Proper maintenance tips for your hearing instruments
May 28, 2021
Like all things in life, hearing instruments perform better and last longer if they are serviced and maintained. Inside of all hearing instruments is certain components. Some instruments may have a few more components than others, however; they all have to have certain features to process sound.
To break down the "simple" functioning of your hearing instrument let's look at it. Every hearing Instrument HAS to have five main components. First, there is the microphone. If you look at the outside of the case you will see either around a very small hole or slit. Often they are covered by a raised piece of plastic to protect them. The microphone is where sound enters the hearing aid. The microphone opening and mesh grid can collect wax, dried skin, oils, and even salt from sweating. Every morning you should turn the aid upside down and use a soft brush (usually provided at the time of purchase) and brush off the opening. If it is clogged even a little bit then the sound does not enter properly and therefore can not be amplified properly.
As the sound passes thru the microphone it converts the sound waves to electrical impulses and is processed by a computer microchip. Advanced hearing aids are computers in your ears. Your environmental sounds are evaluated by the sound processors that are controlled by the multi-core processor and together with the amplifier they send the signal out the other end of your hearing aid and into your ear.
One very important component that must be in place for this to work is of course... A power source. Either batteries or a rechargeable system. If they run on battery power then the batteries are Zinc-Air. They have tiny little holes in them with a tab that has to be peeled off to activate them. Batteries have changed in the last few years. It used to be that you just peeled off the tab, put it in and you were good to go! That was when the batteries had zinc and a little trace amount of Mercury in them. A couple of years ago, the FDA ruled that batteries could no longer contain mercury. This caused all sorts of problems. The outcome: "when you peel the tab on the battery you must wait 1-2 minutes to properly activate the battery". Failing to allow this wait time WILL affect the functioning capabilities of your hearing aid. For example, if you don't let the battery activate, the aid may shut on & off, the power level may surge up and down... seemingly fading out. Also, do not put the batteries in the refrigerator. This causes condensation and can cause corrosion in the hearing aid.
If your hearing aid is rechargeable then the most common is the Lithium-Ion system. With Starkey Hearing Technologies there is a lithium-ion cell in the hearing aid as well as in the charger itself. That way...if we lose power the charger can supply power to the hearing aid for several days and you can enjoy hearing. That being said; it is important to remember to wipe off the charging contacts on both the aids and the charger to make sure moisture and debris do not build up. You should bring in your charger during your semi-annual cleaning appointments so that we can clean and check it along with your hearing aids.
Finally, the aid has to have a "receiver". The receiver is located closest to the eardrum. It is a speaker. It receives the processed signal and sends it into the ear canal. For the sound to come out... it must also be cleaned. Every morning, use the wax hoop/pick, or brush and clean out the end. Some will have a replaceable wax trap that is usually changed as needed or once per month. It is recommended to clean the aid in the morning because if there is wax in the aid then overnight it will dry out and brush out easily. Daily wipe off your hearing aid with a dry paper towel or you may also purchase disinfecting cleaning for your hearing center.
In addition, you should have your hearing health care provider clean and check your hearing aids and inspect your ears for wax at least every 6 months. If you are a heavy sweater or produce a fair amount of ear wax then your schedule should be adjusted appropriately. To Hear Better Is to Live Better!