What the caregiver should know about hearing aids
Not everyone can maintain their level of independence indefinitely. Unfortunately, many people will eventually require assistance with their daily needs. Whether caring for a patient in a long-term care facility or caring for a loved one, who needs just a little extra help around the house, it is important for the caregiver to have a basic understanding about how hearing aids work for their patient who is hard of hearing.
Hearing aids operate on batteries. Most hearing aids operate on zinc air batteries, which must be changed, regularly. Hearing aid batteries are color-coded, either on the package or on the sticker covering the batteries (i.e. size 10 batteries are yellow, size 312 batteries are brown, size 13 batteries are orange, and size 675 batteries are blue). Zinc air batteries vary in how long they will last, based on the size of the battery. The smaller the battery, the more often they will require changing. While 675 batteries could last several weeks, 13 batteries will last just over a week, 312 batteries are expected to last just under a week, and size 10 batteries will require changing every 3-5 days.
Generally, the hearing aid will operate when the battery door is closed, but when the battery door is ajar, there is no connection to the electrical current, disabling the instrument’s operation. However, some hearing aids will have an on/off switch or a volume control wheel, which must be turned to an active position, as well. The caregiver can check to see if the hearing aid is operational by cupping the hearing aid in their hand and listening for squelch. If feedback is heard, the hearing aid is operational. If not, there may be a problem with the hearing instrument.
More recent technology does not require battery changes, as they will operate using rechargeable batteries. If the patient’s case plugs into a power supply, the hearing aids may be rechargeable. For rechargeable products, there may be a power button that must be depressed for three seconds, in order for the hearing aid to become operational.
Hearing aids have three major components. The first is the microphone. Sound must be able to enter the microphone in order for it to be amplified. The second major component is the amplifier, where sound that entered the microphone is amplified. This is an internal component. The third major component is the receiver, or speaker, where sound exits the hearing aid. Hearing aids should be cleaned daily, in order to ensure that they are working effectively. The receiver should be brushed every morning, in order to remove wax and debris that has dried overnight. The microphone should also be brushed, very gently, on a weekly basis, in order to prevent debris from blocking sound from entering the amplification device. If debris is left to build-up, the amplified sound may become weak. If your patient or your loved one is having difficulty hearing, brushing the receiver and/or the microphone may solve the problem.
Hearing aids are just that – aids. They help the patient to hear missed auditory information; however, they cannot necessarily clear up soft/muttered speech, nor can they slow down fast speech. Hearing aids must be checked by a professional on a regular basis, in order to ensure that they are still working appropriately and amplification is meeting prescribed targets. The patient’s hearing should be checked at least on an annual basis, in order to monitor changes in hearing sensitivity. Should hearing decline, the patient’s prescription for their amplification will also change; therefore, the hearing aids would need to be reprogrammed by a hearing professional in order to provide the patient with the best possible benefit from their hearing aids.
If you have recently begun to care for a patient with hearing loss or a patient who currently wears hearing aids, Better Hearing and Balance Connection would be happy to work with you and your patient to provide the best hearing healthcare possible. Dr. Gretchen Magee, Au.D., is able to examine the patient’s hearing and prescribe the best solutions for each individual patient. She is also able to walk you and your patient through daily care and maintenance for existing hearing aid wearers. If you or someone you love are in need of assistance with hearing aids, call today at (855) 657-6464. They have three locations to better serve you: at 5 Cunningham Corner in Bella Vista, at 906 NW 8th St. in Bentonville, and their newest location at 61 E. Sunbridge in Fayetteville. At Better Hearing and Balance Connection, they listen, so you can hear!