Hearing Aid Care and Maintenance

If you recently purchased a set of in-the-ear hearing aids, here’s what you should do to properly clean them.

Hearing aid in case
Diane McDonald / Getty Images

When you remove your hearing aids at night, the first thing you should do is carefully wipe them down with a dry soft cloth or tissue. Next, inspect the portion of the hearing aid that fits down into the ear canal. If you see earwax accumulating at the end of the aid, you will need to remove this. Most manufacturers will provide you with a cleaning tool, such as a brush.

Finally, open the battery door and place the hearing aids in their case. Many hearing aids have an independent on/off switch. It is still advisable to open the battery door to allow air to enter the hearing aid and assist in reducing the effects of moisture that may accumulate when the hearing aids are in the ear canal. It also helps prolong battery life.

It is often best to remove wax in the morning before inserting your hearing aids in the morning because it allows accumulated earwax to dry overnight; drier wax is easier to remove. You will want to hold the hearing aid so the wax you are removing will fall out of the hearing aid and not further in (this often means holding it somewhat upside down). Using the brush provided for you, carefully brush around and in the plastic tubing to clear out the wax. Some patients find that using an old toothbrush is an effective method for wax removal. Never use a sharp tool to clean out wax because this could damage the hearing aid.

Is the Cleaning Procedure Different for Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aids?

The basic cleaning procedure is the same. The only real difference is that there is an earmold. There are no electronics in this portion of the hearing aid so you can wash it gently with warm, soapy water. After rinsing them, dry them with a soft cloth. There are also special sanitizer sprays made for hearing aid earmolds that your audiologist can direct you to if further cleaning is desired.

Please note this advice does not apply to “receiver in canal” or “receiver in the ear” hearing aids as there are electronics in the earmold portion. In this case, there is usually a removable wax guard to protect the electronics and your audiologist can show you how to change this as needed.

Can You Use Alcohol Swabs or Cleaning Solvents?

No, do not use solvents or alcohol on the hearing aids as there is a possibility that they can break down the hearing aid material. There are special sprays you can purchase that are designed specifically for the cleaning and disinfecting of hearing aids. Talk to your audiologist about these products.

What Precautions Can You Take?

Don’t allow the hearing aids to get wet. Avoid showering, bathing, or going into the swimming pool or sauna with the hearing aids in your ears.

If your hearing aids get wet, do not dry them in the oven or microwave, or with a hairdryer. Heat can damage hearing aids.

To dry the hearing aid, simply open the battery door and allow it to dry out on its own. There are also special dehumidifiers or desiccants available that do a good job drying out the hearing aid. Talk to your audiologist about these items.

Never store hearing aids near direct sunlight or a heat source, and don’t store them in your car during hot days.

Don’t drop your hearing aids. If a hearing aid falls on a carpet, rug, or upholstered furniture it usually will not cause the aid any harm. Hard surfaces such as wood floors or countertops could damage the hearing instruments. Some people start with a pillow on their laps or a towel on the table or counter while they are learning to insert the hearing aids in their ears.

Don’t use hair sprays, creams, or gels on your hair while wearing the hearing aids. These can clog the microphone and damage the plastic. Use your hair products first and then insert the hearing aids.

Don’t store your hearing aids where young children or pets can reach them. Pets can destroy your investment in a matter of seconds. Young children like to experiment with hearing aids and can accidentally swallow the batteries. If a child swallows a hearing aid battery, immediately notify the doctor and call the National Button Battery Hotline at 1-800-498-8666.

How Does Earwax Affect Performance?

Earwax can clog the microphone or receiver of the hearing aid, making sounds distorted or harder to hear. This is easily remedied by following the procedures described above.

A large accumulation of earwax can also interfere with the proper fit of the hearing aid, allowing the sound from the hearing aid to leak out, back to the microphone. This can result in loud, high-pitched feedback.

If you are having unexplained feedback see your audiologist or physician. There may be earwax in the ear canal that needs to be removed.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Consumer Reports. How to make your hearing aids last.

  2. Widex. How to look after your hearing aids.

  3. Schwartz SR, Magit AE, Rosenfeld RM, et al. Clinical practice guideline (update): earwax (cerumen impaction). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;156(1_suppl):S1-S29. doi:10.1177/0194599816671491

By Jamie Berke
 Jamie Berke is a deafness and hard of hearing expert.