Saturday, 3 June 2017

Behind-the-ear hearing aids and tubing

If you wear the larger over-the-ear (0TE) or behind-the-ear (BTE) aids, then at some stage you may need to replace tubing that goes between the ear mould and the aid. It does deteriorate with time, and become hard or crack. When this happens you will suddenly lose volume and changing the battery won’t help. You may also find you have increased feedback or whistling.

Sometimes you can see the crack, but it's often quite hard to spot. If the tubing is several months old, feels stiff, or has a yellowish tinge, it's time for a change. You can do this yourself, or ask your audiologist. If you do it yourself, just take note of the information below.

The tubing should be glued in lightly. Remember you have to be able to pull it out to change it when it does become stiff or cracks. Apply a tiny dob of glue on the outside of the tube and slide it in. Don't put glue right near the hole at the end of the tube, or it may block the sound hole.
If you apply to much glue, the tubing will become so embedded in the mould, that it will need to be sent away to have it removed. So be sparing – you can always put a bit more glue on if it comes out.

When measuring the length of the tube from the mould to the hearing aid, take care with the length of the tubing. Remember it has to overlap onto the hook by 3 or 4 mm. If your aid has been comfortable and your tube length is comfortable, just measure it to that length. If the tubing is too short it will pull hearing aid down on your ear, and your mould up in the ear canal, creating discomfort. Compare the new length of tubing with the old - if it's more than a few millimetres shorter, this may be the cause.
If in doubt cut it longer - you can always shorten it but you can't make it longer.

If the tubing is too long, it can also cause discomfort – it will push the aid up and it changes the way the mould sits in the ear. The audiologist (or receptionist) may not get the tubing length quite right, so be prepared to go back and have it re-done it if is uncomfortable.
I keep a couple of spare tubes at home, in case I need to re-do it. I also have learned to take some on holidays with me. I once had a tube crack over a long weekend; no audiologists were open, and I had no spare tubing. I ended up trying to tape the crack to stop the whistling so I could talk to people on this special weekend. It wasn’t very successful.

Another common cause of discomfort is if the hearing aid has twisted on the tube. If your hearing aid was comfortable yesterday and isn't today check the angle at which it is sitting on the tubing.
If the mould has twisted on the tubing, it will push into your ear in a different spot. This causes tension between the angle of the over the earpiece and the moulds.
Try rotating the mould on the tube with practice you will work out the best angle usually facing backwards slightly.

Like all things, taking a little time to get to know your hearing aid will make it easier to trouble-shoot.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Moulds and Mould

If you wear over-the-ear hearing aids, especially the bigger ones, you will have had the pleasure of trying to get moulds that fit well. And this is not easy – my hearing aid provider said 'Moulds that fit well are like gold.’
I keep wondering how hard this should be – you fill the ear with soft moulding goob, wait for it to set, and then take a mould from that. We are onto our second and third attempts. It does matter that this is right – too loose and they move around, whistle, or fall out; too tight and they press and hurt. If you fix where it presses in one area and then another develops. I'm using wet and dry sandpaper at home now – I find the grinder at the hearing aid place has too rough a finish. Even the soft polishing brush doesn't leave a really smooth finish for my super-sensitive ears! When we get a good fit, we’ll get a mould made, and keep a 3D image of it ready for next time.
If you have had skin irritation issues – itching or mould growth or redness, you can request a special coating on your moulds. This finish can be applied to in-the-ear devices as well. Wearing anything in your ear for long periods of time reduces the air flow, and prevents the ear canal from drying out. Your skin reacts to the constancy of moisture in the ear caused by reduced airflow by itchiness, or sometimes a growth of fungus. It is not uncommon to see infections in the ear canal in people who often wear other in-the-ear gadgets, including hearing protection plugs, i-pod plugs, swim plugs etc. Some of this may be related to hygiene of the plugs – handling noise protection plugs with dirty hands each time you take them out and put them in will certainly increase your chances of infection.
You can ask for an air hole in your mould and this will improve the ventilation and reduce irritation. It does have some impact on the sound, as the hole allows some of the sound to bounce back out. If you have a mild a loss this hole will also allow some natural sound to come in to your ear. The new barely there moulds allow plenty of airflow. It's worth trying different styles of these small moulds– some are soft, some are more rigid, and you may find one suits your ear better than another. They shouldn’t hurt or fall out.

The moral of the story is: Don't be afraid to keep asking until you get it right! 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Dry aid and other care tips

 Dry aid and other care tips
Wax and moisture damage says the report. Really? I'm very careful about my hearing aids – don't drop them, never forget to take them out for a shower or swim. I don't wear them when it's hot unless I have to. Humidity, moisture, and wax are notorious for shortening the life of a hearing aid. So is hopping in the shower with them…
If you can take them out on really hot days, or when exercising, you will prolong their life as they are exposed to less moisture from perspiration. To help protect them, there are little ‘sweat socks’ you can buy to place over the hearing aid that wicks the moisture away. (Or you can place the mould in the ear and let the over-the-ear bit hang in space…)
Using a ‘dry pack’ overnight for storage will help to dry out some of the moisture that accumulates daily around your devices. Do use the dry pack according to the instructions to get the best out of it.
Don't store your hearing aids in very hot or cold environs. Avoid humid places e.g. the kitchen with the oven on. If you do wear your hearing devices in very humid conditions, dry your ear canal with the clean tissue regularly, and wipe the outside of the mould and cover.
Regular servicing of your hearing aids every 6 to 12 months will certainly prolong their life. You may need to ask for this. You would never buy a car and not service it, yet some companies will only offer a service just before the warranty expires at the 3 year mark. Be assertive!
If you do get an itchy canal from your mould, a special coating can be applied that will prevent irritation - more on that next blog.
Like so many things round hearing devices, you need to ask questions – write these down between visits and take the list with you. There are often good solutions, but you have to ask – the information isn’t volunteered at appointments unless your audiologist is aware of what issues you are having.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

You’re fading out…

Fading sound the last thing you want when you're so dependent on hearing devices to keep you in touch with your family, work and friends.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the causes:
If the battery is low it will still turn on for a few seconds or moments and then fade out. Sometimes batteries are ‘duds’. The easy answer is to try a new battery.
The battery terminals maybe dirty. If you don't feel confident to clean them, ask someone who has a practical skill set. All you need is a clean tissue or a piece of clean, soft paper (not shiny paper), and gently wipe across the terminals.
Perhaps it seems quiet because all your family have a laryngitis - I can recommend cough drops.
If the antenna inside is loose, it will receive intermittently. It may cut out for no obvious reason, and then the sound comes back again. Or the sound may return if you fiddle with it. A loose battery cover can also cause this effect. You’ll need to send the device away for repair.
Lastly it could be dirt, sweat, wax, and just general wear and tear. Ask for your provider to clean it every 6 to 12 months.  It only takes a few minutes, and they should be able to do it on the spot.

Remember like any machine it needs TLC and a service from time to time - particularly while still under warranty so you get maximum benefits and a long life from it.