While more advanced and powerful than ever, hearing aids are still very delicate pieces of machinery. It is relatively easy to damage them, and occasionally, units malfunction of their own accord. When this happens, you should always make an appointment with your hearing care professional to have the issue addressed by a professional, but if you find yourself in a bind and need to get your aids working again on your own, there are a few different things you can try.
Problem: Low battery output or dying unit
Possible solution: The obvious strategy here is to simply replace the batteries, but if you notice that a fresh pair runs down much faster than it should, there could be an issue with the device itself. Sometimes extra features like Bluetooth® and noise-reduction put a greater strain on battery life than necessary. Try turning off your hearing aids’ streaming applications to conserve power. It is also possible that the entire batch of batteries is defective. If you suspect this is the case, call your hearing care professional for a new pack, or head to the store and purchase one.
Remember: Battery life is naturally shorter in the winter months, and you should never store your hearing aid batteries in the refrigerator. Extreme temperatures negatively affect their life span.
Problem: Distorted sound or feedback
Possible solution: Begin by checking the battery compartment. If any part of it is corroded or misaligned, gently clean and readjust it with a soft, dry cloth and insert a fresh battery. If this doesn’t do the trick, ensure there have been no changes in how your hearing aid fits. A loose-fitting device allows excess air flow and gaps into which sounds can escape, creating unpleasant squealing or whistling. Strategies for a tighter fit include simply pressing the aid farther into the ear canal (if this is not uncomfortable), applying a bit of Vaseline to the dome or earmold to create a seal (use this sparingly), and switching to an open dome if currently using a closed one.
Problem: No sound at all
Possible solution: First check to make sure the volume isn’t turned all the way down. It may seem silly, but we have all done this at least once! If the controls are set to your liking and there still isn’t any sound, make sure the battery isn’t dead by checking the voltage with a battery tester (or simply take the chance and replace it if you have a good supply of batteries on hand). Next, check the tubing and microphone opening to ensure they aren’t blocked by wax or other debris. Oftentimes a good cleaning will remove obstructions and restore function.
Problem: Cracked shell or tubing
Possible solution: Unfortunately, dropping or stepping on a hearing aid often means it will need to be replaced. It is possible to cause visible damage that is only cosmetic, but because units are so small, there is not much space between the protective casing and the components inside. If you have a cracked shell but want to continue attempting to use the aid for a couple of days, you can apply a very small amount of superglue or clear fingernail polish to the crack. Be very careful not to let anything get inside the device, and do not attempt to wear it again until the coating has dried completely. In behind-the-ear hearing aids, tubing needs to be periodically replaced, as the plastic naturally ages and cracks over time. If the cracks are tiny enough, painting them with a thin coat of that same nail polish will usually temporarily solve the issue.
Problem: Contact with water or other liquids
Possible solution: While getting your hearing aids wet is one of the worst things that can happen to them, if the saturation is mild and you take swift action, there is a way to mitigate the damage in a pinch. After wiping down the exterior with a soft towel, pour about two cups of uncooked rice into a Ziploc bag or resealable container and carefully place your devices on top. Close the container and let it sit for at least 12 hours (24 is better). The rice will act as a desiccator and pull moisture from your hearing aids. Make sure to remove the battery prior to this and insert a fresh one afterward.
Note: Always turn off your hearing aids as soon as they come into contact with liquid to prevent electrical shorting.