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How to clean your hearing aids

dryer for cochlear implants
Svetlana Repnitskaya / Getty Images

Hearing aids are a lifeline for people with some degree of hearing loss. Once you know it's time to buy new hearing aids -- or invest in your very first pair -- one thing you may notice is how delicate (and sometimes expensive) hearing aids are. If you think your hearing aids are beyond help, we've gathered some of the most trusted brands below to help you find your next pair. And when you're ready to clean them, we're here to help you get started there, too. 

Since the technology for hearing aids is complicated, it matters which tools and cleaning solutions you use. The buildup of earwax or moisture can damage your hearing aid over time, leading to telltale signs of damage like fading, choppy or distorted sound. 

Your hearing aids can also cause a buildup of ear canal debris such as bacteria or excess wax, which can lead to health concerns like irritation or even infection. 

For these reasons, it's important to clean your hearing aids regularly -- and to make sure you're occasionally visiting a licensed audiologist or hearing specialist for a professional scrubbing. See our guide below for proper hearing aid cleaning tips and tools.

How to clean your hearing aids

If you want your hearing aids to last, it's important to clean them regularly. Many devices come with a hearing-aid cleaning kit and manufacturer recommendations with tips on how to safely and efficiently clean your hearing aid. Refer to these instructions first to avoid any unnecessary damage or a void on your warranty. Most manufacturer warranties, like the one offered by MDHearing, do not cover damage from excess moisture.

You may be tempted to use water or a damp cloth to clean your hearing aid, but we recommend sticking with cleaning solutions and tools that are approved for use with hearing aids. This is due to the delicate nature of these devices and the technology within them.

Want to keep your hearing aid clean and in tip-top shape? Disinfect and wipe away wax or debris buildup with a microfiber cloth on a nightly basis. We also recommend routinely storing your hearing aid in a dehumidifier overnight to easily prevent moisture buildup. 

We also recommend giving hearing aids a more thorough cleaning once per week. Professional cleanings from a licensed hearing aid professional can also make daily upkeep easier, plus it gives you an opportunity to discuss any issues or adjustments. Schedule a professional cleaning once every six months.

What are the best tools for cleaning hearing aids?

If you don't already have a dedicated cleaning kit for your hearing aid, we've got you covered. There are tools you can buy on your own -- separately or as part of a hearing aid cleaning kit -- to keep your devices in good shape.

Some common tools that will get the job done for most, if not all, types of quality hearing aids include:

  • Hearing aid brush: Commonly found in cleaning kits, this brush is good for cleaning the surface of hearing aids to remove any wax, dirt, or debris. 
  • Slim tube cleaning tool: Not unlike pipe cleaners, these tools are meant to clean and dust the inside from the tubing of hearing aids. For smaller devices, there are small-scale NanoClean cleaners that can get the job done for tiny tubing.
  • Disinfectant spray: These products typically contain ingredients that break down wax buildup. Double check with manufacturer recommendations before buying to make sure a spray solution is safe for your hearing aid.
  • Wax loops: These tools can be used to clean earwax from the earpiece that sits in the ear canal, which can block sound transmission over time.
  • Microfiber cloth: This type of cloth is best for wiping down everything after cleaning to remove any remaining wax, dust, or debris.
  • Dryers and dehumidifiers: There are a variety of drying devices you can buy that are meant to keep hearing aids safe from moisture buildup. Some dryers are fully automatic and use UV lights for a quick clean, such as the effective Kapak disinfection dryer.

How to clean different types of hearing aids

You may be wondering if there is anything specific you should be doing for your hearing aid based on the type of device you have. There are a variety of hearing aid types out there that range from tiny, discreet devices that sit in your ear (similar to a pair of wireless earbuds) to bulkier hearing aids that house all the important tech in a plastic case that wraps around the ear. 

Let's break it down into two categories: in-the-ear hearing aids (ITE) and behind-the-ear hearing aids (BTE). Most hearing aids generally fall into one category or the other. Here are some cleaning tips for either type.

ITE hearing aids are fairly straightforward: Use a hearing-aid brush to wipe down the outer portion, move on to a wax loop tool to finish off any stubborn wax buildup, then finish up with a slim tube cleaning tool. Carefully thread it through any and all ventilation tubing. Don't forget to give your device a once-over with a microfiber cloth afterward. Store your hearing aid in its original case or a dehumidifier overnight as well.

BTE hearing aids can be a bit more involved when it comes to proper cleaning and maintenance. You should still start with a brush for the exterior of the receiver and microphone cover devices, followed by the wax loop. Make sure to brush any additional microphones, which may be located on the back of the hearing aid, as well. If your hearing aid has an ear mold, refer to manufacturer instructions for cleaning it: this will likely include a brief soak in warm, soapy water. Make sure the mold is completely dry before reassembling and using (or storing) the device.

Can I use alcohol wipes on hearing aids?

While it may be tempting to use basic household cleaners like alcohol wipes to clean and disinfect your hearing aid, we recommend against this. Abrasive chemicals that contain ammonia or bleach may damage the plastic casing, which is typically fragile. The tech inside your hearing aid is also very vulnerable to moisture, which can seep into the tiny devices from a damp alcohol wipe, cloth, or an ill-advised spray from a chemical cleaner.

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