Hearing aids are expensive. Once you’ve purchased a pair of hearing aids, you want that investment to last as long as possible. The truth of the matter, though, is that the average life expectancy of hearing aids, according to most manufacturers, is five to seven years. It’s been my experience that a five to seven year life span is generous at best. Although it’s true that you can extend the life of your hearing aids with regular care and maintenance, in general you can plan to replace each pair every three to five years and only every seven years if luck is on your side.
So, how do you know when it’s time to replace your hearing aids?
If you’ve been wearing the same hearing aid for more than a few years, it may be time to discuss new technology with your hearing healthcare provider. Hearing aid technology improves rapidly. In fact, most of the top manufacturers will release a significantly improved product over their previous generation product approximately every 18 months. Most recently, technology improvements have generally focused on improved hearing in background noise, smaller packaging and wireless connectivity. There have also been some amazing advancements for those who experience ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, and for single sided deafness. If you are unhappy with the sound quality of your hearing aids or if you feel they aren’t able to handle the listening situations you are most commonly exposed to, it’s possible that new technology advancements will be able to help. The best thing to do is to talk with your audiologist about what’s new in hearing aids. She will be able to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.
Another reason to replace your hearing aids is if they have started to need more repairs. Hearing aids have mechanical working parts. These parts will stop working at some point and must be replaced in order to return the hearing aid back to working condition. With an older hearing aid, especially those over five years old, repairs become more frequent and this can become cost prohibitive. In addition, older hearing aids may only receive a 90-day or 6-month warranty on a repair. If the hearing aid stops working again and the hearing aid is not covered under warranty, you’ll have to pay another repair charge. In an older hearing aid, saving money you would have spent on a repair and investing it into a new, more advanced technology may be the better long-term solution.
If you are thinking that it might be time to replace your hearing aids, talk with your audiologist. It’s our pleasure to be able to work alongside you to decide when or if it’s time to look into new hearing aids. We’ll discuss with you the pros and cons of replacement and the associated costs. And, in most cases, you can listen to some of the new technology while you’re in the office and decide what’s best for you. Call the office to make an appointment. We’d be glad to help.
One of the most common reasons for hearing aid malfunctions is moisture damage. This sort of damage is frustrating because, in most cases, the wearer didn’t get in the shower while wearing the hearing aid or accidently jump in the pool or get caught outside in a sudden downpour. In general, hearing aid wearers try very hard to protect their investment and follow their hearing healthcare provider’s advice for care and maintenance.
Hearing aid manufacturers are just as motivated to find a solution to moisture-related hearing aid failures as hearing aid wearers are. GNReSound, a hearing aid manufacturer that isn’t wet behind the ears in terms of hearing aid technology advancements has recently partnered with the company P2i, a world leader in liquid-repellent nano-coatings to develop iSolate nanotech. This thin protective covering, now found in all GNReSound hearing aids, promises to greatly decrease the number of hearing aid repairs due to moisture damage.
“Nano” is a Greek word meaning, “dwarf.” iSolate nanotech works by establishing a thin, protective shield on all internal and external components of the hearing aid. This protective barrier bonds to the hearing aid components at the molecular level, ensuring a thorough and complete covering of all components while continuing to allow sound to enter the system. GNReSound recently conducted a review of 50,000 hearing aids sold in the six months following the introduction of the protective coating. It found that the iSolate technology decreased moisture and debris related repairs by 50 percent.
The introduction of iSolate nanotech means that hearing aid wearers don’t have to worry about moisture raining on their parade. With GNReSound hearing aids, wearers can be assured that their instruments will remain in optimal working condition for much longer than hearing aids of the past, reducing the cost of long-term hearing aid use and improving overall satisfaction.
There are some simple home treatments that help keep your ear canals clear of wax and keep your hearing aids from malfunctioning when too much wax builds up. Here are some suggestions to continue experiencing uninterrupted optimal hearing, with or without hearing aids.
First, a few words of caution:
If you happen to have a hole in your eardrum, should never put any solutions in the ear unless directed by a doctor to do so. Also, there is a possibility that cold liquids placed in the ears can cause dizziness, so warm any solution to body temperate by holding the bottle in a closed hand for a few minutes before putting the solution into the ear canal. It may be best to have a family member assist with putting the drops in the ear to make sure the right amount is placed in the canal.
For monthly maintenance care:
There are some very effective over-the-counter cerumen (earwax) softening drops available. Debrox, by Johnson&Johnson is an effective solution if you follow the instructions closely. Another option that your Audiologist will recommend is called Audiologists Choice eardrops. Both products contain carbamide peroxide, a thicker relative of hydrogen peroxide. Using hydrogen peroxide can change the pH balance of the ear canal and cause itching and irritation. Using this close relative to hydrogen peroxide is generally a better a choice if excessive earwax is an ongoing issue.
It is not recommend that you use a bulb syringe or any other device to flush out the ears. The wax will come out on its own using the proper agent and by just giving it time. Using water to flush the ears could be painful and ultimately, counter-productive as the water can cause the wax to block off the ear completely, causing pain, itching and possibly temporary hearing loss.
For monthly preventative maintenance, using a few drops of mineral oil once a week in each ear promotes good ear canal skin moisturizing and keeps itching away. Putting these drops in your ears should be done in the evening after taking hearing aids out of the ears to prevent plugging up of the aids with the oil.
Each time you come into the office we’ll check your ears to make sure your canals are free of excessive earwax and to insure that your hearing aids are clear of wax as well. Keeping your ear canals and hearing aids wax free will not only help with better hearing acuity, but will prevent costly repairs a to check and keeping you hearing what you want to hear. Please give the office a call if you’d like us to take a look at your ear canals or your hearing aids. We’d love to help!
People using hearing aids frequently blame the hearing aids themselves when a break down happens or when they aren’t working properly. It can be extremely frustrating when the darn things are whistling or plain not working at all. Amazingly enough, most hearing aid breakdowns can actually be blamed on your own ears! Wax build up in the ear canal can cause all kinds of problems for hearing aids as well as for hearing!
When there is excessive wax in the ear canal, it can produce a barrier for sound that comes from the hearing aid. The wax barrier makes the sound bounce back to the microphone on the hearing aid, causing an annoying whistling sound. Wax can also plug up the hearing aid speaker port and make the sound quality change or cause the aid to completely stop working. The thing is, the wax accumulation may “plug up” the sound but in every other way, the hearing aid can be working perfectly fine. So, you see, wax accumulation in your ears may be your high tech hearing aid’s biggest obstacle to obtaining great hearing!
So how do you fix the problem?
Many people try to solve this problem by cleaning their ears with Q-tips, bobby pins, match sticks, or other sharp, pointy and otherwise inappropriate instruments of torture. Most of the time they push the majority of the wax deeper into the ear canal while risking injury to the sensitive skin of the canal. Irritating the skin of the ear canal can cause a dermatitis that makes the ears itch. This causes the person to want to clean their ear canal again and continue to irritate the sensitive skin in the canal. And so the cycle continues. Follow your own mother’s advice, don’t stick anything in your ear that’s bigger than your elbow!
Look for advice on home treatments in an upcoming article!
Have you noticed a decrease in the performance of your hearing aids? Do you ever feel that you just aren’t hearing as well with them as you would like? Here is the most important question: has it been more than six months since your last visit to your audiologist? Often times a routine clean and check of your hearing aids can make a world of difference in the sound quality they produce and sometimes, even in the power they provide. Regular in-house servicing can improve your hearing aid’s performance and functionality. Ultimately, you are likely to maintain the value and extend the life of your hearing aids by doing so.
Having a regularly scheduled checkup is important because hearing aids have several parts that should be cleaned or replaced regularly in order to maintain optimal performance. Filters and wax traps are designed to decrease the likelihood of moisture, dust and debris collecting on the microphones and receivers. With time, these filters will clog, which will diminish the sound quality. Often times it will seem as though the hearing aid has stopped working all together. Regular checkups will decrease the likelihood of this possibility.
One style in particular, the behind the ear (BTE) hearing aid requires regular maintenance because of its use of tubing to relay sound from the hearing aid to the ear canal. The ear mold tubing and the ear hooks that are the attachment point for the tubing require periodic replacement. As the tubing ages, it will become stiff and discolored. Replacing the tubing will provide more flexibility, comfort and a better fitting ear mold. Routine maintenance of these parts is a simple way to keep your hearing aids in good working order.
There is a lot that can be done at home on a daily basis as well. Here are some tips for maintaining your hearing aids:
1. Clean and disinfect your hearing aids daily to avoid buildup of wax and debris.
2. Turn the aids off when not in use.
3. Remove the hearing aids before using hair products.
4. Do not expose your hearing aids to excessive heat, moisture or humidity.
5. Do not wear your hearing aids while bathing, showering or swimming.
6. Keep away from heat sources such as stoves, heat registers, hair dryers or open flame.
7. Avoid dropping your hearing aids or allowing the instrument to be subjected to rugged handling.
8. Keep away from pets.
9. Keep fresh batteries in your hearing aids to avoid losing battery power unexpectedly.
10. Invest in a drying kit to remove moisture accumulation from daily wear.
Keeping these tips in mind and visiting our office every six months is extremely important to the functionality of your hearing aids and to your overall hearing healthcare. If it has been a while since you have been in to our office, please call to schedule a routine clean and check appointment. Maintaining the health of your hearing aids is the best way to maintain the value of your investment.