What you need to know about summer hearing aid care
After a long cold winter, we might welcome the warm temperatures but for hearing aids, summer is no picnic. The arrival of warm weather brings special concerns that require changes in how you care for your hearing aids.
How does summer hearing aid care differ from winter hearing aid care? Winter hearing aid maintenance should include keeping spare batteries on hand because cold temperatures can shorten battery life. Also, going from freezing temperatures into a warm building causes condensation to build up inside the hearing aids, and the resulting moisture can cause damage.
But moisture and condensation don’t take a vacation when it comes to the change of seasons. In fact, for a number of reasons, the risk of exposure to moisture increases in the warmer months. And moisture isn’t the only problem; summer also brings a whole host of other challenges for hearing aids that usually aren’t an issue in the winter.
Perspiration: Outdoor activity in summer heat means perspiration. In the winter, unless you are an avid downhill or cross country skier, you are less likely to be involved in outdoor activities that cause you to sweat. Summer, however, draws people outdoors. Activities like golf, tennis, gardening or even attending a barbeque on a hot day mean perspiration that leads to moisture build-up in your hearing aids. Moisture can damage microphones and receivers and even lead to corrosion of battery contact points.
Humidity: Unless you live in an area that can be described as having a dry heat in the summer, humidity is a weather complication you don’t have to think about as much in winter. Humidity can wreak havoc on hearing aids just like perspiration can due to the moisture build-up.
Pools: Millions of people cool off in pools in the summertime, and odds are you will be one of them. Your time spent poolside gives you another level of hearing aid care to consider. Avoid selecting a chair close to a diving board or in another area where you are likely to be splashed, and you shouldn’t swim with hearing aids. Instead, keep your hearing aids stored safely in waterproof containers while at the pool.
Salt water: If you are heading to the ocean this summer for relaxation, sailing or water skiing, avoid exposing your hearing aids to salt water. When salt water dries, it leaves behind crystals that can permanently damage hearing aids. Either leave your hearing aids behind or consider Ear Gear, which are spandex and nylon sleeves designed to protect hearing aids from moisture and other damaging substances.
Whether your hearing aids are accidentally exposed to water or just have normal condensation build-up, it is more important than ever to use a dry-aid kit overnight to remove moisture.
Sand: Summer care should also include preventing sand from entering hearing aids. Summer brings opportunity for trips to the beach, but be careful, because sand can clog the microphone and tubing, leading to permanent damage. Avoid touching your hearing aids if your hands are sandy, and consider neoprene hearing aid sleeves that protect hearing aids from sand, dust and other debris.
Sprays: Sunscreen and bug sprays can clog your hearing aids’ microphone ports, so it is best to remove your hearing aids before spraying. Clean your hearing aids thoroughly with the tools provided by your hearing care professional if you accidentally spray them with sunscreen or bug spray.
Allergens: The allergens associated with warm weather present yet another challenge for hearing aid wearers. And yes, unfortunately even if you don’t suffer from seasonal allergies, you need to take them into account. Pollen, tiny cells needed to fertilize plants, float in the air and clog microphone ports. Other common summer allergens include mold, which reaches its peak in July, and ragweed, which peaks in August. Both can clog microphone ports and cause hearing aids to malfunction, but cleaning with a soft dry cloth can alleviate the problem. The covers of the ports can also be easily replaced by your local hearing care professional.
Especially for northern climates, one thing hearing aid wearers don’t have to worry about in the winter is sun damaging their hearing aids. But in the summer, hearing aids left exposed to sunlight are susceptible to damage. Made of plastic, hearing aid casings can melt if left for too long in direct sunlight. If you remove your hearing aids while outdoors, store them in the shade. Also avoid leaving your hearing aids in the car. While in the wintertime the only consequence may be shortened battery life, in hot weather, temperatures in a car can soar as high as 150 degrees causing serious damage to both the casings and the batteries.
One factor that is instrumental in helping your hearing aids perform their best in summer is the IP rating. IP stands for Ingress Protection, and rates the degree of resistance your particular hearing aids have to foreign substances like water, dust and allergens. The IP rating consists of two digits: the first digit refers to the degree of protection against solid matter such as sand, dust or allergens. The higher the number, the finer the particles that the hearing aid is protected against. The second digit refers to the level of resistance against the intrusion of clean water. Again, a higher number indicates better protection against permanent damage. If you live in a hot, humid environment or are particularly active in water sports, it might worth investigating water-resistant or waterproof hearing aids, which have an IP67 or IP68 rating.
Almost all hearing aids manufactured today offer some level of nano-coating. Nano-coating is a special coating applied to hearing aids that causes liquid or condensation to bead up and roll away. Check with your hearing care provider to find out the level of protection your hearing devices offer.
Summer fun doesn’t have to damage your hearing aids. Just remember, with just a little extra care and attention you can enjoy your summer and keep your hearing aids in tip-top shape. If you need help with hearing aid care techniques or accessories, your hearing care professional will be happy to help.