Nitty-Gritty Tips from a Hearing Aid User

I don’t pretend to be a hearing care professional. But for anyone looking for non-biased, trial-and-error insider advice about hearing aids, I reckon that experience is worth at least a year or two of audiology courses. Maybe even a degree. Because after almost 40 years of hearing aid use, I’ve learned an important thing or two about hearing aids.

 

10 Tips for Hearing Aid Users

 

#1: After you have a shower, or go swimming, or after any activity where your ears have been underwater, wait half an hour before putting in your hearing aid. The ear canal and surrounding areas should be as dry as possible to prevent moisture steaming up your technology. Wet stuff is simply not good for expensive aids and cochlear implants.

Should you, unfortunately, soak your head with your hearing aids in – being caught in a downpour, perhaps, or having your head submersed in the toilet (we won’t ask) – you need to act quickly. The first step is remove your ears from the water as soon as possible.  Then, remove the battery and place the aid in a dry-aid kit. Do not use a hot air dryer, oven or microwave. As you sit watching it dry out for a few hours, keep your fingers tightly crossed, as if in prayer. If the hearing aid fails to work after that, or if you hear static, call your hearing care provider. Good luck.

 

#2: Do not believe your audiologist when she tells you not to put anything in your ear that’s smaller than your elbow. She doesn’t really mean it. After all, the hearing aid she sold me is significantly smaller than my elbow. Apart from that, you can believe everything else she says. Hang on…is that $4000 latest hearing aid marvel really the best and only one suitable for your hearing loss? Ask questions.

 

#3: While you’re at it, ask about telecoils (t-switch), because your hearing instrument specialist may forget to mention it. If he says you don’t need telecoils, ask why. He may say, “Well, you should buy an accessibility kit designed to connect your aid to your TVs, phones and doorbells.” Then you can say, “Well, isn’t that nice – but sometimes I like to leave the house and I’ve heard the t-switch will connect me in all sorts of places.” And then add, “Since I’m already paying a small fortune for this hearing aid, why not throw in that handy-dandy house kit for free?”

 

#4: When you take out your hearing aids or CI, always put them in a safe place, and preferably the same place.  

The safe thing: I put my first-ever hearing aid on my bedside table, where it lay naked and open to the elements. One such element was a very large dog, who ate it. Most of it, anyway; I was able to retrieve bits of springs, screws and casing that clung from the curly hairs around his doggie-mouth. Since that night, my hearing aids sleep in a dry-aid jar.

Putting technology in the same place cuts down on the inevitable panic when you can’t find it. I’m reminded of this every year when I watch a certain CI user, my friend and perennial roommate at hearing loss conferences, looking for her batteries in a cluttered hotel room. She eventually finds them, but the show is always entertaining.

 

#5: Every time you get new hearing aids, it will be like the first time. Everything will be loud. People chewing their food sound like pigs at a trough. A human nose whistles like a steam engine. The clattering of knives and forks will send you through the roof and you’ll ask your family to eat with their hands. What I’m saying is – brace yourself. Things will be quieter in a month. But then, because sounds aren’t as loud, you’ll worry that the technology has destroyed a few more decibels of your hearing. Trust me, it hasn’t.

 

#6: Show the love to your hearing aids and CIs, and they’ll love you back. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Regardless, a beautiful and mutually respectful relationship is definitely possible; like any relationship – there’s good stuff and the not so great stuff. There will be days when you think, I’m so done with this! But persevere because, if you need them, life is better with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

 

#7: When you see a stranger with hearing technology, pause a moment before commenting. Pointing to your own ears and saying, “Hi there, harda-hearing too, eh?” is to risk a negative reaction. He or she may be at a different stage of the hearing loss journey, and having their aids or implant pointed out might be embarrassing or grumpy-making. But if you feel comfortable in making the connection, your positive attitude may just make that person’s day – and yours.

 

#8: Here’s what a cranky spouse-parent-friend should not say to a person with hearing loss who’s struggling in a conversation: “Have you got your hearing aids in?!”  Because we usually do, and when we say, “Uh, yes”, what’s your next line going to be?

 

#9: Don’t try to repair your own hearing devices unless you have taken a course. You can change batteries and wax guards, and use that little brush to clean the outside. But do not, under any circumstances, open it up and use tweezers to remove what looks to you like simple debris. There’s a high probability the guck is attached to a trip wire that will destroy the whole damn thing. Another no-no is putting the bottom of an in-the-ear aid between your lips and trying to suck out the earwax.  You may get more than you expected. 

 

#10: If you don’t yet use any technology, learn about your hearing loss. Learn about hearing aids and other technology.  Get some.  And then, read this again or call me, I’m here for ya.

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

15 Comments

  1. I’m glad that you mentioned that even if you don’t need hearing aids yet, it is good to do research about hearing aids and learn more about your hearing loss. My mother is starting to show signs of hearing loss and I think she may need a hearing aid. This information will be helpful to me as I look for a good doctor to take her to.

  2. These are wonderful tips, how I wish I had them when my daughter first got her hearing aids. May I share them with my Hands and Voices parents.

    Thanks,

    BK

  3. Once I put my hearing aid aside my night table which had a plant with a dish on the bottom. In the morning woke up and realized the hearing aid soaked in the wet dish. of course, hearing aid is damaged. Another time just recently, I dropped the little gizmo by the car before heading to the slopes. Came back and realized its gone and 4″ of snow covered the ground. I prayed and set a report for lost and found. Less than a week later got a phone call, it was found. Totally intact and not run over by cars. Now to test if it works? It worked, I kept put it in the dry aid every night for a long time. Anytime sport is involved, find a real safe place in the car before venturing out and change the ear wax plugs periodically.
    LOL, real funny article Gael.

  4. I play tennis in Florida and I sweat a lot. I rusted out a fairly expensive new hearing aid in a matter of weeks because not one if my audiologists told me that it’s not enough to put it in your dry aid box after you play or at the end of the day. It took a friend who is an audiologist (not mine, unfortunately) to tell me that there’s a handy little plastic sheath you can put on your hearing aid called a “super seal” (it comes in different sizes) with a gizmo to make putting it on a cinch, that will protect your expensive investment if you’re active.

  5. Great tips!! Yup, my poodle liked my hearing aid as well!! Twice actually! I hear its the ear mold part they like best, rubbery and good knawing material. The second time it happened, I happen to fall asleep on the couch, with aids on, falling asleep on the couch with hearing aids in is something that never happens to me. When I lay down and there’s chance to fall asleep, them babies come out of the ear! The second time it happened, I had to hide my hearing aids from my husband, really felt my poor poodle woulda been killed…..even thou it was part my fault. It’s an expensive product and well the dog for the most part isn’t. Safe to say she did live her years, a whole 16 of them!! Also, if that should happen, you may get your hearing aid replaced for a few bucks…check on price, I think I paid 100. back then. I wasn’t aware, and for days was sick to my stomach how I was gonna come up with a big stash of money for a new one.
    #1….this is good information. I wasn’t even aware of that. And have worn hearing aids for 35 years!!! It sure makes sense thou. I will say after showering, I never put my hearing aids back on because, I always blow dry my hair right after. But Thank You for that tip!!
    #7 I am bad for this! I always acknowledge someone when I see a hearing aid in there ear, or implants. I automatically go in that mode…..Just like me! Have a new friend. But your right, it may be fresh and they may still be a adapting. Good tip!

      1. When the telecoil switch is in MT mode (Microphone/Telecoil), the microphones remain open while you are listening to the speak/music etc transferred to your hearing aids’ telecoils via the tele loop installed. Thus, you can hear the ambiance and join a conversation. This mode can be programmed by the audiologist into most hearing aids with a telecoil.
        Whether you prefer MT or T only often depends of your degree og hearing loss as the sounds picked up by the microphones can appear disturbing. You can have both a T and a MT mode in your hearing aids, so you can select between them.

  6. Telecoils may already be installed but never turned on by your hearing health provider because they did not know how or worst yet made the decision that it is not necessary. Test your new hearing aids with telecoils on with the hearing aid compatible phone in your hearing health providers office. We have members in our chapter who never realized they had telecoils in their hearing aids. Great article Gael!

  7. Excellent tips!!

    #1- if you’re really stuck, a cup of uncooked rice can serve as a backup to the dry aid kit. Not as good, but in case of emergency!
    #5 & 9- Amen, Gael!

  8. i look forward to the book you will write someday. it amazes me how you come up with such interesting tidbits about the life of a hearing aid user.

  9. Yay Gael! Yes “T-Switch” is critical! I am always flabbergasted when I find out that the majority (and yes in the US it is the majority) of Hearing Instrument Tehnologist and Audiologist do not inform their patients about telecoil and worse yet many are clueless themselves!

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