·         The microphone. The microphone picks up sounds from around you. There might be one omnidirectional microphone or several smaller microphones with various placements in the device. These can collect oils and debris.

·         The receiver. This directs the sound from the speaker into your ear. Wax buildup can cause problems with this, as can a dead battery!

Keep in mind that there can be other parts, such as stems or screens. Some of the simplest, smallest hearing aids will be so carefully designed that cleaning them will be easier than you can imagine. But others will need careful disassembly and cleaning that requires serious dexterity. If you think you might have trouble cleaning a certain type of hearing aid, talk to your audiologist about your concerns. You might need something different that is easier to maintain.

When cleaning your hearing aid, remember these tips from Johns Hopkins Medicine:

·         You want to remove wax buildup on the shell, so start with a dry tissue or cloth. Don’t use any chemical cleaners! If a dry cloth doesn’t work, you can dampen it slightly, but don’t let it get wet as water could damage the hearing aid. If the cloth doesn’t get rid of the buildup, move to the brush that came along with your hearing aid.

·         When cleaning the microphone, never put anything inside it. It’s a good idea to turn the microphone down toward the floor as you clean it so all debris falls out rather than inside it. Use the brush to gently sweep across this part and remove wax.

·         Some hearing aids will have a protective wax guard or wax filter on the receiver. For these, speak to your audiologist about the best way to clean them. For those with no guards or filters, use the wax pick – a small wire loop included with your hearing aid – to scoop out any wax that has built up inside. But be gentle! You don’t want to use too much force and damage the hearing aid.

More Tips for Hearing Aid Care

The best possible tools for cleaning your hearing aids will be those that came with them in the original box. That usually means using the specialized brush and wax pick to get rid of any accumulated oil, grime or wax. You’ll also want a soft cloth to buff the shell. Keep in mind that sometimes your hearing aid will come with a multi-tool that includes the pick and the brush in one piece.

Creating a routine can help you make sure the hearing aid is clean and ready to go at all times. Plan to clean your hearing aids at the end of the day right before you go to bed, so they have several hours to dry or air out before you use them again. Before cleaning, always wash your hands well.

Protect them from moisture by never leaving them in during your shower. Wait to put them in until after you’ve used any hairspray, gel, or other hair products to avoid buildup of those products on the shell or damage to other parts. If you are getting into a pool or even a sauna, take them out first. If you must use water to clean them, use only a tiny bit to dampen a soft cloth.

Watch the temperature! Anything below freezing or on the hottest day of the summer spells bad news for the delicate mechanisms inside hearing aids. Protect them from these extremes. That might mean leaving them inside the house during the times when the temps soar or plummet. In addition to the temperatures, excessive sweating during the summer can lead to moisture damage.

Speaking of moisture, if you live in a climate where there is high humidity, consider a dehumidifier specifically made for hearing aids. According to Healthy Hearing, there are typically two kinds of dehumidifiers. One is a plastic jar that includes a desiccant; that desiccant slowly draws out moisture overnight. The other is a unit that uses ultraviolet light and air to dry out the moisture and sanitize the hearing aids at the same time. Talk to your audiologist about which one is right for you.

Remove the batteries every night and leave the compartment open to air out. Clean the battery and the compartment with the brush. If you can’t remove the batteries, make sure to dock the hearing aids to recharge (do what the manufacturer’s instructions say).

Finally, take your hearing aids to your audiologist for professional cleaning on a regular basis. They can use small specialized cleaning items, such as vacuums, to get out any wax buildup and debris that you can’t get out yourself.

Hearing Loss and Fall Risk are Connected

Did you know that those with mild hearing loss are nearly 3 times more likely to have a history of falling than those with no hearing loss?[4] But it might not be just the hearing loss that is the culprit. Those with hearing loss often have problems with their inner ear, which can affect balance. It’s also possible that those who have hearing loss struggle to process information about what they are hearing (or not hearing), which can create cognitive stress. That can lead to the brain focusing strongly on one task, such as hearing sounds, and not paying as much attention to other tasks, such as proper balance[5].

For seniors with hearing loss, a medical alert pendant or bracelet (wristband) is a smart choice. Alert systems for elderly adults are affordable and come in many styles for different budgets and activity levels.

As with hearing aids, you should wear an Alert1 Medical Alert all the time. Hearing aids, emergency response solutions, mobility aids, and more are great ways to keep you safer and healthier as you journey through your golden years.