Contributed by Joy Victory, managing editor, Healthy Hearing
Cold wintry weather can cause hearing aid damage if proper precautions aren’t taken. While often hearing aids can be repaired, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here’s some information on how cold weather and moisture can damage hearing aids, what to be aware of and how you can prevent weather damage:
Cold weather and moisture
Temperature extremes can be damaging to a hearing aid and its batteries. The cold itself is not necessarily damaging, but the condensation that occurs due to temperature change can damage internal components. Even when it isn’t snowing or raining, moisture is present because extreme temperature changes are common in the winter.
For example, if you are walking outside and the temperature is 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you will almost certainly be bundled up from head to toe with a hat over your ears. But when you head indoors, it could be nearly 50 degrees warmer because the heat is on. Even if you take off your coat and other winter gear right away, the temperature change can form condensation on your hearing aids. And maybe you were walking quickly and your head began to sweat, which could also damage your hearing aids and batteries.
Signs of damage
Moisture can ruin the microphone and receiver of your hearing aids, as well as clog the earmold tubing and sound and cause corrosion. Here are some tell-tale signs that your hearing aids have been damaged:
- Your hearing aid cuts out during loud noises.
- The sound fades or comes and goes.
- Everything you hear is punctuated by static.
- Sounds are unclear or seem distorted.
- Your hearing aid completely stops working and then starts again. This might happen a few times.
Hearing aid fixes
If you think your hearing aids have been exposed to moisture, there are other things to check first. Such as:
- Your hearing aid is turned on and (if you have one) the T-switch is in the right position.
- If you have disposable batteries, make sure they have been inserted correctly. Also, sometimes when batteries are dying, you will see some of the same signs as above. Check to make sure the battery is not corroded. If it is, it will have a white powdery substance and should be thrown out immediately.
- The battery contacts, which are the points where the batteries touch the hearing aids. Clean them or remove moisture with a dry cotton swab.
- The earmold, to be sure it or the sound outlet are not clogged with wax. Or, if you wear domes (a tiny cone that’s inserted deep in the ear), make sure they are not damaged.
If none of these things seem to be the issue, you may have moisture in your hearing aid. If you wear behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids, look in the tubing for moisture droplets. If you wear earmolds, you can purchase an earmold puffer, which blows out any moisture, and consider having your earmolds fitted with a moisture dispersing tube.
For in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids, it’s a little trickier to remove the moisture. If you don’t already have one, purchase a hearing aid drying device and place your hearing aids in it immediately to hopefully dry them out and avoid damage. Not sure what kind of hearing aid you have? Check out our primer on hearing aid types and styles.
While moisture is hard to avoid in extreme cold, there are some precautions you can take in an attempt to keep your hearing aids dry and safe.
Protect with earmuffs
Earmuffs aren’t only for keeping your ears warm while you’re skating on the neighborhood pond or ice fishing with your favorite nephew. Specialized earmuffs are available specifically for protecting your ears from damaging noise. Even if you already have hearing loss, further damage from noise is almost completely preventable by simply limiting your exposure. Noise-reduction earmuffs are not just for winter. In fact, they will come in handy many times throughout the year. Whether you’re using your noisy lawnmower in the spring, enjoying a fireworks show in the summer and taking in a football game in a noisy arena, earmuffs will keep the noise level safe. Depending upon the style you choose, expect to pay anywhere from $10 on up for earmuffs that reduce noise by as much as 30 dB.
Buy a pair of sweatbands
Some active hearing aid wearers continue to work up a sweat outdoors while enjoying winter sports. You may also get caught outside during periods of heavy snow or freezing rain. To minimize the amount of moisture your behind-the-ear hearing aids are exposed to as a result of perspiration—or precipitation—during the winter months, invest in hearing aid sweatbands. These accessories are available in a variety of colors and sizes, with an average price of $20 per pair. Most of them are washable and slip on easily, acting as a moisture repellant and providing a windscreen for your microphone. If your hearing healthcare provider doesn’t sell them, you can find them easily online.
Other wise ideas:
- Purchase a hearing aid drying kit or dehumidifier. Remove your hearing aid batteries and store your devices in this device every night. Some even sanitize hearing aids during storage. Dehumidifiers range in price from $5 to $100 and can be purchased online, through your hearing care provider or in many drug stores.
- Use an umbrella in the rain and wear a raincoat with a hood.
- If you think your hearing aid has gotten wet, remove the battery immediately.