Helpful Tools, Helpful Suggestions

Bob Martin
September 18, 2013

Let me ask you a question.  As a hearing health care professional, when you send a new CIC (completely-in-the-canal) hearing aid to the factory for repair, do you check it when it comes back? And if you find that it’s ‘dead’, what do you do?  Be careful how you answer; you may be surprised.

This happened to me twice recently. The first time, the ‘test’ battery was dead and the next two new batteries we took out of the battery package were defective as well. The hearing aid was okay. We were just dealing with some bad batteries.

The second time it happened, the hearing aid automatic-turn-on function had been set to 18 seconds. I never use a long “delayed turn-on function,” so I was not expecting this. The apparently ‘dead’ hearing aid started working (actually it went into feedback) when we put it into the box to send it back. We spent some more time checking the instrument and found the change in the programming code. So, as these two incidents reminded me, problems are not always what they seem.

One lesson that the first ‘dead’ hearing aid pointed out,  is that we all need to have an old fashioned battery tester. A battery tester saves us time, energy, and can even save our sanity! Don’t automatically trust new batteries. You occasionally run into a defective one.



On a related topic, how do you teach patients to check the battery in their hearing aids? A lot of patients will put in a new battery.  If the aid doesn’t work, they try another new battery; the aid is still dead, so they try another battery, thinking all these batteries must be defective.

There is a better way! Most people wear two hearing aids. If one of them is ‘dead’, the patient should be taught to take the ‘good’ battery out of the functioning hearing aid and use it as a test battery in the ‘dead’ aid. If the ‘dead’ aid starts working, the patient has a battery problem—not a dead hearing aid. But if the aid does not start working, the patient has a hearing aid problem. The patient should put the ‘good’ battery back in the ‘good ‘hearing aid and bring the ‘bad’  hearing aid to you for help.



One of the most useful tools I own is a Welch Allyn fiber-optic otoscope. I’ve probably purchased 20 of them over the years.

The otoscope is designed for looking into the human ear, and it does that task well. However, as hearing aids have become smaller and smaller, and my eyes weaker and weaker, I find myself using the otoscope for another purpose –  to look into the domes of RIC hearing aids to see if the super-tiny openings are closed or open.

Also, patients often come back to the office with a hearing aid that is dead because the sound bore is plugged up. Sometimes they don’t believe that because their ear is clean or they recently had the hearing aid repaired.

In these cases I teach the patient, and the family member with the patient, how to use an otoscope. I then have them look into the sound bore and see the impacted wax. The old saying, ‘seeing is believing’ certainly applies in this situation.

  1. We use a video otoscope and get the image of the wax blockage up on the screen. It makes it easier for everyone to see.

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