Mandy Mroz, AuD, President, Healthy Hearing
Last updated on:
September 7th, 2023
Regular hearing aid cleaning will provide years of reliable better hearing. Find out how to clean your hearing aids and protect your investment.
Hearing aids are a significant investment, and to keep them in top working condition, require regular upkeep like cleaning. Unlike most electronics, hearing aids have to operate in conditions that are far from ideal: the inside of your ear canals where they are subjected to earwax and moisture.
Regular cleaning you can do yourself combined with routine maintenance provided by your hearing care professional will give you years of reliable better hearing. Before you get started, it may be helpful to first review the various parts of a hearing aid and common hearing aid types.
General care tips for hearing aids
Keep them away from moisture and chemicals: Leave hearing aids out during bathing. Put your aids in after you apply hair products like sprays or gels, and be careful when using sunscreen or other creams.
Clean your devices at the end of every day: Cleaning your hearing aids before bedtime gives them several hours to air out before you will put them in again. Avoid wipes with chemicals or alcohol when cleaning hearing aids as they could damage the devices.
Avoid extreme temperatures and moisture: If the temperature is below freezing and you take your hearing aids out of your ears to shovel the driveway, leave them inside the house instead of stashing them in your coat pocket. Likewise, if you take your hearing aids out to jump in the pool on the hottest day of the summer, take them inside the house instead of leaving them on a poolside table. Most hearing aids are not waterproof.
Keep them in a case or in their charger unit when not using them. This will protect them from dirt and damage.
Wash your hands before cleaning your hearing aids.
Hearing aid cleaning tools
Earwax can accumulate in the opening at the end of a hearing aid where the sound comes out causing muffled sound or feedback (whistling). Left long enough, it can damage the receiver. This is why you want to keep hearing aid cleaning tools on hand.
Always follow the guidance of your hearing aid provider. Most likely, they'll recommend one or more of these common cleaning tools:
Hearing aid cleaning brush: The soft brush tip end cleans the body, faceplate or sound port of a hearing device. Some brushes have a magnetic battery removal tool to ease daily cleaning of aids.
Wax pick or wire loop: This tool is designed to help remove wax and other debris safely from hearing aid nooks and holes.
Wax filters: Your devices may come with wax guards or filters that need to be periodically changed.
Multi-tool: These all-in-one tools are versatile because they contain both a brush and a wax loop for thorough cleaning.
How to clean ITE (in the ear) hearing aids
When cleaning an ITE model:
Focus your cleaning on the openings in the device, including the microphone ports. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush or a brush provided by your hearing healthcare professional to clear away built-up wax.
Hold the device with the opening you are cleaning facing downward so any loose particles will fall out of the hearing aid instead of staying lodged inside.
Next, use a wax pick or hook to clear anything out of the holes that didn’t come out with the brush.
It can vary, but in general, change out the wax filter every three to four weeks.
Finish by wiping the entire device with a clean, dry cloth or tissue. This will remove debris from the case of the hearing aid.
Never submerge the devices in any fluid.
How to clean BTE (behind the ear) hearing aids
To clean a BTE hearing aid:
Examine the device for debris and remove it with a soft brush or a dry cloth.
For domes (the small tip that sits in the ear canal), you can wipe them clean with the cloth. They should be completely replaced every one to two months.
For earmolds with speakers in them: Remove the earmold from the hook to clean it. You can use a multitool wire loop to clean the opening.
For earmolds without speakers, remove the earmold from the hook to clean it. Next, you can wash them in warm, soapy water. Use a bulb blower to force water out of the tubing and then allow it to dry completely overnight.
For all earmolds: They may develop a slight odor over time, but a strong odor could indicate you have an ear infection, so consult your hearing healthcare professional if you notice it.
For hearing aids with "button" batteries, remove the batteries and keep the battery compartment open to dry overnight. Dispose of the button batteries carefully; they can be fatal if ingested by a pet or child.
If they're rechargeable, dock them according to the manufacturer's specifications.
Brush the battery compartment with the cleaning brush.
In some cases, it may be worthwhile to use a hearing aid dehumidifier, especially if you live in a humid climate, spend considerable time outdoors or perspire heavily. There are two types of hearing aid dehumidifiers. One type is a simple plastic jar with a desiccant that draws out moisture overnight. The other type is called a dry & store unit that uses ultraviolet light and air to dry and sanitize hearing aids. Both accessories are probably available through your hearing healthcare professional or online. Some rechargeable docking cases also dehumidify the devices as they charge. See other accessories you may want to invest in.
Proper cleaning and maintenance will help you get years of trouble-free wear with your hearing aids.
When to see a professional
Hearing aids should be professionally cleaned regularly as recommended by your hearing care provider. They have vacuums with specialized attachments that gently suck wax from hard to reach areas, and they know how to safely clean vents, microphone screens, windscreens and receivers.
If you're hearing aids aren't working correctly, cleaning is the first step of troubleshooting common hearing aid problems. If you are not sure how to properly clean your hearing aids or if you feel your devices need special attention, ask your hearing care professional for help.
Joy Victory has extensive experience editing consumer health information. Her training in particular has focused on how to best communicate evidence-based medical guidelines and clinical trial results to the public. She strives to make health content accurate, accessible and engaging to the public.
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