The most common form of treatment for hearing loss is prescription hearing aids. Hearing aids themselves have a high level of maintenance required to keep them operating as long as possible. Let’s take a look at what common household items you can transform into a hearing aid cleaning kit to help keep your hearing aids in good order!
What Is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss itself is one of the most prevalent forms of disability. It affects millions and millions of people in the United States alone and represents a considerable market in the medical supply field. Regardless of who you are or what kind of lifestyle you lead, you have a chance of acquiring hearing loss.
One of the main reasons no one is immune to hearing loss is that aging itself can negatively impact a person's natural ability to hear. Over time, simply using your hearing organs will result in natural wear and tear that translates to hearing loss.
That being said, there are a host of factors that impact and influence hearing loss that is independent of aging. For instance, a person who is exposed to loud sounds may damage their ability to hear properly. This can happen over time as someone exposes themselves to a higher decibel range than normal, and it eventually takes away their hearing -- or it can happen quickly when a terrifically loud noise causes damage in a short amount of time.
Dentists, who employ loud drills, would constantly be exposing one ear over the other to the noise of the drill. This was based on their preferred hand of strength, right-handedness, or left-handedness, and what it would do is wear down the hearing capacity of the ear exposed. Over time, this would result in asymmetric hearing loss, defined as a decibel difference of at least 15 decibels or more between ears.
Other factors that can easily affect someone's hearing are genetic factors that can be passed on from a person's parents. This can cause sudden or gradual onset of sensorineural hearing loss. Traumatic events or foreign objects can impede the natural progression of sound waves through the ear organ, developing conductive hearing loss. Even autoimmune disorders that attack either cells of the ear or cells near the inner ear can cause inflammation and disorder in the hearing process.
What You Need to Know About Hearing Aids
Hearing loss isn’t the same for every person. With millions of people who suffer from hearing loss, there also comes varying degrees or levels of hearing loss. These degrees of hearing loss are based on decibel thresholds that represent different levels or abilities of hearing. The American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) defines these decibel thresholds into several categories:
- Normal: -10-15 decibels
- Slight: 16 - 25 decibels
- Mild: 26 - 40 decibels
- Moderate: 41 to 55 decibels
- Moderate severe: 56 to 70 decibels
- Severe: 71 to 90 decibels
- Profound: 91+
These categories are based on a rating system that measures decibel thresholds. What a decibel threshold is, is the level at which a person can hear sound. The sound itself travels in waves at a particular set frequency. Every sound finds itself within a frequency range, and that frequency carries with it a natural amount of power or force as it’s emitted from its source.
For instance, say you have two friends that you’re going to lunch with, and they both have different tones and levels of vocal power. Now imagine that you’re at a lively venue where there’s a lot of sound pollution.
As someone is speaking quietly to you, the natural power, or decibel level, of their voice may not be enough to push through the sound pollution around you. However, your more naturally louder-voiced person has a high enough decibel level to overcome the sound pollution and be easily understood at their normal speaking voice.
Both people speak in roughly the same frequency range; however, they have naturally different decibel thresholds. When we lose our ability to hear, we lose our ability to hear frequencies that are certain decibel thresholds. For instance, for someone with moderate to moderately severe hearing loss, every sound needs to be boosted to a hearing threshold above either 41 to 70 decibels. This is the primary job of hearing aids.
Different Types of Hearing Aids
There isn’t just one kind of hearing aid that a person can get for their hearing loss, there are several. Hearing aids come in various sizes, styles and they all have unique functionalities based on these unique characteristics.
Two Major Styles of Hearing Aids
In the world of hearing aids, there are two major styles of hearing aids and then several sub-categories or types of these styles. Those two styles would be behind-the-ear, or BTE, and in-the-ear/canal, or ITE. These styles are relatively self-explanatory as they represent the majority of the device either lodging inside the ear canal or being fixed to the exterior of the ear utilizing the back of the ear, to be exact.
Let’s cover the similarities of these two styles before jumping into the differences. Understanding your hearing aid and its style will help you understand how you need to better maintain your device.
The similarities of these styles are that they are both hearing aids -- meaning that they have the same core components that all hearing aids have.
The two major styles of hearing aids contain the following:
- Utilize microphones or receivers to capture sound
- Utilize an amplifier to take the captured sound and amplify it according to a specific programmed setting
- Have a speaker that receives the sound from the amplifier and transmits it to the ear
- Processing power and a power source
The major differences we will look at are in their general form. For instance, behind the ear is usually composed of three components. A power source/processing center; a connecting piece -- whether it's a small plastic tube or a wire; and then an earpiece which can either be just the speaker that transmits sound or it can also be the receiver.
Hearing aids are always composed of simply one piece of equipment with no different compartments in the ear style. Most utilize a soft rubber earpiece that is typically replaceable to help the hearing aid fit into the ear canal more efficiently.
Cleaning Your Hearing Aids
Now, these devices are typically pretty small and can be very expensive. Most private insurances do not cover the cost of acquiring hearing aids. Medicare and Medicaid still do not currently see hearing aid costs as an eligible service. For your social security benefits to cover any kind of financial help -- you have to have moderately severe hearing loss.
For many, that means that living with a legitimate hearing disability or hearing loss means no financial assistance whatsoever. Those who can purchase hearing aids will want them to last as long as possible. Daily cleaning is a great way to do this!
You Don’t Need Much
For most hearing aids, all you need is a small brush and a cloth. Hearing aids themselves are susceptible to many things that can impair their performance -- the key elements being dirt, earwax build-up, and moisture.
The good news is that you don’t have to doll out large amounts of cash if you don’t currently have a hearing aid cleaning kit. All manufacturers will have a recommendation for maintaining and cleaning their brand of hearing aids to get the most life out of the devices. We recommend that you look at your hearing aid manufacturers’ recommendations to see anything particularly unique they suggest.
For the most part, the tools that a manufacturer will give you will consist of a brush and a micro-cloth. If you don’t have these specialized tools - don’t worry! You probably have all you need in your bathroom alone!
A toothbrush with bristles of medium softness can do everything you need for your hearing aids brushing needs. The most important thing to remember is to be gentle. These devices were not meant to be “scrubbed”, so utilize the brush tips of your toothbrush and avoid any pressure that would cause the brush hairs to bend.
Secondly, a lint-free cloth may be included. This can be a hand washing cloth, or even a dinner napkin, or even a handkerchief. The main thing you want to focus on is not picking a material that will leave lint. You can also use cotton swabbed and q-tip.
These items are all you need to daily make sure your hearing aids stay build-up-free and have as little moisture accumulation as possible!
The good news about maintaining your hearing aids is that it is easy, and you probably already have the necessary tools to do so in your bathroom alone. We don’t suggest using any kind of cleaning agent such as a spray or liquid, and always be sure and double-check with your manufacturer’s preferred recommendations for cleaning.
“Audien hearing aids are particularly easy to manage and offer a lot of advantages for my patients.” - Drew Sutton, MD, Board-Certified Otolaryngologist.