What Causes a Hearing Aid to Stop Working?

Man with a question mark on his head. Hearing aids have stopped working.

If you’ve had hearing aids for more than a while, you’ve covered the basics. You’ve got the right fit, you’ve worked with a hearing specialist so they’re properly tuned, and you have the care routine down. Should be smooth sailing–and better hearing–from here on out, right? But sometimes the seas get rough (okay, we’ll drop the boat metaphor now!). If your hearing aids aren’t working, here’s what could be wrong–and how to fix it.

The Batteries Are Dead

It’s so obvious that you probably already checked–but then again, maybe it’s so obvious it’s the one thing you overlooked. Check that your hearing aid batteries have enough juice. (A hearing aid battery tester is a worthy investment if you don’t have one–and you can find them online for less than ten bucks.) If they appear charged but you don’t feel like you’re getting power, it may be time to replace them. Even rechargeable hearing aid batteries have a limited lifespan.

There’s Wax Stuck in There

Yes, it’s gross, but it’s going to happen–after all, earwax is your ears’ best line of defense against anything that gets in your ears. They don’t know that your hearing aids are just there to help, and so especially when you’re relatively new to wearing hearing aids, your ears are likely to produce excessive wax. Make sure that there isn’t wax (or any other foreign substance, for that matter!) stuck in or on any part of your hearing aids. You can buy a hearing aid cleaning kit, but you can also use cotton swabs and/or a microfiber cloth (like the kind you use to clean a computer’s screen) to do some tidying.

It Doesn’t Fit Anymore

If you’re suddenly getting whistling sounds or (ouch!) feedback, the way your hearing aids fit your ears could be the problem. Those awful noises you’re hearing are sound that’s reverberating within your ear and going back through the hearing aid’s microphone again–it’s like having a front-row seat to a rock concert you never wanted to attend. When hearing aids fit properly, you won’t hear feedback. If you’ve had your hearing aids for a while, it’s possible that there’s a mechanical flaw–the most common example is that the plastic tubing has shrunken or cracked, so the mold or dome doesn’t sit as snugly as it once did. If you think this might be the trouble, it’s a good idea to check in with your hearing specialist.

It Got Wet

You know to remove your hearing aids before you hop in the shower–let alone the pool–but much smaller amounts of moisture can also be problematic. Say you took a tour of a super-humid spot like a greenhouse or even just handled your hearing aids with wet hands–that could be enough to cause a malfunction. Take out the batteries and allow your hearing aids to air out overnight in a cool, dry place. Don’t use heat to try to accelerate drying; even a hair dryer can cause damage to the delicate components.

You Dropped It

And speaking of delicate… if you dropped one of your hearing aids, even just onto the bathroom counter, that could be enough to cause damage. (A more intense plunge, like dropping it on uncarpeted flooring, would be even worse.) If reading this is making you remember that oh yeah, you did fumble one of your hearing aids recently, it may be worth visiting a hearing specialist to make sure everything’s mechanically okay. And just to ensure your hearing aids’ future safety, make sure that when you place or remove your hearing aids you’re over a soft surface. An easy fix? Put a plush towel on the table or countertop, so that if you have a butterfingers moment, your hearing aid will have a cushy landing–and you’ll have one less thing to stress about.

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