Cleaning & care of hearing aids

Hearing aids are small, electronic devices that operate in conditions that are both warm and damp. Conditions that most electronics don't like. After making a large investment in being able to hear better, it makes a lot of sense for you to keep them in best shape possible by cleaning and maintaining them at home.

The hearing aid manufacturers take great efforts to ensure your hearing aid will keep on keeping on. However, if you don't do your part, those hearing aids will fail. In many cases a failure may well end up needing to be sent away for repair. This could leave you without your hearing aid for up to two weeks depending on how busy the repair centres are. This is a major hassle, in my experience people who have become used to better hearing with their hearing aids hate to be without them. It really upsets them, so the key is to maintain your hearing aids as much as possible to avoid any hassle.

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Avoid hearing aid repairs

Hearing aids do fail, it is a fact of life, electronic components can fail, and they certainly will with age and constant use. But you can take steps to avoid that failure for as long as possible. Those steps should be incorporated in a good daily clean and care routine. Most of the time I was in Practice, the failures I saw were receiver (loud speaker part) or microphone failures. It was exceptionally rare to see anything else within a hearing aid fail. Both of these components are the most exposed in every hearing aid. They are the components that need daily attention. Some hearing aid types are more prone to possible failure than others, you can read about the different types of hearing aids and their pros and cons here

Hearing Aid care and maintenance

So let's get to the meat, how can you best take care of your aids, I will discuss each type of aid and each step that needs to be taken. If I miss anything, let me know. Likewise, if you have some good tips yourself, don't hesitate to contact us. Before we move on here is some quick tips for hearing aid nirvana:

  • Follow a daily routine
  • Clean the hearing aids giving attention to the receivers and microphones
  • Dry out your hearing aids

Quick tip:

Never use alcohol, solvents or cleaning agents on your hearing aids. Special care products for cleaning like hearing aid wipes and sprays are available and should be used.

Cleaning of hearing aids and cleaning tools

Cerustop wax guards for hearing aids

You should clean your hearing aid every day, every manufacturer supplies a cleaning kit with their hearing aids. It will usually include a wax brush, a wax pick and a cloth. These tools are designed to help you care for your aids and using them properly will help to keep your aids going. Hearing aid manufacturers have also designed filters to protect receivers in the case of RIC and ITE hearing aids. You will also get at least one pack of these with your hearing aids. Use Them, the proper use of wax filters (sometimes called wax caps) will protect your receiver and keep it going longer. 

Quick Tip:

Earwax & moisture kills hearing aids, wax guards are there for a reason, use them!

The biggest cause of failure is wax and moisture getting into the receivers or the microphones of hearing aids. If you change your wax guards when they need to be changed you can avoid much of this problem. 

When do wax guards need to be changed?

I am sorry, but the honest answer is how long is a piece of string? Each person is different, I have seen Patients who only needed to replace their wax guards once every six months, I have seen other Patients that needed to change them every month. It depends on wax production in the ear canal. Generally as a rule of thumb, if your wax guard is full of wax that doesn't fall out when brushed, it is time to replace it. If you don't, that wax will eventually make it into the sound tube and then the receiver. 

Cleaning and maintenance of an ITE and RIC hearing aid

ITE hearing aids in particular need daily attention, as do RIC hearing aids. The reason for this is that the receiver lives in the ear in both devices. As I said earlier, these devices are equipped with wax guards that you need to pay special attention to. So let's break down the steps you need to take and when you should take them:

Quick tip:

Many people try to clean their aid at the end of the day, I always recommended doing it in the morning after drying it overnight. That way the wax is dry and easier to remove.

  1. Place your hearing aids in a drying device at the end of the day, this will allow moisture to be removed from both the electronics and any wax or debris gathered on the aid. 
  2. The next morning, have a good look at the microphone inlets and the reciver end of the hearing aids. Get yourself a magnifying glass if you need to for this. The details and placement of these areas will be in your owner's manual or your hearing professional will show you. 
  3. Concentrate on cleaning the receiver and microphone ports using the soft-bristle brush that came in the cleaning kit. When you do it in the morning, the wax should be dried out and easy to move especially after drying out over night.
  4. To clean off built-up wax, hold the hearing aid and gently clean the openings with the wax brush. The dried debris should be loose enough to be cleaned away. 
  5. If there is still wax in the ports that hasn't been dis-lodged, you can use your wax pick (again, usually included in your cleaning kit) to clear more stubborn deposits out of the ports. Be careful here, don't jab the pick in, just use it gently.
  6. Check your battery compartment and the battery contacts for wax or debris, if there is any brush it off.
  7. Finish by wiping the entire hearing aid with the cloth provided. This will remove leftover debris from the hearing aid.
  8. Assess your wax guard, if it looks like it needs changing, change it out. If you change your wax guard when needed it will go a long way towards reducing failures. 
  9. Lastly, give your hearing aids a good visual once over, with ITEs, check the casing and any joins for any signs of cracks or issues. With RIC devices check the receiver wire, make sure there is no kinks or twists that may lead to the failure of the wire. 

Cleaning & Maintenance of BTE hearing aids

BTE hearing aids are much harder to kill, however, you still need to clean and maintain them. Drying them is as important as it is for ITE and RIC aids. The maintenance is similar but different. So let's break down the steps you need to take and when you should take them: 

Quick tip:

Drying is as important for BTEs as any other hearing aid, especially the tubes. 

  1. Place your hearing aids in a drying device at the end of the day, this will allow moisture to be removed from both the electronics and any wax or debris gathered on the aid. 
  2. Occasionally when needed, remove the earmold and tube (if you have one) from the hook and clean it with soapy water. If your BTE has a thin tube, remove the thin tube and use the supplied wire (like a hair thin pipe cleaner) to push through the tube. This will remove any debris. 
  3. Use an air blower to force water out of the tube and then place the tubing in the drying kit with your hearing aid to dry overnight. 
  4. The next morning, have a good look at the microphone inlets of the hearing aids. again a magnifying glass can be helpful. The details and placement of these areas will be in your owner's manual or your hearing professional will show you. 
  5. Concentrate on cleaning around the microphone ports and any other user controls like programme buttons or volume controls.Use the soft-bristle brush that came in the cleaning kit. Again, doing this in the morning is the ideal time, the wax should be dried out and easy to move especially after drying out over night.
  6. To clean off built-up wax, hold the hearing aid and gently clean it with the wax brush. The dried debris should be loose enough to be cleaned away. 
  7. If there is still wax in the ports that hasn't been dislodged, you can use your wax pick (again, usually included in your cleaning kit) to clear more stubborn deposits. Be careful here, don't jab the pick in, just use it gently.
  8. Check your battery compartment and the battery contacts for wax or debris, if there is any brush it off.
  9. Finish by wiping the entire hearing aid with the cloth provided. This will remove leftover debris from the hearing aids.
  10. Lastly, give your hearing aids a good visual once over, check the casing and any joins for any signs of cracks or issues. 

Drying out hearing aids

Drying tub for hearing aidsI have spoken several times about drying out your hearing aids on this page, I should explain the process and what you can use to do it. 

Hearing aid dryers

Hearing aid drying equipment comes in all shapes and sizes from the very cheap to moderately expensive. It is one of the single most important investments you will make if you buy a hearing aid. Moisture build up in hearing aids cause real issues and failures and it is generally easy to avoid. 

Hearing aid drying cups and tablets

Probably the simplest and cheapest form of hearing aid drying available but still very effective. It is simply a jar / cup with a sealable lid to which you drop a drying tablet into. Every night you screw the lid off, drop your hearing aids in and seal it. The tablets are designed to suck moisture out of the air and your hearing aids. In the morning, take your hearing aids out (don't forget to seal the lid again) and voila, dry hearing aids. It is a simple process, easy to do and will save you real money in repair costs, so why wouldn't you do it?

Widex DRy n Go drying stationElectronic hearing aid dryers

Yes you guessed it, hearing aid dryers you plug in. They come with different functionality, some will still use drying tablets or bricks, some don't. Some will dry your hearing aids and disinfect them using UV light, some won't. Many of them are designed to be portable, so you can bring them with you on trips. 

Widex introduced a drying station late last year, they call it the Dry N Go. It is a portable electronic drying and disinfecting station. You can see it to the right. There are several available on the market though. 

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