Just like your phone and computer, hearing aids work best and last longer when they stay clean and dry. But wearing them in the summer brings them into contact with many common enemies of electronic devices—moisture, dirt, heat, and chemicals that can damage delicate electronics and lead to costly repair or replacement. With a little research and planning, you can keep your hearing aids safe as the temperatures heat up. Here are the top 10 tips for protecting those expensive tiny investments all summer long.
1. Consider water resistance before you buy
Water is a top culprit of hearing aid failure. Humidity, pool or ocean water, sudden downpours, or even the buildup of perspiration can cause serious harm to your hearing aids by damaging the microphone, clogging tubing, and causing corrosion. If you spend a lot of time in wet conditions, consider purchasing water-resistant hearing aids. Check the Ingress Protection (IP) rating for any hearing aids you are considering buying. The first digit rates the device’s protection against solids like dust, and the second digit ranges from 1 (protection against condensation or dripping water) to 8 (protection from prolonged immersion in water). Most popular brands achieve a score of 8, meaning they are highly water-resistant but not waterproof.
If you are deciding between hearing aid models with rechargeable or disposable batteries, be aware that rechargeable hearing aids have moisture-avoiding advantages over those with disposable batteries. Because rechargeable batteries are sealed within the device, they have no metal contacts or doors that could corrode and allow moisture in.
2. Cover up your hearing aids for extra protection
Even the most water-resistant hearing aids available today are not completely waterproof. You can enhance the water-repelling properties of your behind-the-ear hearing aids by adding a cover. Covers – also called sheaths or sleeves – are made of spandex or other stretchy, synthetic materials to protect behind-the-ear devices from moisture – along with dust and dirt—without affecting sound quality.
Hearing aid sweatbands are like little knitted booties for your hearing aid. They are usually made of natural fibers and help to keep out dust and moisture. Like sheaths, sweatbands don’t interfere with the performance of your hearing aids. People who play strenuous sports often enjoy the comfort and moisture protection of hearing aid sweatbands.
3. If your hearing aids get wet, act quickly to dry them out
All is not lost if your hearing aids get drenched. When you notice moisture on your hearing aids, immediately dry them with a clean cloth. For models with disposable batteries, open the door and remove the batteries to allow air to circulate. Discard any wet batteries, as they can further damage your hearing aids.
If you don’t have a hearing aid dehumidifier, you can dry out your hearing aids for 24-48 hours in a bowl of uncooked rice. Do not use any unapproved heat sources—like blow dryers, ovens, or microwaves—to try to dry out wet hearing aids, as high temperatures can be more harmful than moisture to these delicate devices.
If you notice any changes in the performance of your hearing aids, or any crackling sounds or distortions, be sure to ask your audiologist to check them for damage.
4. Invest in a system to dry your hearing aids overnight, every night
If you’d like to protect your hearing aids from moisture buildup, it’s a good idea to invest in a dehumidifier. These systems range from simple jars equipped with desiccant pellets to snazzier electronic dryers with UV disinfecting features. Getting into the habit of storing your hearing aids in a dehumidifier every night this summer can help protect your hearing aids in the long run. You can purchase dehumidifiers through your audiologist’s office, at the drug store, or online.
5. Keep the sand on the beach, not in your hearing aids
Sand and other debris can be tough on hearing aids, causing clogging and corrosion that can lead to permanent damage to the device. If you’re planning a day at the beach, it may be better to leave the hearing aids at home. If you’d really like to wear them, keep your hearing aids covered with a protective sheath, and always wash the sand off your hands before handling them. If your hearing aids do get dirty or sandy, be sure to follow your audiologist’s advice for proper cleaning.
To keep hearing aids from accidentally falling into the sand (and the water!), keep them attached with special clip/cord combos made for hearing aids, like sport clips or necklaces.
When shopping for a hearing aid, remember that the first digit of the device’s IP score reflects how well a hearing aid is protected from dust and debris, with a 6 representing the highest level of protection available.
6. Avoid getting sunscreen and bug spray on your hearing aids
Sunscreen and bug spray can be wonderful at protecting your skin but can be murder on the delicate components of your hearing aids. Common chemicals can cause lasting damage to the internal workings of your hearing aids if they get inside. Be sure to remove your hearing aids before applying anything to your skin and wash your hands thoroughly before handling your hearing aids again. If you’re applying sunscreen or bug spray to your neck, ears, or face, make sure to let it absorb into your skin completely before putting your hearing aids back on.
If you do happen to get bug spray, sunscreen, or other substances on your hearing aid, be sure to follow your audiologist’s directions for proper cleaning.
7. Beware of extreme heat
While normal summer temperatures can’t harm your hearing aids, excessive heat can melt external components, damage internal mechanisms, and reduce battery life. Wearing a hat while you have hearing aids on in the hot sun can protect them from excessive sun and moisture—and keep you cooler as well.
When you’re not wearing your hearing aids, don’t leave them anywhere they could be exposed to extreme heat: sunny windowsills, hot cars, and anywhere near the grill are dangerous places for hearing aids. Getting into the habit of storing your hearing aids in a safe place in their protective case will go a long way in preventing accidental heat damage.
8. Don’t give bacteria a chance to wreck your hearing aids
Bacteria buildup can damage sensitive electronic components inside your hearing aids. Make sure you wipe down your devices after sweating to prevent bacterial growth. Ask your audiologist what kinds of antibacterial wipes can safely be used on your hearing aids, and always follow their recommendations for proper cleaning. Preventing moisture from entering your hearing aids – through regular use of a dehumidifier and other methods we’ve mentioned – will also prevent bacteria from growing and damaging your valuable hearing devices.
9. Plan a safe vacation for your hearing aids
Getting out of your daily routine is a wonderful summer joy, but getaways can lead to costly mishaps for your hearing aids. When booking your summer trip, don’t forget to plan for the safety of your hearing aids. Stock up on batteries, bring the proper cases and cleaning products and maintain a strategy for protecting your hearing aids. If the weather is unsettled, bring an umbrella or rain hat to protect your hearing aids from rainstorms.
10. Consider your surroundings before wearing your hearing aids
If your summer plans have you near the water—in a boat or on land—consider leaving your hearing aids in a safe place until you can be sure to keep them dry. If your hearing aids must be worn, take every precaution to keep them safe. Storing your hearing aids in their dehumidifier or case when you’re not wearing them will make them more visible and less likely to be left behind in your hotel room or campsite.
Hearing aids are wonderful devices, allowing you to hear and participate in conversations, engage in social occasions, and enjoy entertainment more fully. While summer activities bring water, sun, and other threats to the internal workings of your costly devices, you can take simple steps to protect your hearing aids and help them last longer. With a little advance planning and a few protective accessories, you can get out there and enjoy everything summer has to offer—without worrying about ruining your hearing aids.