The ear canal, with its warm temperature, high degree of moisture and the presence of dead skin cells and earwax, which is slightly acidic, is not the friendliest of environments. Hearing aids – in whole or in part – are usually subjected to this environment more than 8 hours a day, every day of the year.
Embracing a routine to ensure you have clean hearing aids at all times is essential to maintaining these devices, keeping performance at their peak, and improving their longevity.
When you learn how to clean your hearing aids, you help prevent wax build-up and keep them working properly. In this article, we’ll describe how to clean various types of hearing aids so that you can take care of your devices, ensuring your investment can last for years.
When Should You Clean Your Hearing Aids?
You want to prevent the accumulation of dust and debris on your hearing aids, but wax build-up should be the main focus of your hearing aid cleaning routine. Earwax, like the wax on a candle, is soft and easily smeared when it is warm. As earwax cools down, it hardens, becomes brittle, and is easier to remove. Therefore, we recommend that you clean your hearing aids in the morning, after your shower, and right before you put them in your ears.
In addition to the physical properties of earwax, another reason to clean your hearing aids in the morning is related to human behavior: It is easier to adopt a new habit when you make it part of another set of practices or routines, like flossing and brushing your teeth. By incorporating your hearing aid cleaning into your morning routine, you are more likely to stick to the plan than if you leave it for the end of the day when the lighting may not be great and you may be tired or sleepy.
The Cleaning Tools You Need to Care for Your Hearing Aids
Most hearing aids come with the appropriate tools to clean those particular devices routinely. Your hearing care professional can tell you which of the following commonly used tools – which can be purchased online – are best to clean your specific type of hearing aids:
- Dry soft cleaning cloth: Use a lint-free dry cloth similar to the ones used to clean eyeglasses
- Wax removal brush: Small soft brush that allows you to remove wax and debris from your hearing aids – People with dexterity issues may want to consider using a soft children’s toothbrush instead of the small wax removal brush that comes with most hearing aid cleaning kits
- Wax pick/wire loop: Small wire loop that allows you to pick earwax off from the openings in your hearing aids
- Vent cleaner: Usually a plastic wire that you can run through your hearing aid’s vent starting from the inside and moving towards the outside
- Multi-tool: A hearing aid tool that combines two or more of the above tools in a single instrument
How Often Should You Clean Your Hearing Aids?
Daily Routine – You should perform a basic hearing aid cleaning routine on a daily basis:
- First, gently brush the body of the hearing aid, including the microphone port(s) and the hearing aid tip (silicone dome present in receiver-in-canal hearing aids), to remove any wax or debris
- Then, wipe the hearing aid with a lint-free, dry soft cleaning cloth
Weekly Routine – On a weekly basis, in addition to the daily steps above, you should:
- Use the wax pick/wire loop to remove any earwax deposits that have persistently stuck on some of the surfaces of the device.
- Run a vent cleaner wire or vent cleaner brush through your hearing aid’s vent. Make sure to introduce the cleaner first in the orifice that would be inside the ear canal when you are wearing your hearing aid and then move towards the outer orifice.
Monthly Routine – At least once a month, in addition to your daily and weekly cleaning routines, you should:
- Replace the silicon dome tips if you have RIC (receiver-in-canal) hearing aids
- If your hearing aids are equipped with wax guards, you should check them and replace them at least once a month – potentially more often if you see that they are blocked with earwax.
How to Clean Various Types of Hearing Aids
There are three basic types of hearing aids, and your cleaning routine would vary depending on the type of hearing aid that you wear:
- RIC (Receiver-In-Canal) Hearing Aids – These are small hearing aids worn behind your ear that have a wire coming from the body of the hearing aid and connecting to a speaker (professionally known as receiver) that is placed inside your ear canal. RIC hearing aids are currently the most common and popular hearing aids in the US: According to the Hearing Industries Association, RIC hearing aids account for more than 80% of all hearing aids sold in the United States in 2021.
- ITE (In-The-Ear) Hearing Aids – As their name implies, these hearing aids are worn inside the ear. This category accounted for approximately 13% of total sales in the United States in 2021, and it included the following sub-categories:
• ITE (In-The-Ear) – Usually a larger hearing aid that is visible in the outer part of the ear
• ITC (In-The-Canal) – Smaller hearing aid that is placed in the ear canal
• CIC (Completely-In the-Canal) – The smallest variation that sits deep in the ear canal
- BTE (Behind-The-Ear) Hearing Aids –These hearing aids are worn behind the ear, are usually larger than Receiver-in-Canal hearing aids, have higher power output to treat more profound hearing losses, and are typically worn with a custom-made mold that is worn inside the ear. BTEs accounted for approximately 6% of total sales in the United States in 2021.
In the following sections, we will describe how to clean each one of the three types of hearing aids.
How to Clean a RIC (Receiver-In-Canal) Hearing Aid
- If your hearing aid has disposable batteries, remove the battery from the hearing aid, brush the battery door and the battery compartment, and close the battery door
- Brush the body of the hearing aid to remove any dust particles, hair, dandruff or any other debris
- Brush the silicone dome tip covering the speaker (also known as the receiver)
- Use the wax pick/wire loop to remove any wax left on the silicone dome tip
- Clean the silicone dome tip with a moist, lint-free cleansing wipe
- Wipe the body of the hearing aid with a lint-free, dry soft cleaning cloth
- On a monthly basis, replace the silicone dome tip and the wax guard at the tip of the speaker (receiver)
How to Clean an ITE (In-The-Ear) Hearing Aid
- Remove the battery from the hearing aid, brush the battery door and the battery compartment, and close the battery door.
- Brush the body of the hearing aid, including the microphone cover, the receiver, and the vent openings.
- Use the wax pick/wire loop to remove wax left in the openings of the air vent.
- On a weekly basis, run a vent cleaner wire or vent cleaner brush through your hearing aid’s vent. Make sure to introduce the cleaner first in the orifice that would be inside the ear canal when you are wearing your hearing aid and then move towards the outer orifice.
- If your hearing aids are equipped with wax guards, replace the wax guard at the tip of the speaker (receiver) every month.
- Wipe the body of the hearing aid with a lint-free, dry soft cleaning cloth.
How to Clean a BTE (Behind-The-Ear) Hearing Aid
- If your hearing aid has disposable batteries, remove the battery from the hearing aid, brush the battery door and the battery compartment, and close the battery door.
- Brush the body of the hearing aid to remove any dust particles, hair, dandruff, or any other debris.
- Remove the earmold from the hearing aid hook, brush it, and use the wax pick/wire loop to remove any wax left after brushing.
- Clean the earmold and tube with a moist, lint-free cleansing wipe
- Wipe the body of the hearing aid with a lint-free, dry soft cleaning cloth
Have Your Hearing Aids Professionally Serviced
You should take your hearing aids to be maintained by a hearing care professional every four to six months this will guarantee clean hearing aids that will last a long time. This will help increase the useful life of your hearing devices. Also, these periodic visits will allow your hearing care professional to check and, if needed, replace common parts such as earwax filters, silicone tips, tubing, and speakers – also known as receivers.
Since hearing loss changes over time, during one of these periodic maintenance visits, you should also schedule your annual hearing evaluation to ensure that your hearing aids are programmed to your most current hearing loss prescription.
Hearing Aid Dryers and UV Sanitizers
If you wear your hearing aids in environments with high moisture, you should consider purchasing a hearing aid dryer or dehumidifier. You can buy dehumidifiers online from various manufacturers including Phonak. Phonak also makes a RIC hearing aid charger with a built-in dehumidifier.
A low-cost option to ensure you keep your hearing aids moisture free is a kit that consists of a drying jar where you put your hearing aids to dry using desiccant (drying) tablets. Many Phonak chargers have a compartment where you can place the desiccant tablets instead of using a plastic jar.
Additionally, you should consider buying a UV sanitizer for your hearing aids. You can purchase some units online that are both Dryer and UV Sanitizer. These units eliminate up to 99.99% of bacteria, yeast, and viruses..
How to Clean Your Hearing Aids Conclusion
Hearing aids operate in unfriendly conditions that constantly subject them to moisture and debris. Having clean hearing aids will help keep them in good condition and improve their longevity so that they last for a long time. The best practice is to incorporate your hearing aid cleaning into your morning routine so that it becomes a habit like brushing your teeth.
Besides cleaning your hearing aids yourself, you should have them cleaned and maintained periodically by a hearing care professional. You should also consider investing in a hearing aid dryer and a UV sanitizer. To get the most extended life out of your hearing aids, it’s worth educating yourself on how to clean your hearing aids. Let us know how you clean hearing aids at home in the comments!
HIS hearing aid sales statistics published on The Hearing Review, Jan-24-2022: https://hearingreview.com/practice-building/marketing/surveys-statistics/hearing-aid-sales-increase-by-37-in-2021-and-by-12-over-2019
In addition to being the Founder and Editor-in Chief at HearingPeople.com, Luis Zuluaga is the founder and CEO of Florida Hearing Institute, an innovative hearing health enterprise in South Florida, focused on bringing high-tech hearing devices at affordable prices to people with hearing loss. Before his latest hearing healthcare endeavors, Luis served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Zounds Hearing Inc., a US-based hearing aid manufacturer that introduced many technical innovations to the hearing aid market.