Can Hearing Aids Cause Ear Infections?
- What Triggers Ear Infections?
- How Hearing Aids Can Contribute to Infections
- Preventing Ear Infections While Using Hearing Aids
- Dealing with Existing Ear Infections
- See a Doctor for Severe or Persistent Infections
- Stay Diligent About Hearing Aid Care
Hearing aids themselves do not directly cause ear infections. However, constant use without proper cleaning and maintenance can increase the risk of infection in some individuals due to moisture, irritation, and bacterial buildup. Proper daily cleaning and seeing an audiologist regularly can help prevent infections.
Ear infections are an extremely common problem, especially for those who wear hearing aids. But can the devices themselves actually cause these painful infections? Approximately one out of every 20 Americans experiences ear infections each year. Individuals with hearing loss have an even higher incidence rate. However, while hearing aids do not directly result in infections, improper usage, and insufficient care can increase the risk. By understanding what causes ear infections and learning proper maintenance routines, hearing aid users can avoid ear-related issues.
What Triggers Ear Infections?
To understand the link between hearing aids and ear infections, it helps to first look at the anatomy of the ear. The ear canal leads up to the eardrum, a thin membrane that separates the outer ear from the middle ear. The middle ear contains three tiny bones called ossicles, which transmit sounds from the eardrum to the inner ear.
When fluid builds up in the middle ear behind the eardrum, it can put pressure on the eardrum, leading to painful infections. These infections often stem from colds, the flu, allergies, or other illnesses that cause congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes. The eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the throat and help regulate pressure. If they become blocked due to swelling from an upper respiratory infection or allergic reaction, fluid can't drain properly from the middle ear space.
Ear infections also frequently occur in the outer ear canal. This is commonly referred to as "swimmer's ear," as water trapped in the ear after swimming or bathing provides the perfect condition for bacterial overgrowth. The warm, moist environment allows microorganisms to thrive. Other foreign objects like cotton swabs can also scratch and irritate the sensitive outer ear canal tissue, enabling infection to set in.
How Hearing Aids Can Contribute to Infections
While hearing aids themselves do not directly cause ear infections, constant use without diligent cleaning habits can lead to increased risk in those prone to ear issues. Hearing aids sit snugly in the ear all day, obstructing airflow and creating a humid environment. Any moisture or earwax that accumulates can foster the growth of fungus and bacteria.
Small scratches in the ear canal caused by improperly fitted hearing aids can allow these microorganisms to penetrate tissue and spur infection. Ill-fitting devices can also prevent proper drainage of middle ear fluid, causing further buildup and swelling. Custom in-the-ear (ITE) styles that fit deeply into the ear canal tend to pose the greatest infection risk.
To avoid irritation from poorly fitted hearing aids, innovative companies like Vivtone offer customized hearing solutions. Vivtone provides exceptional online hearing care, delivering high-quality hearing aids precisely customized to each patient. Their hearing aids are manufactured from standard materials using state-of-the-art technology for comfort and infection prevention. By choosing Vivtone for your online hearing healthcare needs, you can get customized hearing aids and exceptional service.
Preventing Ear Infections While Using Hearing Aids
The key to avoiding ear-related problems with hearing aids is proper cleaning and maintenance. Follow your manufacturer's instructions precisely for cleaning and caring for your particular hearing aids. Here are some general tips to keep your ears healthy:
- Clean hearing aids daily using a soft brush or pick to remove wax and debris. Replace wax guards regularly.
- Always take hearing aids out at night to allow your ears to breathe and dry out.
- Remove hearing aids before showering or swimming to prevent water exposure and buildup.
- Have your audiologist clean your hearing aids thoroughly every 3-6 months.
- Store hearing aids in a clean, dry place rather than the bathroom, which can be humid. Consider a desiccant packet.
- Bring up any history of chronic ear infections or sensitivities with your audiologist when being fitted for hearing aids.
- See your doctor at the first sign of infection for prescription eardrops or oral antibiotics if needed. Halting infections quickly is key.
If you already deal with frequent ear infections, be meticulous about hearing aid care and maintenance. The extra effort will pay off by keeping your ears infection-free and healthy.
Dealing with Existing Ear Infections
If an ear infection does develop, stop wearing your hearing aids immediately until the infection has resolved. Continued use will just reintroduce bacteria into your ear canal, exacerbate swelling, and delay healing. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eardrops or pills to clear up the infection.
Be diligent about keeping up with your hearing aid cleaning routine even while not wearing the devices. That way, when you resume use, bacteria won't be reintroduced into your ears from dirty hearing aids and cause a new infection.
See a Doctor for Severe or Persistent Infections
In most cases, ear infections will clear up within a few days, especially with medication. However, contact your doctor right away if you experience the following:
- Severe pain that persists for more than 2-3 days
- Fever over 101°F, which may indicate a bacterial infection
- Drainage of blood or pus from the ear
- Hearing loss, dizziness, or ringing in the ears
These symptoms could mean a more serious infection like mastoiditis and require prompt medical treatment. Ignoring them may lead to permanent hearing damage.
Stay Diligent About Hearing Aid Care
While inconvenient, being consistent about cleaning and removing your hearing aids as recommended will go a long way in preventing ear infections. Always see your audiologist promptly if you have any concerns about discomfort or changes in hearing while using hearing aids. Following best practices for hearing aid care and maintenance, along with good hygiene habits like hand washing, will allow you to use hearing aids safely and comfortably.