Throughout the coldest months of the year, professionals recommend that you take extra precautions to ensure the safety and stability of your hearing aids. Winter comes along with low temperatures and extra moisture, both of which can take a toll on hearing aids. While this damage can often be repaired, it is far better to prevent potential harm ahead of time.
Winter affects many people’s hearing aids, as well as their tinnitus and clogged ears symptoms, in different ways. This guide will help you to avoid these issues as best as possible.
Damage to Hearing Aids
No matter how cold it gets where you live, you should keep in mind the potential damage that extreme temperatures and moist air can cause your hearing aids. When a temperature change occurs, the resulting condensation can harm the hearing aid’s internal components. Even in environments without snow or rain, this moisture is often present during the winter months.
For example, as you move from a cold, outdoor space into a warm, indoor space, your coat, scarf, hat, gloves, etc. continue to produce heat and therefore sweat. Even if you immediately remove these items, the temperature change can result in condensation on your hearing aids.
The moisture caused by temperature changes during the winter months can quickly take its toll on your hearing aids. It can ruin the microphone, receiver, and earmold tube.
- Signs that your hearing aids may be experiencing early signs of moisture damage include:
- Unclear or distorted sounds
- Sounds fading or going in and out
- Hearing aids stopping during loud noises
- Static alongside all sounds
- Hearing aids cutting off and restarting
Fixing Moisture Damage
While not all moisture-caused issues with hearing aids can be fixed, there are a variety of quick solutions that you can try out. The following fixes may help restore your hearing aids’ capacities:
- Ensure that the hearing aid is turned on and that the T-switch is in the correct position.
- If applicable, make sure that the disposable batteries have been inserted correctly and are not corroded.
- Clean or remove any moisture from the battery contacts, the points where the batteries and hearing aid touch.
- Check that the earmold and sound outlet are not clogged with wax.
If applicable, ensure that the domes are not damaged.
These quick fixes may solve your hearing aid issue, but if not, then you may have moisture inside the hearing aid.
If you wear behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids, then you may want to look in the tubing for moisture droplets.
If you wear earmolds, then an earmold puffer can help blow out any moisture stuck inside. You may also want to consider having the earmolds fitted with a moisture-dispersing tube to prevent these issues from happening in the future.
Hearing Aid Dehumidifiers
Hearing aid drying kits, or dehumidifiers, can be a powerful tool when attempting to remove moisture from a pair of hearing aids Especially for in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids, it can be difficult to properly get all the moisture out. Purchasing a hearing aid drying device and using it with your hearing aids should help you dry them out and hopefully avoid long-term damage.
These drying kits are one of many helpful hearing aid accessories that can keep your hearing aids staying efficient and lasting longer.
Protecting Your Hearing Aids & Your Ears
There are certainly potential ways to fix hearing aids after they are damaged due to moisture and cold weather, but the best way to keep them safe is to use precautions in advance. When heading out into the cold while wearing hearing aids, consider the following tools that can help keep them in good condition.
Even when it is freezing cold outside, you may still work up a sweat without realizing it. Hearing aid sweatbands help limit the amount of moisture that behind-the-ear hearing aids may be exposed to.
Whether you experience moisture from sweating or from precipitation such as snow or rain, sweatbands will act as a moisture repellant. Additionally, they provide a helpful windshield for your microphone. Hearing aid sweatbands cost about $20 per pair and are available in a variety of colors and sizes.
Specialized earmuffs can protect your ears from loud noises. Noise-reduction earmuffs limit your exposure to damaging noises year-round, while also keeping you warm and comfortable during the winter months. Additionally, by covering your ears with earmuffs throughout the day, you are less likely to dislodge or lose your hearing aids.
These special earmuffs can cost anywhere upwards of $10 and can reduce noise by as much as 30 dB. They will prove helpful not just in the winter, but in any temperature while participating in a noisy activity.
Umbrella or Raincoat
One of the easiest ways to protect your hearing aids from moisture is by simply using an umbrella or the hood of your raincoat while it is raining, snowing, or hailing. Carry one around with you to be prepared for whenever precipitation may occur.
Clogged Ears in Winter
While cold weather can damage your hearing aids, it can also harm your actual ears. Keep in mind how winter weather changes and travel can affect your overall health.
Tinnitus in the Winter
Cold, winter months have the potential to trigger tinnitus, or ringing in your ears. In fact, research shows that Internet search terms for tinnitus increase in the winter! Seasonal trends including higher levels of cold and flu infections, common unhealthy activities, and increased rates of depression and stress often occur in the winter, which can all potentially result in tinnitus. Avoid these risk factors as much as possible to keep your tinnitus and ear pressure under control.
Dramatic temperature changes and shifting in barometric pressure can be causes of clogged ears. This change in pressure, as well as seasonal respiratory infections, are very common during the winter months. Learn more about how weather-related pressure changes can affect hearing here.
As you plan any potential trips around the winter holidays, be sure to put your health first. Particularly, if your ears are persistently clogged, do not travel by airplane. This could result in a ruptured eardrum or severe infection, which can cause hearing loss and permanent damage to your ears. Rescheduling your flight is always better than risking your health under these conditions.
More: Airplanes and ear pain: Why it happens and what you can do, and traveling with hearing aids.
It may seem daunting to keep your ears, as well as your hearing aids, safe and functioning properly during the winter months, but by following these tips and tricks, you should be able to enjoy a fun and healthy winter season. If you have problems, call an audiologist!