What are the differences between Dry Brik and Metal Can for storing hearing aids and implants?

Dry Brik is a very efficient desiccant that removes organic odours as well as moisture however when spent it cannot be regenerated by heating in an oven. The metal can desiccant is less aggressive and does not remove organics; when the crystals change colour they can be reactivated by heating in the oven at 105–150C for 2 hours. Heat and moving air within a sealed compartment make the drying process more effective and quicker. Dry & Store also has a UV lamp killing 99% of common bacteria found in the external ear canal, scalp and hair. Most electronic devices benefit from Dry & Store treatment – some users put their mobile phones in as well as hearing devices.

I was given a Dry Store Kit when I was switched on and used it nightly for my processor. Others use the Siemens Replacement Drying Capsules in an airtight carry case. What is the difference between these drying procedures?

It doesn't matter how it's done, as long as something is done to extend the life of your hearing device. The key is to make sure it isn't just left to lie on the bedside table or dresser. The Dry Store Kit is the 5 star treatment, with the light to kill to bacteria from earmoulds and the fan to draw out moisture. Or you could chose a simple air-tight container with a capsule of silica gel which works very well (and isn't as noisy for a sleeping partner if you want to keep it next to you rather than in another room). You do need to be vigilant that the silica crystals are still darkly coloured and moisture absorbent. The cost of each method is a personal issue, as there are disposable and reusable options for the crystals. It is worth remembering that the new CP810 processor with its shiny coating should not be exposed to the light in the Dry Aid Kit. It is a matter of simply removing the light bulb and using it as usual. Silica crystals are active when blue.

 

The “conventional wisdom” is to take the batteries out of your hearing aid or cochlear implant before putting the device into the Dry&Store. But I have found items on the internet claiming that batteries should in fact be put in the Dry&Store and indeed that battery life is actually increased. I’ve also heard people say that spent cochlear implant batteries kept for a while or overnight in the Dry&Store can be used again for a few hours and can even power low current devices like LED torches for some time.  Are any or all of these claims true?

Dry and Store is an electrical appliance intended for use every night for the care and maintenance of hearing instruments of all types. Dry & Store's patented process combines gentle heat with a super-absorbent desiccant to completely remove damaging moisture. When Dry & Store was first introduced in 1997, the protocol was to remove batteries when placing hearing aids in the conditioning unit. However, comments from users who “admitted” they had not removed their batteries seemed to notice longer battery life. In 1998, Energizer conducted tests and found that leaving batteries in hearing aids during Dry & Store conditioning actually helped extend battery life. In 2003, an interview with the Zinc Air Technical Manager at Rayovac, published in Audiology Online also acknowledged the benefit of leaving batteries in hearing aids during the drying process when their aids are used in high humidity conditions. Dry & Store users have continued to report dramatic increases in battery life, possibly due to the combination of functions – drying the hearing aids as well as drying the batteries: greater efficiency of the electronics when not impeded by moisture, improved battery contact points due to corrosion prevention, and simply because it takes less energy to drive a dry hearing aid than one that has diaphragms saturated with moisture. The bottom line: the “generally accepted practice” relative to removal of zinc air batteries is reversing its course which is good news for hearing aid users who no longer have to fumble with tiny batteries to remove them prior to condition.

There is no actual dollar amount that the voucher covers because there are a range of services and devices that are covered under the Commonwealth Government Hearing Services program. There is a very wide range of ‘free-to-client devices’ that can be fitted to a client that range from small in the ear devices to bone conduction aids and body aids, all of which have different costs but all of which are covered by the voucher.Some clients will need 2 hearing devices and others will need 1 and this will also impact on the cost.Different hearing service providers will be able to purchase devices from the manufacturer at different prices depending on their contracts, volume fitted and other factors. Some clients will need many appointments to be a successful device user, others will manage their device independently very quickly. The important thing is to find a qualified and experienced clinician who you trust to provide you with the best advice.

While a standard hearing clinic receives funding from the government to supply you with hearing aid batteries and parts for hearing aids, they cannot access the additional funding that Australian Hearing receives for complex clients such as cochlear implant wearers. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that a standard hearing provider will be able to subsidise your cochlear implant parts and batteries. You are under no obligation to transfer to Australian Hearing, but people who have a cochlear implant and meet the following criteria are eligible to receive services from the Australian Hearing Cochlear Implant Support Program.The criteria are: under 26 years of age and an Australian citizen or permanent resident, or an adult who meets the eligibility criteria for the Australian Government Hearing Services program and has a valid Hearing Services Card (the cost for this card is currently $40.53 per year or free for some eligible Department of Veterans Affairs card holders). If you meet these criteria, Australian Hearing subsidises the cost of batteries required for your processor. This is useful as these higher voltage batteries are more expensive than your standard hearing aid batteries. They will also subsidise the cost of replacement parts - cables, coils, microphone cover replacements, battery units and dry briks for your drying unit. If you qualify for a Hearing Services Card, the yearly fee is minimal if you consider that by using standard disposable batteries you will be paying $300 to $500 to power your processor. In addition, if a cable or coil/cable combination breaks down you would be paying about $90 to $470 to have it replaced. If a battery unit broke down (such as a BTE controller) it could be an additional $500. All parts except for the processor normally only have a 12-month warranty. The dry briks required for drying units (such as the Zephyr or Breeze devices) cost about $18 for a pack of 3 with each brik lasting around 2 months. (It is highly recommended that you place your processor in a drying unit to help prevent moisture damage).

If your processor is out of warranty (3-year warranty for Cochlear Ltd and Advanced Bionics processors and 5-year warranty for Med-El processors), it can cost somewhere between $300 to $400 to have it repaired.As a client of Australian Hearing these repair costs would be fully subsidised. You can see how costs can easily accumulate especially once your parts and processor are out of warranty. The Australian Hearing program is very generous and we are fortunate here in Australia that people who are on a pension or are under 26 years of age receive so much support. If you don't qualify for Australian Hearing's services, at least later processor models have the option of rechargeable battery units that can help diminish your power consumption costs. Whether or not you are on a pension, if you lose your processor or it is damaged beyond repair outside the warranty period, Australian Hearing will not replace the unit for you. So, it is strongly recommended that you insure your external speech processor at its replacement value.

You often hear the little ones on flights crying, especially on descent because of ear pain associated with an inability to equalise air pressure. Problems with regulating ear pressure is common and can be as high as 25% in children and 5% in adults. People with upper respiratory infection, allergies causing congestion or middle ear problems are more likely to have trouble equalising their ears when flying because their pressure equalisation tubes (Eustachian tubes) are typically not functioning at their optimum. Every few minutes when we swallow, talk, chew or yawn, this closed tube opens and allows air in and out of the middle ear space. In a normal functioning ear, the pressure of the air behind the ear drum is equal to atmospheric pressure. For most people these tubes do a good job of keeping the pressure in the middle ear spaces equal to the atmospheric pressure inside the plane and they have little if any discomfort or prolonged hearing issues.Chewing, yawning or performing the Valsalva manoeuvre (blocking the nose and blowing into a closed mouth) can help to equalise the pressure and often a “popping” sensation is described when the Eustachian tube opens and the pressure is equalised. For others flying can be a painful experience. Their Eustachian tubes can be blocked and when the plane takes off the atmospheric pressure becomes lower than the pressure of the air behind the eardrum causing the eardrum to bulge outwards. On landing, the eardrum bulges inwards and often the Eustachian tube is “locked” up to the extent that even the Valsalva manoeuvre is ineffective. In extreme cases this pressure build up can result in a burst eardrum. In children, the Eustachian tubes often cannot regulate themselves as well as adults resulting in ear pain.Here are some suggestions that may assist in providing ear relief for travellers:1. Where possible never fly with an upper respiratory infection.2. Perform the Valsalva manoeuvre at ground level before take-off to check if your ears “pop”.3. If you consistently have ear issues when flying, consult your GP or audiologist to check if your eardrum appears normal and that your canals are clear of wax and debris. A tympanometer is used to assess the functioning of the middle ear system including the Eustachian tube.4. Your GP may recommend or prescribe nasal sprays for use prior, during or after a flight.5. During descent when the pressure change is greatest the Modern Medicine of Australia Journal recommends:- staying awake (Eustachian tubes do not open well during sleep)- yawn or make chewing movements (with or without food)- swallow fluids or suck a lolly (menthol or eucalyptus) and allow babies to suck on a breast/bottle- do the Valsalva manoeuvre6. Use special EarPlanes* earplugs during flight.7. In severe cases of middle ear problems or pain, grommets (tympanostomy tubes inserted in the ear drum) may be required.* EarPlanes are a type of earplug developed specifically for flying by the prestigious research centre the House Ear Institute. They are available for adults and children to help slow down the rate of pressure change. 

I was pleasantly surprised how effective they are when I used them recently. Typically I need to constantly chew, swallow and perform the Valsalva manoeuvre to reduce my ear discomfort and blocked hearing on flights but with the EarPlanes I experienced little pressure change. They are inserted into the ear canals when the seat belt sign goes on at take-off and removed at maximum altitude. The Ear Planes manufacturer recommends re-inserting their plugs an hour before landing rather than waiting for the seat belt sign to turn on and they can be removed again when the seat belt sign goes off.