Hearing Aid Maintenance
Over the years I have tried to evaluate why some people are unsuccessful with hearing aids. There are a number of reasons, but one is hearing aid maintenance. I have heard from patients over the years that they stopped wearing their hearing aids because they “kept breaking down”. Hearing aids need regular check-ups at the audiologists office and regular maintenance at home between those visits.
There are three parts of a hearing aid that patients need to learn how to maintain and they are
1. The battery which powers the hearing aid;
2. the microphone where the sound enters the hearing aid and
3. the receiver where the amplified sound is delivered to the ear canal.
Most hearing aids today give their user a “beeping sound” when the battery is getting low on power, indicating that the battery needs to be changed. The mechanism is similar to that of a smoke detector. When a hearing aid stops working, the battery is the first thing I check. Occasionally you can get a bad battery or the patient did not hear the warning beeps and was not aware that the battery needed to be changed. In some cases, when the patient continues to have difficulties identifying when a battery needs to be changed, I will give him/her a battery tester. That usually solves the problem.
All hearing aids have microphones and those microphones are exposed to dust, dirt and debris. It is not unusual for a patient to come in with a hearing aid that is not working and I simply clean the microphone and the aids starts working again. Microphones therefore need to be cleaned regularly. I supply my patients with a brush that is used to clean the microphone. Some hearing aids use filters to cover the microphones and either I change those at our regular visits or I teach my patient how to do that if they end up having problems between visits. Each patient is different so maintenance needs to be customized.
The receiver opening is in the ear canal and delivers the amplified sound to the ear. If this gets dirty or plugged, the hearing aid will stop working. Most custom, In-the-Ear (ITE) style hearing aids use filters that allow the sound to be delivered to the ear and prevent wax from entering the hearing aid. The filter should be regularly brushed and changed. Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aids either have all the electronics behind the ear or some of the newer BTEs have the receiver in the ear as well as some of the electronics behind the ear. When the receiver is in the ear, the aid usually has a filter. If all of the electronics is behind the ear, than a cleaning tool is provided to keep the earmold that delivers the sound clean.
I usually bring my patients back once a week until they master all the skills that are needed to become successful hearing aid users. Maintaining ones hearing aids is not difficult, but it must be practiced. An individualized maintenance plan for both follow-up in the office and at home needs to be developed to ensure good reliable performance of a hearing aid(s).