Trouble with your hearing aid?

Wearing a hearing aid can sometimes present certain problems, depending of course on the type of hearing aid that you wear. In this article, I will be covering various problems and their remedies. I will mainly be discussing hearing aids worn behind the ear with a tube or speaker inside the ear.

Help! The tube keeps popping out of my ear!

If you wear a super high-tech behind-the-ear hearing aid with a tube and a dome inside your ear, it can happen that the tube refuses to stay in place. The tube works as a kind of conduit, transmitting the amplified sound to your eardrum. At the end of the tube is a dome that keeps the tube in place inside the ear canal. You can see an example of a so-called ‘thin tube’ below.

It can happen that the tube pops out of your ear canal. In that case, usually the tube will be too short, resulting in its getting pulled upward and out of your ear. It’s also possible that the dome you are using is too small, making it impossible for it to stay in place. If so, talk to your hearing care professional to see if either can be replaced.

My hearing aid’s speaker refuses to stay in place

There are also hearing aids where the tube does more than just relay sound, but is in fact a kind of speaker. It may occur that this is not properly positioned, because of a situation similar to what I described above: either the speaker is too short or the dome connected to it is too small. If the speaker is too short, there will be some pull on your ear and it’ll pop out. If the dome is too small, it won’t stay in place in your ear and keep popping out as well. This can be avoided by using a slightly thicker dome. You can see examples of a receiver hearing aids below.

Receiver in ear hearing aids

Does it matter what dome I connect to my hearing aid?

It most certainly does! The dome at the end of your tube or speaker largely determines how much sound is transmitted to your eardrum. If the dome is completely closed and seals off your ear canal, lower tones will be much more strongly amplified. That is why in case of hearing loss in the higher frequencies, a closed dome is rarely necessary. Attaching a dome with holes in it will keep the ear canal open. This is called ‘open adjustment’. Hearing loss in the lower frequencies usually requires a closed adjustment.

Alternatives to universal domes

The above mainly applies to universal domes, which are available in dozens of shapes and sizes. After all, no two ear canals are the same. Some are fairly spacious, while other people have a very narrow ear canal. A narrow ear canal can be a little awkward. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to experience any pain in your ear, so it’s very important to determine which size is comfortable for you. And as stated above, the nature of your hearing aid also influences your choice of dome. Naturally, in case of more severe hearing loss, the hearing aid will provide more amplification. If that applies to you, it may be wise to look for a custom solution. For this, the hearing care professional will make a mould of your ear canal, and the manufacturer will provide a custom-made ‘shell’, which is attached to the tube or speaker.

Is a custom shell more comfortable than a universal dome?

If a universal dome is awkward to use because it keeps tending to fall out, a custom solution is always an option. They are even available for people with mild hearing loss. Drilling a hole in the shell makes open adjustment possible. Such a hole is also referred to as a ‘vent’. It provides airflow and stops your ear from feeling closed off. A closed dome or shell is not necessary in case of mild hearing loss. A custom shell can be a huge improvement, preventing you from having to worry about the dome popping out of your ear. A custom shell will quickly feel very comfortable inside your ear canal. Because it was made to size, it fits perfectly and gives you peace of mind.

Will a custom shell improve my hearing?

As stated above, in case of severe hearing loss, a custom shell may transmit sound to your eardrum better than a universal dome. Because it is made to size, loss of sound is reduced.

Even if you are wearing a properly fitting universal dome, speech comprehension will sometimes improve by pushing the dome into your ear a little more tightly. We hear this a lot from people who visit us for a check-up: “If I push the tube and dome more deeply into my ear, I can hear more clearly!” If that is the case for you, a custom shell is advisable.

Naturally, you can discuss all of this with your hearing care professional. It is very important that this part of your hearing aid is comfortable to wear! Because if it is not, you will be more inclined to avoid wearing your hearing aid, as you will be preoccupied with its fit and placement in the course of the day. That is a waste of energy and – especially – hearing pleasure

So, the fit is important. Are you comfortable? Doesn’t your ear feel too closed off? Does your hearing aid feel secure when wearing it?

What are some other problems that may occur when wearing a hearing aid?

A hearing aid consists of many different components. Inside the casing, there is a wealth of electronics. And something on the inside can always be defective. Damage to the outside is clearly visible, of course, and is reason to have your hearing aid checked by your hearing care professional. A broken battery door, for example, can often be repaired or replaced in-store by the hearing care professional. It may happen that you insert your hearing aid but fail to get any amplification. If so, chances are that something inside your hearing aid is defective, such as the microphone, a speaker or another mechanical part. A check by your hearing care professional will quickly determine whether the defect can be fixed in-store or whether the hearing aid must be returned to the manufacturer.

My hearing aid refuses to charge!

Nowadays, many hearing aids have a built-in rechargeable battery. That is very convenient, as it eliminates the need to replace batteries. The hearing aid’s outside – its casing – is completely sealed off, meaning there is no battery door that might break or otherwise be defective. This makes a rechargeable hearing aid a very practical device to get. Of course it is possible for the built-in battery to stop working, but that rarely happens and will usually be covered by a replacement warranty from the manufacturer. All a rechargeable hearing aid needs to function is to be placed in its charger for a few hours. Of course, the charger can also become defective. Your hearing care professional will test this before sending off your hearing aid. In that case, your charger will usually be replaced or returned for repair.

Will I be without a hearing aid if it breaks down?

A good hearing care professional will never let you go home without a hearing aid. Usually, you will be able to use a hearing aid on temporary loan. It will be of a different quality than your own – and possibly not your favorite colour! – but it does mean that you will be okay for the time being. No doubt your hearing care professional will also be able to lend you a charger, so you will be able to charge your hearing aid while waiting for its replacement/repair.

Spare hearing aids

It makes good sense to own a spare set of hearing aids.

As you have been able to read in this article, all sorts of things could happen meaning that you’d be without a hearing aid for a while. That makes owning a spare set of hearing aids a very good idea. For example, when you are on vacation and far removed from any hearing care professionals. If something were to happen to your hearing aids then, you’d be in trouble and your vacation could be ruined! After all, you always want to be able to hear. It’s good to have a spare hearing aid that resembles your regular hearing aid, although a different type could be an option if you are looking to cut costs. As not all health insurers reimburse the more advanced types of hearing aid, perhaps you purchased a set of hearing aids without receiving reimbursement. In that case it may be worth discussing with your hearing care professional whether you could purchase a second set through your health insurance. This may require a consultation with an ear, nose and throat specialist. If you meet your health insurer’s conditions, your hearing care professional can claim part of the expenses.

It makes good sense to take extra good care of your beautiful, super advanced hearing aids when exercising, if you are sweating a lot and if you are in a situation with potentially extreme weather conditions (e.g. at the beach or on a boat). You could even choose to wear your spare set in those situations!

It will be clear to you by now that you have many options. The most important thing is that you are comfortable wearing your hearing aid. The fit should be good, and the sound quality should be pleasing, but you must also feel secure in wearing your hearing aids in all sorts of situations without having to worry about any risks.

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By Yvan Karman