Really, how many old hearing aid molds does a person need to keep?
The Hearing Husband and I recently sold the house we’d lived in for 16 years, and it was time to clean out the Stuff We Don’t Need. It was an excruciatingly slow process, the drawer-to-drawer, closet-to-closet search of accumulated things, deciding what to keep and what to throw out. Towards the end of the cull, you’re cranky and start pitching out anything you can’t brush your teeth with or wear to this year’s Christmas party.
Then, pay dirt! Literally. I discovered my cache of old hearing aid pieces that I’d forgotten I was hoarding—the brownest, most disgusting things I’d come across so far. The archeological find revealed five ear molds, circa pre-1994, which is when I switched to CICs (completely in the canal hearing aids), two sets of green molds that manufacturers use to make the aids, four sets of CICs, and various tiny cleaning utensils that, of course, I could never find when I needed them! Missing from the cache were the actual behind-the-ear (BTE) technical pieces, which I must have donated to charitable organizations for repurposing. Accounted for was the hearing aid the dog ate; the screws, springs and plastic bits surviving that midnight munch had not been worth keeping.
These old ear molds and CICs gave me a pang of nostalgia, especially the detachable BTE ear molds. I’d loved wearing them; they always fit like a second skin and through the years I’d spent many happy minutes blowing moisture bubbles out of the plastic tubing.
Sitting on my bedroom floor with decades of brittle hearing technology in my hands, I remembered those good times, as well as the silly dangers to which I’d exposed my hearing aids. Miraculously, most had survived the attacks and passed away of old age. By my calculation, 1 hearing aid year = 16 human years, but here are a few of the stupid things that anybody can do to shorten the lifespan of their hearing aids.
- Wear them into the shower. At almost the exact same moment that you think, “My, that sounds like a pretty waterfall”, reality hits and you jump out of the shower, taking the shower curtain with you. This happens fast, a split nano-second of time, because the potential drowning of $4000 worth of hearing aids is the only thing that could make you move that quickly—especially naked.
- Take your hearing aids out before you get into the shower. Such a smart girl—you didn’t leave them on the bedside table like you did for that big doggie to eat. You put them in your dry aid, which is on the bed with your clean clothes, awaiting your return. One small detail—you forgot to put the lid back on. And your cats are bored…and looking for something to play with…..
- Try to clean them yourself. As I mentioned in Nitty Gritty Tips from a Hearing Aid User, trying to perform a delicate operation for which you have no training is guaranteed to end badly. You just couldn’t wait for the audiologist’s office to open the next day and it seemed a simple enough task to use a needle to pull out the tubing that had receded, sucked by a buildup of wax, into the interior of the aid, eliminating something that was important to the aid letting you hear. As they say in my country – quelle stupide!
- Take them out to scratch your ear. In a dark movie theater. With popcorn-buttery hands. Seriously.
- Go scuba diving. This didn’t happen to me, but to my good friend Brian on a recent trip to Peru.
Brian: “You’re not going to tell this story in your column, are you?”
Me: “Of course not.”
Brian is new to hearing loss and he has those tiny, open fit hearing aids that are lighter than air and almost invisible to the eye. Even Brian’s. He went scuba diving with his wife and had a marvelous time looking at the lovely fishies. But when he got back to his hotel room he realized that his hearing aids had also swum with the fish—and one had floated away, presumably swallowed by something with fins.
But, praise be to Neptune! The other one was still in his ear, most likely held there by his tight scuba mask. Brian is a scientist and he jerry-rigged a dry aid using a jar and some rice. And after a few hours – the hearing aid worked! He was able to enjoy the rest of his vacation, although with somewhat lopsided hearing.
Back in Toronto, he went to his audiologist to discuss his hearing aids, both the lost one and the one he’d salvaged which was now not working too well. (Ya think? After being immersed in salt water for an hour?) I’m not sure that he confessed the full story to the audie, but turns out all it needed was a wax guard replacement. I should be so lucky; if that had happened to me, the hearing aid would have died and the replacement cost would be $2000, not a wax guard.
Being the envious type, I take some consolation in the fact that Brian and I have the same hearing care professional—and she reads this blog.
Take care of your hearing aids, people—they’re precious and fragile. Even if you don’t like wearing them, you’d miss them when they were gone.