Are your hearing aids ready for fun in the sun?
It’s that time of year again, the time when many of us head to warmer climates to wait out the last dregs of winter and escape the March mud and slush. You’ve made it through a long cold winter with your hearing aids intact, so you’ll want to be sure your spring break plans don’t damage your hearing aids.
With many people choosing to head to south this spring, one of the more popular destinations is Florida. According to Visit Florida, more than 23 million people in the U.S. traveled to The Sunshine State from January through the end of March of 2015. Arizona and Hawaii also draw their fair share of spring break travelers. But wherever you go, whether it is Maui to the Magic Kingdom to Marco Island, heat, water and temperature changes are of special concern when it comes to your hearing devices. While you may be ready for fun in the sun, are your hearing aids ready as well?
Protection from water, oil, sweat, salt and sand
The fact is that many of the most popular spring break activities, especially those at the beach or the pool, can damage or destroy hearing aids. Water, oil, salt, sweat and sand can corrode contact points, destroy the microphone and receiver and clog tubes. Fortunately some hearing aid manufacturers are one step ahead, and have already taken measures to ensure your hearing aids are suitable for an active, warm outdoors environment.
One example of hearing aid protection is a special process called nano-coating, which protects against moisture and other heat elements which might be harmful to hearing aids.
What is nano-coating? Nano-coating is a liquid repellant that was first developed for the military. The idea was to keep moisture and toxic liquid substances from penetrating uniforms. It works by lowering an object’s surface energy, causing the liquid to adhere to itself rather than to the surface. As a result the liquid beads up on contact and rolls off instead of being absorbed. One thousand times thinner than a human hair, the nano-coating is also invisible. As with many innovations, the military application soon spread to consumer electronic goods including hearing aids.
"You look at it and you can't see any change," said Stephen Coulson, the chemical engineer at P2i who developed the technology. "But when you drop water on it, it will just bead up and drop off. More importantly, the internals will also be protected to prevent corrosion damage."
The good news is that as of 2013, 60 percent of the world’s hearing aids offered at least some nano-coating protection. But remember, even if your hearing aids do have it, not all nano-coating technology is created equal. Some manufacturers only apply the coating to certain products. Other manufacturers only apply it to certain parts of the device. Still other hearing devices are thoroughly coated, both inside and out, which offers the highest level of protection against the elements.
Before you head off to sunny shores or verdant golf courses this spring, here are some important questions to ask when assessing your hearing aids’ moisture resistant potential:
- Do your hearing aids have nano-coating, and at what level?
- Are the tubes made of materials which are resistant to sweat and moisture?
- Is the receiver protected from substances such as moisture and earwax?
- Is the amplifier sealed in water-proof material?
- Are your hearing aids labeled “water resistant” or “water-proof?" Because water resistant hearing aids resist but do not entirely prevent water from penetrating.
Protection from wind
Wind noise is another factor to consider if much of your spring break getaway will be spent in outdoor activities. Whether you are playing golf, sailing, hiking or just walking on the beach there is a likelihood that rushing wind noise could interfere with your ability to hear the sounds you want to hear. This is where a feature called wind noise reduction comes in handy. Some hearing aids have special features that reduce the wind noise while enhancing other sounds.
Some hearing aid users opt to use tiny completely-in-the-canal (CIC) models which place the microphone inside the ear, effectively reducing wind noise. But those CIC hearing aids can be difficult to handle and maneuver, and many people prefer to stick with their behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids. If you go that route, you can still purchase windscreens or windhoods that cover the microphone, significantly reducing the effect of the wind.
Whether it is special setting for a windy environment, adjusting the microphone placement or purchasing accessories that will reduce the wind noise in your hearing aids, your hearing healthcare professional can give you advice on the best way to go about making sure wind noise doesn’t affect your planned activities.
Fun in the sun accessories
If your hearing aids don’t have nano-coating, or if you just want an extra level of protection from the elements, consider these accessories that will help protect your hearing aids during your spring break getaway and beyond.
- Sweat bands, which are essential moisture wicking pouches that easily slip over your behind the ear hearing aids
- Portable dehumidifier or drying kit
- A portable water-proof safe to protect hearing aids at the beach or pool
- Hearing aid sleeves, which are neoprene covers that slip over your hearing aids and offer protection from dust, sand and water
- Water resistant covers for hearing aids (not water proof, however)
Let your hearing healthcare professional know about any hobbies or planned activities that would require your hearing aids to be water repellant, or ask what level of protection your existing hearing aids have. He or she can help you make an informed decision about purchasing new hearing aids or modifying your existing hearing aids with water repellant or water-proof accessories.