A close-up photograph of a hearing aid in a person's ear.

Hearing aids can cost a bundle. Insurance rarely covers them, and Consumer Reports members who have these devices and responded to our 2018 survey about hearing aids and hearing aid retailers told us that they spend, on average, $2,691 out of pocket for a pair.

Given that, you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to make them last as long as possible. Depending on the type of hearing aid, that could be about three to five years, if you don’t have any changes in your hearing during that time, according to Kim Cavitt, Au.D., an audiologist and adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Here’s how to get there.

Keep them Clean

Earwax helps protect the inside of our ears from foreign objects, injury, and infection. But it can also clog up the workings of a hearing aid, by embedding itself in your device’s receiver or microphone, for instance.

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And wearing hearing aids may cause some people to produce more earwax. “The goal of earwax in our body is to keep foreign objects away from the eardrum,” Cavitt says. So when you put a hearing aid in your ear, “some people’s bodies see that as something they need to fight with more wax.” 

In fact, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery’s (AAO-HNS) guidelines for handling earwax, people with hearing aids are at a higher risk for impacted earwax, which occurs when too much wax builds up in the ear. 

To keep your hearing aids from becoming gummed up with earwax (or other dust or debris), clean them every day. “Regular maintenance is the key,” says Susan Anderson, Au.D., senior lecturer and clinical instructor of audiology at the University of Washington.

Your hearing aids probably came with a cleaning brush, but you can also use an old toothbrush, Anderson says, to gently clear away any earwax or dirt you might see on the device. You’ll also want to open up the battery compartment and brush away any debris inside there as well. (Different devices may have special maintenance instructions and cleaning tools; your audiologist or hearing aid specialist can provide additional advice on caring for yours.) 

If your hearing aid has a wax guard or wax trap (as in-the-ear, receiver-in-ear, and in-the-canal types may), these should be replaced regularly so they don’t get blocked by wax and hamper sound quality. Your audiologist or hearing aid specialist should let you know how often to replace them and show you how. He or she may provide replacements, or you can purchase them online. 

The AAO-HSN recommends that people who use hearing aids also have their ear canals checked for impacted ear wax every three to six months. If you struggle with ear wax buildup, our guide can help you handle it.

Keep Them Dry

Liquid is a hearing aid’s enemy. Because the inner workings of the device must be partially exposed to the elements in order to pick up sound, moisture can easily get inside and damage the hearing aid. 

To help keep your device dry, keep it in a protective case when you visit spots like swimming pools and saunas. “Always ask yourself, would you take your phone there?” Cavitt advises.  

Each morning, finish your cleaning and grooming routines before inserting hearing aids. This will help prevent them from being splashed with water. Plus, contact with hair products such as hair spray or gel can damage them. 

And don’t store your hearing aids in the bathroom, either—steam from showering can seep into a device, and there’s plenty of opportunity to accidentally drop it into water, adds Cavitt.

In fact, it’s best to keep aids in what’s called a dry storage kit, dry aid kit, or dry box at night. These may be simple (just a desiccant and container) or more sophisticated (an electronic device that circulates air around the aid). If you don’t have one, ask your audiologist. Or, look for one online or at stores that sell hearing aid accessories, as some pharmacies do.

If your hearing aids get wet, use the dry storage kit to dry them. Don’t use a hair dryer or put your hearing aid in the microwave or oven—this will damage the device.

For safety’s sake, Cavitt recommends keeping your hearing aids in all day, when possible. If you take them out midday and pop them into your pocket, for example, they might end up accidentally going through a cycle in the washing machine. And keep hearing aids out of reach of pets, who might chew them up or play roughly with them.

Tips for Troubleshooting

For aids that aren't performing quite right, first give them a good cleaning and make sure they're dry.

Sound that's intermittent or full of static may mean moisture has gotten into the batteries, says Anderson, so try putting new batteries in. Squealing feedback from your hearing aids is often a sign of excess earwax, so have your doctor check your ears, says Cavitt. 

If these steps don't help, call your audiologist. Defective components can either be replaced in the office, or the devices can be sent to the manufacturer for repairs, Cavitt says.