There are several different styles of hearing aids, the choice of which can be dictated by your type and degree of hearing loss, your hearing healthcare professional’s recommendation, and your personal preference, among other factors. Putting in hearing aids correctly, so they function optimally is one of the most important lessons you will learn during your hearing aid fitting.
This article will give you all the information you need to know about putting in hearing aids correctly – so that you can hear optimally – and how to remove them without damaging them.
Your hearing healthcare professional will provide instructions, but it can often take some practice, particularly if you have difficulty with dexterity. Try not to become discouraged! Soon enough, putting in hearing aids will feel as easy as putting on glasses, and you’ll hardly notice they are there. Some recommend using a mirror, but many individuals find this to be confusing and disorienting. For that reason, this article will focus on inserting hearing aids and removing them based on the parts of the hearing aid and the feel of your ear.
Putting in Hearing Aids When Using Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Devices:
BTE hearing aids have two main components: the hearing aid itself, which includes the microphones and the electrical components, as well as the battery and the earmold. Your hearing healthcare professional will have taken an impression of your ear for a custom earmold, which may come in a variety of materials such as silicone (soft) or acrylic (hard) and may fill your entire concha (the concha is the cavity of the external ear that is shaped like a shell) or just a portion of it.
The hearing aids will be labeled right and left with red and blue markings, respectively. Some find it helpful to put the hearing aid over their ear first to orient it properly, while others prefer to insert the earmold first and then hang the hearing aid over their ear once the mold is in properly.
To insert the earmold, you’ll pull up and back on the helix (the outer- and rear-most portion of the ear that usually forms a rolled ring) of your ear, as this will straighten your ear canal and make it easier to insert the tip of the earmold into your ear. You’ll then turn the earmold toward the back of your head to seat it into your concha. You may need to wiggle it a bit to get it into the right spot, and when you do, it shouldn’t protrude out of your ear, and you should feel no discomfort. The hearing aid itself can then be hung over your ear by the tubing.
Remember: With practice, you will become an expert in putting in hearing aids!
To remove your hearing aids, lift the hearing aid over your ear. Pull down on your earlobe and use your finger to remove the earmold.
Caution: When inserting hearing aids or removing them, avoid tugging on the tubing, as this may cause it to pull free from the earmold.
Putting in Hearing Aids When Using Receiver-in-Canal (RIC) Devices:
Like BTEs, RIC hearing aids also include a portion that goes over your ear and another inside the ear. As the name implies, the hearing aid’s receiver (speaker) is inside your ear canal. There is a thin wire leading from the hearing aid to the receiver. Your hearing aids may have silicone dome tips on the end, or you may have a custom mold that the receiver fits into.
Some find it helpful to put the hearing aid over their ear first to orient it properly, while others prefer to insert the dome or mold first and then hang the hearing aid over their ear once the dome or mold is in properly. To insert the dome or mold, you’ll pull up and back on the helix (the outer- and rear-most portion of the ear that usually forms a rolled ring) of your ear, which will straighten your ear canal and make it easier to insert into your ear.
Putting in hearing aids correctly involves making sure that the receiver wire is flush to the side of your face and the dome or mold is seated well into your ear. You and your hearing healthcare professional may have to experiment with different dome sizes and styles for comfort and acoustics.may have to experiment with different dome sizes and styles for comfort and acoustics.
To remove your hearing aids, lift the body of the device over the ear and grasp the dome or custom mold (or grab the receiver wire as closely to the dome or mold as you can) to gently loosen it from the ear canal.
Caution: When inserting hearing aids or removing them, avoid pulling on the center of the receiver wire, as this can damage the receiver.
Putting in Hearing Aids When Using In-the-Ear (ITE) Devices:
ITE hearing aids are one-piece, meaning that the custom shell houses all of the hearing aid’s electronics. Like inserting an earmold, you’ll want to use your left hand to pull up and back on your right ear, then insert the hearing aid with your right hand, and vice versa. Once the device is in, it should sit comfortably in your concha and not protrude out of your ear.
To remove your hearing aids, pull down on your earlobe and use your index finger to remove the hearing aid. If this is difficult, your audiologist can add a small plastic wire, known as a pull, to assist with removal.
Putting in Hearing Aids When Using Completely-in-Canal (CIC) Devices:
Like ITE hearing aids, these are custom-made using an earmold impression, but they fit all the way in your ear canal, so they are nearly invisible from the outside. These hearing aids will have markers to indicate both right and left and top and bottom. To insert your right hearing aid, you will pull up and back on the helix portion of your right ear with your left hand to straighten the ear canal. The hearing aid should slide in comfortably and easily. These hearing aids have a plastic wire, known as a pull, to assist in inserting and removing them.
Putting in Hearing Aids Properly Eliminates Whistling
Checking for whistling (also known as feedback) when putting in hearing aids is one way to tell if your devices are correctly inserted. If you or others are hearing feedback, it likely means that the hearing aid is not inserted all the way. Feedback can also be caused by excessive wax, so you can discuss this with your hearing healthcare professional if it becomes a persistent problem.
Hearing Aid General Care, Cleaning, and Maintenance
In addition to putting in hearing aids correctly, you should learn about how to clean and maintain your devices. With an earmold, always check to see if there is wax or other debris in the opening or anywhere along the tubing. You should also check to ensure your tubing is soft and supple – if it becomes hard or discolored, it’s time to have it changed by your hearing healthcare professional.
Some earmolds also include a vent, or a small hole through the mold, which should remain clear for comfort and ventilation. You should wipe your earmolds with a soft dry cloth on a daily basis. Avoid using chemicals that may break down the material.
If you are using disposable domes, these will need to be replaced periodically. How often you replace your domes will depend on the amount of wax and moisture in your ears, the climate, and the general maintenance of your hearing aids. You can get spares from your hearing healthcare professional.
You can also purchase a drying kit for your hearing aids, which can help to remove moisture and is a safe place to store the hearing aids when you’re not wearing them. These can be particularly useful in warm and humid climates or for individuals who frequently sweat. If your hearing aids use disposable batteries, remove the batteries before putting your hearing aids into the drying kit.
Putting in Hearing Aids and Removing Them – Conclusion
Putting in hearing aids and removing them correctly is crucial for their optimal function, and you should practice doing so during your fitting with your hearing healthcare professional.
Use caution when inserting hearing aids or removing them, as it is at these times when hearing aids are most susceptible to accidental damage. Rest assured, with practice, you will become an expert in putting in hearing aids and removing them.
Erin Edwards received her Doctor of Audiology degree from Towson University in 2015 and her Ph.D. in Education and Leadership from Pacific University in 2022. She has worked with patients of all ages in a variety of settings and has a specific interest in cochlear implants, the relationship of hearing loss and dementia, and interdisciplinary healthcare.