Water is an integral part of our lives here in Florida. It’s in the air all around us in the form of humidity, we sweat to regulate our body temperature in the summer heat, and we must dodge almost daily afternoon rain showers. Note to mention, a lot of our leisure activates involve water, such as going to the beach, boating, and fishing. A recent survey of people with hearing loss showed that 52% of hearing aid wearers were anxious about wearing hearing aids during water activities. This anxiety was even higher for those yet to purchase hearing aids, sitting at around 68%!
Over time, moisture that accumulates inside hearing aids can cause intermittency, distortion, and decreased gain, leading to reduced performance with the devices. Repeated exposure to water/moisture can cause corrosion damage to the delicate micro-electronic components within hearing aids, requiring repair or servicing. In fact, the vast majority of non-warranty related hearing aid repairs we see in our clinic are due to either wax, debris, or moisture build-up. This on-going issue has prompted the manufacturers to develop a range of management approaches and solutions in order to prevent water/moisture damage to hearing aids.
The traditional advice we give our patients is to avoid/minimize hearing aid use when around water. However, this doesn’t protect against accidental exposure, such as forgetting to take them off in the shower or living in a humid climate like ours. Furthermore, hearing well around water can be important, for example when out walking/running around traffic in the rain or when at the beach. So what technologies are now available to help support hearing aid use when around water/moisture?
2. Dry it off!
A common approach to prevent moisture damage to hearing aids is to utilize a drying system for overnight storage. There are a variety of systems, starting with a simple bottle and desiccant crystal capsule that passively draws out moisture from the device when it is placed in the bottle overnight. There are also active systems which have fans and/or heating mechanisms that circulate dry air through the hearing aids. Some of these systems also employ a UV light to help prevent microbial build up as well.
3. Invest in new technology!
Lastly, it is important to note how the hearing aid manufacturers have made the units more and more water resistant with each new generation. The rechargeable units use lithium ion technology with no battery door to open or close, thereby enclosing the most vulnerable parts of the hearing aid in a capsule with no water intrusion. Some newer models, such as the Phonak Audeo Life, are so water resistant that they are considered water proof in shallow water!
If you are interested in discussing options to manage moisture build-up or to discuss new more water resistant technology, give the Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute a call at 904-399-0350.