Saturday, 3 June 2017

Behind-the-ear hearing aids and tubing

If you wear the larger over-the-ear (0TE) or behind-the-ear (BTE) aids, then at some stage you may need to replace tubing that goes between the ear mould and the aid. It does deteriorate with time, and become hard or crack. When this happens you will suddenly lose volume and changing the battery won’t help. You may also find you have increased feedback or whistling.

Sometimes you can see the crack, but it's often quite hard to spot. If the tubing is several months old, feels stiff, or has a yellowish tinge, it's time for a change. You can do this yourself, or ask your audiologist. If you do it yourself, just take note of the information below.

The tubing should be glued in lightly. Remember you have to be able to pull it out to change it when it does become stiff or cracks. Apply a tiny dob of glue on the outside of the tube and slide it in. Don't put glue right near the hole at the end of the tube, or it may block the sound hole.
If you apply to much glue, the tubing will become so embedded in the mould, that it will need to be sent away to have it removed. So be sparing – you can always put a bit more glue on if it comes out.

When measuring the length of the tube from the mould to the hearing aid, take care with the length of the tubing. Remember it has to overlap onto the hook by 3 or 4 mm. If your aid has been comfortable and your tube length is comfortable, just measure it to that length. If the tubing is too short it will pull hearing aid down on your ear, and your mould up in the ear canal, creating discomfort. Compare the new length of tubing with the old - if it's more than a few millimetres shorter, this may be the cause.
If in doubt cut it longer - you can always shorten it but you can't make it longer.

If the tubing is too long, it can also cause discomfort – it will push the aid up and it changes the way the mould sits in the ear. The audiologist (or receptionist) may not get the tubing length quite right, so be prepared to go back and have it re-done it if is uncomfortable.
I keep a couple of spare tubes at home, in case I need to re-do it. I also have learned to take some on holidays with me. I once had a tube crack over a long weekend; no audiologists were open, and I had no spare tubing. I ended up trying to tape the crack to stop the whistling so I could talk to people on this special weekend. It wasn’t very successful.

Another common cause of discomfort is if the hearing aid has twisted on the tube. If your hearing aid was comfortable yesterday and isn't today check the angle at which it is sitting on the tubing.
If the mould has twisted on the tubing, it will push into your ear in a different spot. This causes tension between the angle of the over the earpiece and the moulds.
Try rotating the mould on the tube with practice you will work out the best angle usually facing backwards slightly.

Like all things, taking a little time to get to know your hearing aid will make it easier to trouble-shoot.