Hearing aid disasters | How to avoid them and what to do if they happen
You’ve finally made the appointment, accepted your hearing loss diagnosis and are comfortably wearing your hearing aids. You’ve gotten into the habit of taking them out every night, cleaning them and putting them someplace safe. You have a fresh supply of batteries on hand. You see your hearing healthcare professional regularly for evaluation and maintenance.
Congratulations! You’re doing everything right. But life happens, right? What happens if…
You drop your hearing aid outside.
If you live in a cold weather climate, you most likely wear something to keep your head warm when you go outside. Regardless of whether it’s a hat or a headband, it’s possible for your behind-the-ear hearing aid to get caught and inadvertently come out of your ears when you remove the headgear.
“Wearing your hearing aids outside is important for your enjoyment and safety,” Susanne Jones, Healthy Hearing Customer Support Specialist, said. “However, you want to make sure that if you do anything that touches your head, neck or ear area, you immediately check afterwards to see if your hearing aids are still in place.”
Jones recommends investing in hearing aid security devices, such as special clips, to keep your hearing aids on your body. You may also want to check with your hearing healthcare professional about specially-designed earmolds or ear-grips designed to keep your hearing aids in place.
If it happens…
Stop what you are doing immediately and ask everyone with you to stand still. “Start at the top of your head and work your way down without moving your feet,” Jones suggests. “Feel around to see if your hearing aid is caught in your clothing. Think of where you were when you were sure you last had it and if anything has brushed against your ears since then.”
Hopefully, giving yourself a gentle pat down and carefully retracing your steps will result in finding your devices.
You dropped your hearing aid down the drain — or in the toilet.
This happens a lot to individuals who are in the habit of putting their hearing aids in or taking them out in the bathroom.
“I believe that the only safe place in a bathroom for your hearing aid is in your ear,” Jones said. “Instead, find a place in your home, often the bedroom, where you can sit down to insert and remove your hearing aids and store them in their case. If you must insert or remove your hearing aid over a hard surface like a counter, lay down a soft towel to cushion the blow and reduce the bouncing in case you drop it – and if the bathroom is your only option, plug the sink and close the toilet lid.”
If it happens…
That depends on your tolerance level, Jones says. “If it happens in a public place, I might be tempted to write it off as a loss. If it happens in your own home and the toilet or sink is very clean, grab it as soon as possible.”
Jones says most hearing aids have a protective nano coating which may be disinfected with an alcohol wipe. “However, a hearing aid that is truly soiled from an un-flushed toilet should be considered a biohazard and destroyed as such.”
If you happen to drop a hearing aid down the sink, don’t run the water. Someone who is handy with a pipe wrench may be able to remove the p-trap from under the sink and retrieve it. It’s definitely worth the trouble!
You wear your hearing aid in the shower or pool.
We know – today’s hearing aids are SO comfortable that you often forget you’re wearing them! If you’re in the habit of removing your hearing aids before you shower, you’re less likely to have this problem — except when your schedule changes and you go on vacation.
“Vacations are a break from typical schedule so that’s a high-risk time for entering water while wearing hearing aids,” Jones said. She recommends making it a habit to feel for your hearing aids with both hands before entering water. Posting notes by the shower or clipping one to your swimsuit or towel is also a good idea. So is having a case handy to put them in.
If it happens..
If you do accidentally get your hearing aids wet, remove them from your ears immediately and dry them with a towel. Open the battery doors and remove the batteries. Put them in their case or a hearing aid dryer (never use an oven, microwave or hair dryer) with the batter doors open and let them rest for about an hour or so or overnight. If they don’t work in the morning with fresh batteries, call your hearing healthcare professional.
Your hearing aid is eaten.
Unbelievably, this happens more often than you might think. Pets are curious and small children often explore things with their mouths. Even adults have mistakenly eaten hearing aids, especially if you’ve accidentally left the hearing aid close to finger foods like candy or nuts.
If it happens…
If you see your pet eat the hearing aid and can safely retrieve it from their mouth, do so and check for any broken pieces or batteries. Ingesting batteries can be fatal, so contact your veterinarian immediately if they swallowed the battery.
The same thing goes if a child or adult accidentally eats the device. Check the mouth thoroughly for the battery and any broken pieces and seek medical attention immediately if necessary.
“After you’ve ensured your pet’s safety, address the hearing aid,” Jones said. “If there’s no visible damage and all parts and the battery are intact, clean it with an alcohol wipe and see if it’s still working. If it isn’t call you hearing care practitioner. Be sure to bring every piece you could recover when you go see them.”
You left your hearing aids at home when you needed them.
Would you believe this is the most common hearing aid disaster of all? If you can, return home and retrieve your devices, Jones said. “It’s vital for your communication ability and brain health to wear your hearing aids regularly. Your hearing loss isn’t intermittent, so your wearing of hearing aids shouldn’t be, either.”
Jones says the best way to avoid leaving your hearing aids at home is by establishing a routine of wearing them as prescribed by your hearing healthcare professional.
“When I first got hearing aids, I lived alone so because I wasn’t talking to anyone, I sometimes forget to put them in before going to work,” she said. “One way that I found to keep myself from leaving the house in the morning without my hearing aids was to store them in their case zipped up in my purse; I always took my purse with me when leaving the house so even if I forgot to put them in before leaving the house. I had them with me. Another way to remember is to post a note on the inside of the door that you leave the house from reminding you to have your hearing aids.”
If it happens…
Return home to retrieve them if you can. If not, let others know you’ve forgotten your hearing aids so they can advocate for you if necessary.
Please note: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for individualized medical advice, diagnosis or treatment by a physician or other health care professional who is aware of you or a loved one's medical history. Do not rely on this response in place of seeking professional medical advice. If you’ve had a hearing aid disaster, please contact a hearing care professional in your area to ask for specific help.