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Hearing aids don't go on vacation when you do, and summer presents challenges to the tiny devices.
"Moisture and humidity are the two worst culprits for hearing aids," says Elizabeth Levine-Davis, a clinical audiologist at the New York Eye and Ear Hospital. They can short the electronics, corrode the components and kill the batteries. Not all models are water-resistant and few are waterproof, so here are a dozen tips to help your device survive the hot, humid days of summer.
- It sounds obvious, but check weather conditions before heading outside. A windy downpour can turn umbrellas inside out and leave your hearing aids vulnerable to the rain. A better bet if it's stormy out: Wear a rain hat to protect aids from the water.
- Exercise during the cooler part of the day. Some experts even advise removing your hearing aids when exercising outside for long periods of time. The reason: A lot of heat escapes through the ears, says Ann Gentili-Stockwell, clinical manager of audiology at the Vernick & Gopal Hearing Center outside Boston. "Behind-the-ear [BTE] hearing aids that sit on a wet, sweaty head are likely to be damp for an extended period of time," she adds, and that's not good. Small sock-shaped sweatbands that slip over the device are available and may help.
- If you're not wearing your hearing aids, keep them in their container in a cool, dry place. The glove department or dashboard of your car does not qualify. Heat can cause serious damage.
- Be sure sunscreen is completely rubbed in before putting your hearing aids on. The same goes for insect repellent: Apply and let dry before reinserting the aids, as sprays and oils may seep into and damage the devices.
- Sand and wind make using hearing aids at the beach difficult, so many just leave them at home. Pools, on the other hand, are different. People want to hear conversations poolside. The most common mistake is for someone to jump into the water, forgetting about the little devices in their ears. Take a container with a tight-fitting lid, such as a colorful food storage container, and leave it in plain sight to remind you to take out your hearing aids before going in for a dip.
- Open the hearing aid's battery door at night so that any accumulated moisture can escape.
- If your hearing aid does get wet, turn it off and remove the battery. Dry gently with a towel or a special dryer for hearing aids. If you must use a hair dryer — which is not recommended — use only on the cool setting.
- Put the hearing aid into a dehumidifier. They come in all sizes and prices, from drying kits with silica gel crystals to electrical devices that also kill bacteria. But they do expire, so they need to be monitored to check for effectiveness, advises Gentili-Stockwell. Give your hearing aid a few hours in the dehumidifier, even if it seems to be working after you dry it off.
- If you don't have a dehumidifier and your hearing aids get wet, a bag of uncooked rice can serve as a backup. If the devices still don't work after that, consult an audiologist.
- Invest in a lightweight lanyard, which can attach the device to your clothes if you're moving around a lot.
- When you hit the road, make sure your name and contact information are clearly marked on the case so that if the hearing aids are misplaced or left behind, they can be returned.
- Whatever you do with your aids, be gentle. "Your hearing aids are essentially tiny computers, so you want to treat them the same way you would treat your smartphone, laptop or radio," says Andrea Gerlach, executive director of the Dallas Ear Institute.