By Michele DiStefano, AuD, CCC-A
When hearing aids are damaged or they suddenly stop working, it’s important for people with hearing loss to know what to do – especially during a crisis like COVID-19, when services for audiology may be limited or not as immediate as you need.
Hearing aids stop working for a variety of reasons, such as a component fails, a part of the earmold breaks off, the charger no longer works, or the battery dies and you don’t have a spare. In some unfortunate instances, the dog might chew on them, rendering them ineffective (yes, it happens). Or simply misplacing your hearing aids can leave you without access to sound. This can be very upsetting and challenging, especially for those who depend heavily on their hearing technology.
The audiology team at CHC wants you to know that there are steps you can take in these situations to troubleshoot the aid and benefit from alternative devices.
Step 1- Contact your audiologist
When your hearing aid fails, your audiologist is the person best equipped to help resolve the issue, so we encourage you to contact your CHC audiologist. Though we currently are working from home, we are available via telephone, email, and telehealth to provide a wide range of services. Your CHC audiologist can walk you through the process of troubleshooting the aids, call into the manufacturer to help with a repair, or direct you to an alternative amplifier for the time being.
Step 2 – Check for a back up
Search around for an older hearing aid and check to see if it’s in good working order. Make sure the battery compartment does not have any rust, corrosion, dust, or dirt. You can carefully clean the compartment with a small brush to make sure you have a good connection to the battery. Make sure there are no obstructions in the tone hook (the hook at the top of the aid that goes over your ear) or in the earmold tubing. Make sure sound comes out of the hearing aid without the earmold on. This will help you determine that the aid is working. Once you know it is working, place your earmold on it. If you do not have an old earmold or have concerns about your earmold, please contact your CHC audiologist.
Step 3 – Consider an alternative device
Discuss the possibility of using an alternative device with your audiologist who can help to identify the ones that will give you the best possible result given your level of hearing loss.
One device we find works (in a pinch) for most hearing losses is the relatively affordable William Sound Pocket Talker. Health care providers and families often use it to help a person with hearing loss hear during appointments or visits. Note, these types of devices are intended for temporary use rather than for several hours a day like hearing aids.
TV Ears is another assistive listening device we recommend, and one that should be especially helpful now when we all are getting important information about the Coronavirus from television. With TV Ears, a person with hearing loss can access their television’s audio through a high-performance, wireless headset adjusted for their listening needs while others watching with them can hear at a comfortable volume. Helpful features include background noise reduction and speech enhancement. Also, consider activating the captions on your television for extra assistance with understanding the audio.
Your smartphone can be adjusted to work better for you by adjusting the audio output. On your iPhone, you can go to Settings, Accessibiity, Hearing. Under Hearing there are options for captioning and audio/visual adjustments. On your Samsung phone, go to Settings, Accessibility, Caption and enable captioning.
Step 4 – Smartphone apps with headset or earbuds
Another potential backup solution involves using a smartphone with an app designed to amplify spoken language. While this option won’t work for all degrees of hearing loss, those with a mild to moderate loss may get a satisfactory result. If you use an iPhone, consider the Live Listen app when paired with Apple’s AirPod or Made for iPhone (MFi) Hearing Devices or a free app called HearYouNow. For Android phones, consider using Google’s Sound Amplifier app or a free app called VirtualAmp. Again, these solutions may not be appropriate or effective for all individuals with hearing loss, and we recommend discussing these options with your audiologist first.
The most important thing to know is that CHC is here to assist our clients who might be having an issue with their hearing aids. And, during the Covid-19 crisis, we are also here to assist, as best we can, individuals who are not currently CHC clients. We very much want to reduce feelings of isolation and frustration that individuals with hearing loss may experience should something happen to their hearing aid technology.
CHC audiologists are working remotely and servicing clients through email and phone contact as well as through telehealth video sessions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your CHC audiologist. Or, if you prefer, you can call our main number in New York at 917-305-7700 or in Ft. Lauderdale at 954-601-1930. Click here to email us and we’ll direct your message to the appropriate clinician.