Hearing aids can make all the difference in your quality of life and ability to connect with the people around you, but they can also be inconvenient if you are prone to ear infections. Although not everyone who wears a hearing aid experiences ear infection, they are associated with elevated levels of bacteria, wax and fungi in the ears, all of which lead to a higher likelihood that an infection will develop. You can, however, protect your ears and ward off infections with a few proactive steps.
Discouraging the Development of Ear Infections
As soon as you receive a new hearing aid, you should read its maintenance and sanitation procedures and follow them closely. Special sanitizers are available that can lower the amount of bacteria and other debris on your hearing aid, reducing the opportunities for an infection to set in. Combined with good aural hygiene, this basic sanitation practice is usually all that is needed to ward off ear infections. Regular cleaning is especially vital whenever your immune system is compromised, such as when you have the flu, as diseases like influenza are often accompanied by ear infections.
Detecting Ear Infections Early
Even if you follow your hygiene recommendations to the letter, you should still watch for early symptoms of an impending infection. A foul odor on the hearing aid is usually one of the first signs, often accompanied by excessive wax buildup and discharge from the ear in question. Sinus pressure and a constant headache follow soon afterward. Your ear is home to plenty of nooks and crannies to harbor harmful bacteria, which is why it is so important to begin treatment early to avoid secondary infections.
Determining the Cause of the Infection
If you do develop an ear infection, your doctor will work with you to pin down its exact cause. You may have recently been sick, or the infection may have begun with your hearing aid. Once you understand how the infection started, you will know whether or not you should be concerned about infections in the future. Your doctor may switch you to a different hearing aid model with anti-microbial properties if he or she suspects that it was part of the problem.
Preventing Future Ear Infections
In many cases, ear infections in patients with a hearing aid are isolated incidents that can be avoided in the future with better hygiene. Some people, however, experience recurring infections that must be managed more aggressively. Your doctor may prescribe medication or a strict cleaning regimen to help control infections, and you might need to switch between several hearing aid models before you find one that does not trigger your infections. For most, the benefits of hearing aids outweigh any possible disadvantages, but with the right plan of action and consistent habits, there is no reason for you to live with the discomfort of chronic ear infections.
For more tips, talk with a hearing aid specialist such as Pacific Hearing Care.