By Terrence Williams, H.I.S.
Asst. Director, CHC’s Berelson Hearing Technology Center
Terrence Williams, H.I.S., Asst. Director, Berelson Hearing Technology Center
Hearing aids, for various reasons, can periodically malfunction or simply stop working. For the less technically inclined hearing aid user, this can be very upsetting, especially if he or she has grown highly dependent on the hearing technology to hear and function. With an eye on our mission to empower people, here are tips compiled by CHC hearing technology experts on how to troubleshoot a hearing aid. We thought they would be especially helpful during the Covid-19 crisis when remote hearing health care has temporarily replaced in-office services.
Begin with a simple battery check
In some cases, hearing aids are not working simply because there’s an issue with the battery. We recommend that you begin the troubleshooting process by checking to see if the battery has expired and needs replacing, or if it was inserted incorrectly. Most hearing aids provide a warning beep when it’s time to change the battery. We recommend changing the battery routinely on the same day and time, at least once a week.
Rechargeable hearing aids are becoming more common. If the hearing aid is a rechargeable model and not working, check if the charging port is set up and plugged into the power source correctly and also ensure the hearing aid is connecting to the charger.
Tips to address the most common issues
Replace the battery. Even if you just replaced the battery, always try another, if possible, from a different package. Sometimes there can be a “bad” battery in the pack, or even a “bad” package.
Make sure you put the battery facing the correct way in the hearing aid. If it is upside down, it won’t work.
Inside the battery compartment are small metal pins called “contacts.” The contacts must be free of debris. If debris or corrosion is visible, carefully and gently clean contacts using rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab.
Be sure that the hearing aids are placed in the charger the correct way. Most charging systems confirm this by a light display, either on the hearing aid or the charger.
Make sure the charger is plugged into a working outlet and the plug is securely in the outlet.
How old are the rechargeable batteries? Rechargeable batteries will wear out eventually. This does not happen suddenly, that is one day they are working, the next day they are not. They wear out gradually, with the hearing aids no longer holding a charge as long as they did originally.
Ear wax (also known as cerumen) is the most common reason why hearing aids stop working. And it is the easiest to fix! If the wax is removed, often the problem is solved.
Behind-the-ear hearing aid with standard earmold
If you are wearing behind-the-ear hearing aids that use standard earmolds. the opening can get blocked with wax. If you do not have an earmold cleaning tool, use a blunt object such as the eye of an embroidery needle or a small crochet hook to remove the wax from the mold. Do not use sharp objects such as the pointy end of the needle as you might damage the tubing or earmold.
If you are wearing a custom in-the-ear aid or a receiver-in-the-ear aid, there are built-in wax traps. These are small plastic basket-shaped inserts that trap the wax inside so it does not get into the electronics of the hearing aid. When you purchased your hearing aids you received a supply of replacement wax traps. If you do not have any wax traps or have forgotten how to change them, CHC can help you. Contact our technical department or your audiologist.
Hearing aid styles with built-in wax filters
All hearing aids manufactured in the last five years are moisture resistant, but none of them are waterproof. If your hearing aids have gotten very wet, take the battery out (if it is a rechargeable battery, open the case if possible) and let the hearing aid air dry. If you have a desiccant kit, put the hearing aid without a battery in it into the desiccant kit. If you do not, let the hearing aid air dry. Do not put the hearing aid on the radiator, do not use a hair dryer, and do not put it in the microwave to dry it out. Doing any of these things will damage the hearing aid. After the hearing aid has been left to dry out for 3 to 4 hours, put in a fresh battery. If the hearing aid sounds good, you did not do any damage to the aid. If the hearing aid is not functioning, it will need to go to the manufacturer for repair. Contact our technical department or your CHC audiologist who can help arrange this remotely.
Receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids (right) have a wire that goes from the body of the aid to the receiver that goes into the ear. It can happen that the wire gets twisted or broken inside (even if it looks fine on the outside) and will stop working. Contact our technical department or your CHC audiologist; we can help to troubleshoot this remotely and may be able to arrange to have a replacement sent to you from the manufacturer of your hearing aid.
Hearing aids are small, sophisticated electrical instruments that are subject to failure. These failures require that the aid be sent to the manufacturer for repair. When this happens, please contact our technical department or your CHC audiologist so that we can work with you remotely to help you resolve the issue.
The most important thing to know is that CHC is here to assist our clients who might be having an issue with their hearing aids. And, during the Covid-19 crisis, we are also here to assist, as best we can, individuals who are not currently CHC clients. We very much want to reduce feelings of isolation and frustration that individuals with hearing loss may experience should something happen to their hearing aid technology.
CHC audiologists are working remotely and servicing clients through email and phone contact as well as through telehealth video sessions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your CHC audiologist. Or, if you prefer, you can call our main number in New York at 917-305-7700 or in Ft. Lauderdale at 954-601-1930. Click here to email us and we’ll direct your message to the appropriate clinician.