Hearing aid handling skills not necessarily related to experience
Confidence is the key to successful hearing aid use. If you know how to take care of your hearing aids, you’re more likely to wear them. But if you’re unsure, out of practice or shaky on some of those all-important tasks, you might quit and lose all the ways that hearing aids can enrich your life.
How can you keep your confidence? With help from your hearing care provider.
Experience doesn't always matter
Contrary to what you may think, experienced hearing aid wearers may have even more difficulty with basic maintenance and handling skills than new wearers, according to a March 2018 study. The study of 236 new hearing aid users and 126 experienced hearing aid users evaluated how well those wearers were maintaining their devices, using a new assessment tool that measured two things: the knowledge of what maintenance tasks needed to be done and the ability to do those tasks. Both factors are important because hearing aid users with vision or dexterity issues need the knowledge to explain to caregivers what needs to be done, while hearing aid wearers who are able to take care of their own devices need the proper skills to do it themselves.
The study found that new hearing aid wearers, almost invariably, had better knowledge and skills than the experienced wearers, especially on these tasks: knowing to aerate the battery before using it, knowing to clean the hearing aid tip, knowing how to change a wax trap and understanding and changing hearing aid programs.
All users, regardless of experience level, had trouble with both knowledge and skills on these tasks: aerating the battery before insertion, cleaning the microphone and checking whether the microphone is blocked or the battery door open. Of new users, 39 percent or lower did well; of experienced users, 28.6 percent or lower had these essential skills and knowledge.
The new wearers’ scores stayed relatively stable over two evaluations, meaning you won’t necessarily improve with time. Regular use alone, in other words, isn’t enough to guarantee you know what to do and how to do it.
Being proactive is key
If your hearing care provider gives you a refresher course on your maintenance skills, that could save you from getting frustrated enough to stop wearing your hearing aids.
These results are backed up by other studies. A 2015 literature review, for instance, found that hearing aid users frequently didn’t have enough information to use their devices properly and said they needed more information and support after their fitting.
A separate 2016 study of hearing aid instruction manuals concluded that hearing aid wearers’ ability to manage their devices improved when they were given a modified, easier-to-read user guide with less technical information and more graphics. This is why you probably shouldn’t rely on the booklets that accompany your hearing aids alone for care and handling information, since those booklets are likely not written with their audience in mind. Much better is if your audiologist or hearing aid specialist is on hand to show you what to do.
So, to make sure you’re properly caring for your hearing aids, you might need to have your skills evaluated – or reevaluated -- by your hearing care provider.
First things first
To start, here are some basic maintenance tips for your hearing aids:
• Protect them: Take devices out while you’re showering, washing your face and hair, and using hairspray or gel. Water, soap or toiletry products can damage the aids.
• Clean them every night: This gives the hearing aids several hours to dry out before reuse. Clean an ITE (in the ear) model with a soft-bristle toothbrush or the brush provided by your hearing healthcare professional, focusing on the openings in the device. Clean a BTE (behind the ear) model by removing debris with a soft brush or dry cloth. Soak your earmold in warm, soapy water once a week as well and dry it thoroughly.
• Remove the batteries nightly: Moisture buildup can damage hearing aids. Take out the batteries and leave the battery compartment open so it dries out. Store the batteries at room temperature, never in the refrigerator.
• Check the volume: If you’re having difficulty hearing with the devices in, make sure the volume control hasn’t been accidentally turned down.
• Check the batteries: Make sure the batteries are correctly positioned and still have some life in them. Batteries that run out too quickly might mean there’s a problem with the hearing aid.
If you’re still having trouble with your hearing aids or you want to make sure you’re handling them properly, the best thing to do is to consult with a professional. Use our extensive consumer-reviewed directory to find a hearing care professional in your area who can make sure you're getting the most from your hearing aid investment.