By Angie Aspinall
There’s so much to love about autumn and winter: getting outside to admire the leaves as they turn from green to red, gold and orange; resurrecting our ‘winter wardrobe’ and getting out boots, hats, scarves and gloves.
So long as you’re bundled up, there’s no need to let the chill in the air stop your fun. But, if you use hearing aids, autumnal and wintry weather can cause a few headaches, so here are a few tips to make the most of the coming months of cooler weather.
1. Cold weather, condensation and your hearing aid
If you wear spectacles, you may be familiar with them ‘steaming up’ when you enter a warm room after spending time outside in the cold: this ‘steaming up’ is caused by condensation. With glasses, it’s easy to see the condensation accumulating and you can act to remove it by wiping the lenses clean.
Like your lenses, hearing aids are also prone to condensation after an extreme change in temperature, but unlike when you’re wearing your glasses, with hearing aids, you won’t notice the condensation. However, you need to be aware of the issue because dampness can cause damage to your microphone and receiver – and it can also get inside the hearing aid battery compartment.
Plug-in dehumidifiers and drying boxes are available for hearing aids. Leave your devices, with the battery drawer open, in the box to dry out overnight. For optimal results, remove the hearing aid batteries from their compartments to allow air to circulate inside.
Paul Deeble, Rayovac’s Technical Liaison Manager, warns that leaving hearing aid batteries in the dehumidifier may shorten battery life. He explains: “It is recommended you store the batteries outside your dehumidifier/drying box but don’t hold them together, such as in a pocket or wrapped together, as that may damage your hearing aid battery. Unless your battery has been exposed to extreme humidity, storing your battery inside a dry box can dry out the active ingredient inside your zinc air battery – meaning that you’ll have less power from your hearing aid battery.
Paul adds: “Rayovac’s hearing aid battery caddy is an effective storage solution for when your batteries are not in the device. Our caddies hold up to three batteries and comes on a key chain for easy transportation.”
2. Rain, snow and fog
The weather can often be unpredictable: we can get caught wearing hearing aids in the rain or snow without being prepared. This means your hearing aid can get wet or damp. Many modern hearing aids are showerproof and will withstand being out in bad weather, but it is always a good idea to enable the devices to dry out when you get indoors. Foggy days mean there’s a lot of damp around, so you need to pay particular attention to the care of your hearing devices on grey, drizzly, misty days.
If you don’t have access to a dry box, you can use packets of silica gel or dried, uncooked white rice to remove moisture from your damp or wet hearing aid. Pop the packets or rice, and the devices into a jar and seal the lid. Leave for a few hours. In 2017, research was carried out to test the effectiveness of commercial desiccants and uncooked rice in removing moisture from hearing aids. The results showed that white rice was statistically similar to several of the commercial desiccants. So, if your hearing aids get damp and you don’t have a dehumidifier to hand, try using rice.
However, Paul states: “I recommend removing the hearing aid batteries before drying your hearing device. This will help to avoid potentially shortening the life of the battery through the drying process.”
3. Hats, hoods, and feedback
If you have moderate, severe or profound hearing loss and have powerful hearing devices with a lot of amplification, you may find that wearing a hat or a hood causes hearing aid feedback.
Feedback occurs when something gets too close to the microphone on your hearing aid, causing the amplified sound to be picked up by the microphone and re-amplified, causing a high-pitched whistling noise. Hoods in particular cause problems with feedback. If you have long hair, you may also be able to hear it moving around within the hood. It can be very annoying because it stops you from hearing the sounds you want to hear, such as the voice of your companion or birdsong, for example.
A chunky-knit, close-fitting hat or headband that fits snugly and doesn’t move about may cause fewer feedback issues than a hood. Alternatively, use an umbrella: dome-shaped, transparent umbrellas are the best for people with hearing loss as they protect the user from wind as well as rain and allow you to have better visibility.
4. Wind Noise
Many modern hearing aids have noise-cancelling features designed to block sounds such as the noise of the wind. However, depending upon the type of hearing aids you have and the weather where you live, you may still find the noise of the wind troublesome.
Using a hearing aid sleeve or cover while outdoors may give your hearing aid protection from dirt, sweat, and moisture. They should have no ill-effect on the sound coming into the hearing instrument and minimise the effect of wind noise. Ear Gear are an example of sleeves that are available for Behind-the-ear and In-the-ear aids, BAHAs and Cochlear Implant processors.
5. Out and about
If you’re going to be out after dark, it’s a good idea to make sure your hearing aid batteries aren’t going to need changing while you’re on the move. It can be difficult to handle tiny batteries with cold fingers and not at all ideal if you need to wear gloves.
Hearing aid batteries are susceptible to damage in cold weather, so it is important to store them in places where they won’t experience extreme cold, avoiding places like the glovebox of your car.
Use a hearing aid battery tester to check how much charge is in the batteries you are using. If they have a low amount of charge, swap to new batteries before going out.
Paul recommends using Rayovac’s hearing aid battery testers: “Not only do they offer a quick and easy way of testing all zinc air hearing aid batteries; our battery tester also has a useful compartment for storing two batteries.”
On carrying your batteries, Paul advises: “If you keep the tester or caddy in a pocket, close to your body, your spare batteries will not be exposed to extreme cold and will therefore perform better.”
With a little care, you should be able to keep using your hearing aids throughout autumn and winter with no problems.
I hope this helps! Don’t forget to share your winter hearing aid experiences, hints and tips with Rayovac on Twitter at @HearwithRayovac.