COVID-19 Update: With social distancing and stay-at-home orders, many seniors are struggling with loneliness and isolation. We’ve developed a list of products that caregivers or seniors can purchase to help older adults stay happy, healthy and connected, whether they are aging in place at home or in an assisted living community.

Hearing loss impacts approximately 15% of Americans, and rates are even higher among those aged 65 and over. While medical treatments for hearing loss are limited, hearing aids can help counteract the negative impacts of partial deafness. These tiny, high-tech wearable devices are often prescribed to those living with hearing loss to amplify sound and filter out unwanted background noises.

In this guide, we explain how to put in hearing aids safely and in a way that optimizes the performance of these assistive devices. 

Know What Style of Hearing Aid You Have

Hearing aids are available in three basic styles: behind-the-ear, in-the-ear and in-the-canal. 

Behind-the-ear devices combine a small fitted earmold that’s connected via a small tube to a lightweight plastic case. This case contains a user-replaceable battery, and it tucks in behind the outer ear. 

In-the-ear hearing aids fit completely inside the ear canal, laying flush at the entry to the canal, while in-the-canal devices are designed to fit completely inside the ear canal. 

Identify the Left and Right Hearing Aids

Except for some ready-made in-the-ear hearing aids, all styles are ear-specific — the devices are designed to fit either the left or right ear. Users need to be sure to put the correct aid in the correct ear. 

While seated at a table or desk, users should place their hearing aids out on a clean surface in front of them. Ideally, the right hearing aid should be laid out on the user’s right side, and the left device in front of the user’s left side. 

Inspect the Hearing Aid

Before inserting the device, hearing aid users should do a quick visual check. The hearing aid should be spotlessly clean and free of any damage, such as nicks, cracks or loose wires. If devices have user-replaceable batteries, the battery compartment must be properly closed prior before the device is placed in the ear. 

If the hearing aid is soiled, it should be cleaned in accordance with the manufacturers’ directions before being installed. If the device is damaged, it should be repaired before use. 

Turn the Hearing Aid On

Most hearing aids need to be powered up before installation. The device should be on and the volume turned down to prevent uncomfortable whistling during placement in the ear canal. 

Put the Hearing Aids On

Once the hearing aids have been inspected and powered up, users should gently grasp their right hearing aid by the part that sits just outside the ear canal. For in-the-canal devices, users should handle the hearing aid by the outermost part of the unit. 

Align the hearing aid with the right ear canal, and slowly place the earmold into the canal until it fits comfortably and snugly — this should be a pain-free process. Some hearing aid users find that a light tug on their earlobe opens up the ear canal slightly, making for an easier installation of the device. 

For behind-the-ear hearing aids, once the earmold is installed, users need to pull back their outer ear and tuck the case into position. Once the case is on, users may need to lightly push on the earmold again to secure it in place. 

Repeat this process for the left ear, then adjust the volume to the level prescribed by the hearing aid dispensary or audiologist.