Hearing aid accessories can include tools to help with cleaning the aids as well as accessories to improve hearing in certain situations.
Hearing aid accessories are available when it comes to telephones. There are phones – both landline and cell — that are compatible with hearing aids.
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) has a FAQ about HA compatibility with cell phones. It’s actually a law now that telephone manufacturers make models compatible with hearing aids. There’s acoustic coupling, which amplifies sounds from the phone and around you vs. telecoil coupling, which is a telecoil feature on the hearing aid and blocks background noise.
Captioned telephones are also useful. The volume can be amplified with captions to supplement. These are typically free of charge provided you prove your eligibility. The main ones are CaptionCall, CapTel, and ClearCaptions.
Captioned telephone services can also be provided via Internet or an app, like InnoCaptionor SprintCapTel (which has a Relay service).
In addition to amplified phones, smartphones now have customizable capabilities that improve accessibility.
Other than dialing up the volume on your television so that everyone around you goes deaf, you can look into a personal sound amplifier, wireless headphones, a wireless headset system, or an induction loop. Naturally, the closed captions on the TV should be activated, to ease the strain on your ears.
You can consider a television-specific assistive listening device (ALD) to be used with your hearing aids. If the signal is sent directly to your hearing aids, that minimizes any background noise and allows you to personalize the settings. Phonak Marvel hearing aids are a good example. With the Phonak TV Connector, a simple plug and play solution, you can listen to the TV (and more) hands-free via streaming.
Just like with television, the Phonak Marvel hearing aids have direct streaming with music. Accessories like the Roger Pen can be connected to a music player, keyboard, or music software to stream music wirelessly.
Additionally, music apps and smartphones have adjustable controls that may make music more appealing.
Read more: Listening to music with hearing aids
Loud environments can be challenging for anyone, but especially for people with hearing loss. Some hearing aids can filter background noise better than others. If you have a directional microphone, you can choose how to focus on sound. Some aids have digital noise reduction, impulse noise reduction, and other features that take care of issues automatically.
ALDs in public spaces like induction loops, infrared systems, or FM systems are also helpful.
Also known as a hearing loop or audio frequency induction loop system (AFILS), this utilizes an electromagnetic field that connects to a telecoil in the hearing aid. This is the most user-friendly of ALDs, because they’re simple, discreet, and effective, HLAA says. Users simply switch their devices to the telecoil program and automatically receive clear, customized sound. If you don’t have a telecoil, then you can use a hearing loop receiver and headphone.
This works like a TV remote control. HLAA describes it as a transmitter that sends speech or music from a public address or sound system to an IR receiver using invisible infrared light waves. It can’t be used outdoors and users have to sit as centrally as possible. Everyone needs a receiver and either a headphone or neck loop, unless you have a telecoil, in which case you don’t need headphones.
These are also called Radio Frequency Assistive Listening Systems. They transmit wireless, low power FM frequency radio transmission from a sound system to FM receivers. It’s not affected by direct sunlight, and everyone needs a receiver and either a headphone or neck loop – unless you have a telecoil, then you don’t need headphones.
Popular FM systems include products with Phonak Roger technology. These hearing aid accessories include the Phonak Roger Pen, Roger Select, Roger Touch Screen Mic and Roger Table Mic. These products work with almost all hearing aids on the market, with the addition of an adaptor. These microphones come in a variety of shapes and use cases, and allow people with hearing loss to hear up to 62% more speech in noise and over distance than people without hearing loss.
If you’re attending a large event, you can request Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), or realtime captioning. This is verbatim text of spoken presentations for live events and can be done on location or remotely.
FM systems are the hearing assistive technology most often used with children because they’re mobile and not easy to break. When your child gets a hearing aid or cochlear implant, the audiologist will make sure that the device(s) can work with the FM system. The hearing aid will need certain features like telecoil and telephone switches, microphone and telecoil combination switches, and direct audio input.
As the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) says, FM systems can help your child in many ways, including:
Other technologies are used in schools, like sound-field systems that let the teacher talk into a microphone. The voice comes through speakers placed around the room and let all children hear the teacher. But these systems are hard to use in a room with poor acoustics, says ASHA.
Read more: 3 Phonak classroom resources you should know about
Your hearing aid is an expensive piece of equipment. It will last longer and work better if it’s properly maintained. Phonak has some practical care tips for your hearing aid:
“Your hearing aid is an expensive piece of equipment. It will last longer and work better if it’s properly maintained.”
Phonak recommends cleaning your devices with a soft, dry cloth. Never use alcohol, solvents, or cleaning agents. Your hearing care professional has special care products and will check the aids for ear wax residue.
Spending $20 or less on a case to protect your hearing aid will help keep it safe and will be a lot less than the money spent on getting it fixed.
The proper tools are necessary; don’t use a toothpick to get something out of your aid. A wax pick and brush should be used instead. When you clean the earmold, remove it from the hook and wipe clean, soak in warm, soapy water weekly. Dry overnight before using. A bulb blower can force water out of the tubing.
There’s a multi-tool that is especially useful here – it has a wire loop, cover, brush, magnet, and handle. You can find this online, including Amazon, or at most drug stores.
Read more: 10 tips for caring for your child’s hearing aids
For all types of hearing aids, it’s important to keep the battery compartment open overnight. Keep the compartment clean. A hearing aid dehumidifier is also useful. There are two kinds. One is a plastic jar with a desiccant that draws out moisture, and the other is a dry & store unit which uses ultraviolet light to dry and sanitize hearing aids. There are dry & store units that are portable, which is great for traveling.
Contact your audiologist to get a hearing aid dry box, or learn more here.
There are so many batteries on the market, with many sizes and types. Generally, the larger the hearing aid, the larger the battery required. The types range from disposable to rechargeable.
The most common disposable battery for hearing aids is the zinc-air button battery. Once a seal is removed from the back, it’s activated. It’s best to wait a minute or two after removing the seal before inserting. There are four common HA battery sizes available, and even the largest is still smaller than a dime, according to a HA website. Each size is designated by a specific color on the removable tab. Here’s a handy list:
To extend battery life, shut your hearing aids off when you’re not wearing them, and keep the battery compartment doors open when they’re off. Zinc-air batteries drain when exposed to heat and humidity, so store them at room temperature. HearingAids.com also recommends keeping batteries out of your pockets. Because they’re highly toxic and small, they’re dangerous to children and pets, so keep in a safe place.
The best advice when it comes to hearing aid batteries is to always make sure you have a spare pair handy.
Since disposable batteries can add up in cost, rechargeable batteries not only are cheaper but more environmentally friendly. Rechargeable hearing aids are sold with a small charging station.
HearingAids.com says that silver-zinc or lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries typically remain charged anywhere from 12-24-hours even while streaming audio. Many chargers include a drying function to protect from moisture damage.
Over time, these batteries won’t hold as much of a charge. Li-ion batteries are completely sealed into the hearing aids, so replacing them is a bigger deal. But they’re made to last for the average lifespan of the hearing aids.
Read more: Rechargeable hearing aids save up to 500 batteries