If you recently purchased hearing aids and notice pain in one of your ears, there are three possibilities you should carefully consider: (1) the hearing aid does not fit your ear properly, (2) you have an infected ear, or (3) the hearing aid is not inserted correctly.
Wearing a pair of well-fitted hearing aids is like wearing a pair of comfortable tennis shoes. You don’t notice they’re on and you are in no hurry to take them off at the end of the day.
Like new tennis shoes, you need to “break in” hearing aids, i.e., you need to wear them 3 to 4 hours a day for a week or two to get used to them. It is unwise to try to wear them 10-15 hours a day the first week you get them.
If one of your ears hurts, you want to be sure the hearing aids are inserted correctly. Some people pull the hearing aid out a little if the “fit” feels too tight. This does not work! A hearing aid that is not placed correctly, completely in the ear can irritate the ear and cause pain.
If it is difficult to insert the hearing aid into your ear, put a few drops of baby oil on your finger. Then gently rub your finger in and around your ear canal so as to spread the oil over the ear and into the opening of the ear canal. The baby oil lubricates the skin and helps the hearing aid slip on easily.
You can also put a tiny amount of baby oil on the hearing aid before you insert it. But be sure to keep the oil well away from the opening of the sound tube. As was discussed a few weeks ago, you do not want to occlude the “sound opening” of the hearing aid.
Insertion and Removal of Hearing Aids
It should be easy for you to put your hearing aids on and to take them off. It’s a good idea to practice this task when you are in the hearing aid office working with your audiologist or hearing aid specialist.
Sometimes a hearing aid needs to be held in a specific position when you insert it. Other times you have to rotate the instrument when placing it in the ear. Your hearing aid professional will work with you until you are able to do this easily.
Bad Hearing Aid Fit
Occasionally hearing aids need to be rebuilt to get the fitting correct. This may sound like a major project, but it’s no big deal. Don’t get discouraged if it happens to you. The factory understands that making a hearing aid fit comfortably sometimes takes extra work. Keep working with your provider until the fitting is just right. And remember, your hearing aids should be completely comfortable to wear!
Irritation in the Ear: “Hot Spots”
Sometimes a hearing aid will create a “hot spot” (an irritation) in the ear. This happens when there is a bump or a ridge or some other high spot on the plastic case of the hearing aid that presses against the skin in the ear canal and causes a pressure point. These tend to be painful. That’s because the thin, sensitive skin in the ear canal is being squeezed between the hard plastic of the hearing aid and the hard cartilage under the skin.
If this happens to you, stop wearing the hearing aid. Locate the exact spot in your ear where you feel the irritation so you can show it to your hearing care provider. Look at the hearing aid, and gently probe the ear to find the spot where the “pressure point” is occurring.
Practitioners and hearing aid factories have a lot of experience eliminating pressure points. Sometimes the dispenser can grind down the case of the hearing aid to remove the source of the irritation. Other times we make a new impression of the patient’s ear and send it, along with the hearing aid, back to the factory for recasing.
Open Up the Ear for Easy Hearing Aid Insertion
Some patients have difficulty inserting a hearing aid because their ear canal has a sharp bend. If you have this problem, the solution is usually easy: Put a little baby oil on the ear, and with one hand pull the ear open as you insert the instrument. This straightens out the ear canal and makes it much easier to insert the hearing aid. Then, using the forefinger on your other hand push the hearing aid into the ear.
Once you start wearing hearing aids, you will be using them many hours a day. Work with your professional to make sure they are comfortable. Use the comfortable level of a pair of tennis shoes as a guide. Enjoy.
Robert Martin, PhD, dedicated more than 20 years to his influential “Nuts & Bolts” column in a leading industry trade journal prior to writing for Hearing Health & Technology Matters. His expertise was so valued that a collection of the “Best of Nuts & Bolts” was published in paperback by Williams & Wilkins, attaining notable success.
*this article originally appeared in February 2013, and has been lighted edited for clarity