Everything You Need To Know About Hearing Aid Aftercare
One of the biggest roadblocks regarding how happy people are with their hearing aids is related to maintenance and cleaning. To ensure the longevity and functionality of your hearing aids, and minimise the risk of potential issues, you need to treat them with the utmost care and closely follow your audiologist’s advice. We developed the Attune Hearing aftercare program to help you make the most of your hearing aids. Let’s chat about hearing aid aftercare, why it matters and what you can expect on your journey to better hearing.
Many different brands of hearing aids are regularly fitted in Australia, including Signia, Phonak, Unitron, Oticon, and Resound. Independent hearing aid providers such as Attune Hearing can prescribe and fit all brands, whereas some retail clinics can fit only the hearing aid brand they partner with. Additionally, different providers will have varying aftercare packages ranging from no or minimal included aftercare appointments to unlimited access to aftercare appointments. This is something to consider when choosing a provider.
As with your eyes and teeth, your hearing will deteriorate over time – even if you wear hearing aids. So, it’s important to regularly monitor your hearing and maintain your hearing aids, which can be easily achieved with an annual review appointment, regular servicing and the right hearing aid programming.
Hearing Aid Aftercare 101
Don’t Miss Your Annual Review Appointments
When initially discussing your hearing aid options, most providers outline a service package that is included with the devices. At a basic level, your audiologist should see you at least annually for a review appointment lasting approximately 30 minutes.
- During this appointment, your audiologist should ask you whether you feel your hearing has remained stable or deteriorated since your last appointment.
- They should then check your ear canals for wax before performing a short screening hearing test which is designed to identify any changes in your hearing.
- Following the hearing screening, your audiologist will usually clean and check your hearing aids before connecting them to the programming software. This software will identify patterns of hearing aid use and listening environments.
- Finally, your audiologist will reset your hearing aids to the screening test results to optimise the hearing aid performance. Should there have been a significant change in your hearing, your audiologist might encourage you to see your GP to obtain a referral for a full hearing assessment.
Regularly Service Your Hearing Aids
Most audiologists will recommend that your hearing aids are serviced annually. Hearing aid servicing can be performed in-clinic, but sometimes the hearing aids need to be sent to the manufacturer. An in-clinic or in-house service usually involves a thorough clean and check of the hearing aids. This might include:
- Examination and cleaning of battery contacts
- Cleaning of the casing and microphone ports
- Cleaning of the receiver (changing the wax filter/guard if required)
- Receiver replacement
- And checking of tubing and earmoulds
Manufacturer servicing might also include replacing electronics, replacing housing, or a thorough clean and check of the internal components not accessible to the audiologist.
Hearing Aid Warranty
Hearing aid manufacturers often offer a three-year repair warranty with the purchase of hearing aids. If the devices are unresponsive after in-clinic servicing or towards the end of the repair warranty period, your audiologist might send the hearing aids for service by the manufacturer.
Hearing Aid Adjustments and Programming
Sometimes hearing aids will require changes to the programming or a small adjustment between annual review check-ups. This might result from a user acclimatising to the overall gain (i.e. volume) settings, or it might relate to their experience in a specific environment. For example, the user might attend an environment not part of their daily routine like a theatre performance. Suppose the devices do not perform sufficiently in this environment. In that case, the user may wish to adjust the hearing aids so that the next time they are in that environment, the listening experience is improved.
Open communication is encouraged, with many hearing clinics regularly contacting patients by phone or letter to “touch base”. That way if problems are identified, a hearing aid adjustment appointment can be scheduled.
Upgrading Your Hearing Aid Technology
Like most technology companies, hearing aid manufacturers invest a lot of time and money in research and development. While hearing aid manufacturers will usually release a new hearing aid platform (i.e. computer chip) biennially, this poses the question: When should I upgrade my hearing aids?
Hearing aids are expected to last for five years under the government Hearing Services Program (HSP) before refitting is permitted, so in theory, this same time frame should also apply to private hearing aid clients. When the hearing aids are five years old many hearing clinics will call the client to see if they wish to schedule an appointment to trial newer technology.
Given that hearing aids are worn on the body, they are subjected to sweat, environmental moisture, dry skin, and debris. With good care and regular maintenance, hearing aids should last at least five years, but sometimes newer technology might yield better performance in more challenging listening environments. A hearing aid trial will allow you to see for yourself if new hearing aids perform better than your current devices.
What can you do at home?
Most manufacturers provide online video tutorials and FAQ pages on their websites. Your audiologist should also reinforce any specific expectations they might have concerning hearing aid cleaning. These could include:
- Using a dry box or dehumidifier at night in warmer months or once a week in cooler months
- Wiping or brushing the hearing aids to remove dust and debris
- And replacing wax filters or wax guards regularly
One of the common causes of hearing aid malfunction is wax, either in the user’s ear canal or in the hearing aid itself. A simple way of staying on top of wax could be requesting that your GP check your ears for wax at each visit, as most people will see their GP more frequently than their audiologist.
Wrapping it up
So, while taking the initial step to purchasing hearing aids can be daunting, being informed about the aftercare services included with your devices – and what is expected of you as the hearing aid user – is just as important!
The take-home message is this: Find a provider willing to offer you the aftercare that suits your lifestyle. For some, this might mean only attending the clinic once a year for an annual review appointment. For others, this might mean recurring appointments every three months to stay on top of the required aftercare for best hearing aid performance.
Remember, communication with your audiologist and hearing clinic is one of the keys to successful hearing aid use! To book a hearing aid service or have your hearing evaluated, give our friendly team at your local Attune Hearing clinic a call at 1300 736 702.