Going to the spa with hearing aids

Spa experiences are designed with relaxation in mind, but for those who have hearing loss, there may be some barriers to relaxation.

How do you avoid confusion, feeling on edge, and not getting the treatment you were expecting? How do you ensure your hearing aids can handle the spa’s often warm, moist environments? 

5 tips for going to the spa with hearing aids

1. Understand your treatment

When I was younger, I was embarrassed to tell strangers about my hearing loss. Once, at a spa abroad, I booked – what I thought was – a head massage. I turned up, without my hearing aid in, and didn’t mention my hearing loss. The young therapist’s English was limited and as she talked, I just smiled and nodded – as you do when you don’t know what someone is saying to you.

The head massage began as normal but then, the therapist’s hands moved away and I started to feel the drip of oil on my forehead. It was unexpected and thoroughly unpleasant. Ahh… I thought… perhaps this is what she was trying to tell me when I was nodding and smiling.

Without a word (perhaps), she left the room. It was just me and the drip, drip, drip for what seemed like an eternity. If she’d said how long she’d be away, I didn’t hear. This was possibly the least relaxed I had ever been.

Bizarrely, I continued to lie there and endure it rather than sit up and leave – but I didn’t want to admit I’d not understood what I’d been told about the treatment because I hadn’t heard it.

Tip 1: ‘Shirodhara’ is not a head massage as you or I would know it – it’s an Ayurvedic treatment which involves ‘the gentle, constant application of warm oil on the third eye or chakra point just above and between the eyebrows’.

Tip 2: Don’t pretend you know what someone’s said when you honestly haven’t a clue. It can get you into hot water or, in my case, hot oil!

2. Honesty is the best policy

Now that I’m older and more confident in alerting people to the fact that I have hearing loss, I find I can enjoy spa experiences again. All good spas (and beauty salons) should conduct preliminary interviews with you prior to any treatments and, even if there’s no box on the form for you to tick to tell them you have hearing loss, this is the perfect time for you to let them know about your access needs.

If I’m having a treatment I’m not familiar with, I will ask for an explanation prior to the start of the treatment.

“If I’m having a treatment I’m not familiar with, I will ask for an explanation prior to the start of the treatment.”

When the treatment involves massage, I explain that I prefer not to have my hearing aids in during the treatment. (Who wants feedback from the pillow while they’re trying to relax?)

I’ll usually say something like, “I won’t be able to hear you when I’ve taken my hearing aids out so, when you’d like me to turn over, please just tap me on the shoulder.” T

his helps them to relax too because they know how to communicate with me. Chances are, you will not be the first client with hearing loss that the therapist has seen so, try not to worry about telling them.

3. If in doubt, play it safe

If you don’t wish to remove your hearing devices whilst having a spa experience,  you could indulge in some reflexology or a foot and leg massage. Or, perhaps a hand massage and manicure.  That way, you will be able to lipread while enjoying the treatment.

4. Water, water everywhere

You may think that, because you have a hearing aid, you need to stay away from the swimming pools, plunge pools and showers at the spa. However, that might not be true in all cases.

Most hearing aids are water resistant, in that they can withstand splashes and sweat. Make sure you discuss your technology’s limitations with your audiologist. Additionally, hearing aids such as the Phonak Lyric, are worn deeper in the ear canal, which makes them more water resistant.

“If you have Lyric hearing aids, swimming is OK, as long as swim plugs are worn,” says Phonak audiologist Anna Biggins. “The beauty is that you can wear a custom swim plug on top of your Lyric because of where it sits in the ear canal.”

Read more: Ask Anna: What do I do if my hearing aids get wet?

4. Keeping hearing aids safe

Despite being water resistant, it is not recommended to keep hearing aids in while in a saunas or steam room. The extreme changes in temperature and humidity are not good for hearing aids – even the Lyric.

Also, the increased sweating caused by having something in your ear would not be good for the ear itself. So, where do you keep your hearing aids whilst you’re in the sauna?

Do you keep them in a case in the pocket of your robe? Do you leave them in your locker? Or do you ask a member of the spa staff team to look after them for you?

I left mine in the pocket of my robe once, but then I was unable to relax for fear of someone taking the wrong robe and my hearing aids disappearing.

Depending on the level of hearing loss you have, you might be quite happy to leave your hearing aids in your locker whilst wandering about in the spa. But if, like me, you don’t feel comfortable walking about alone without them, it’s a good idea to explain in advance that you would like a member of staff to show you from the changing room to the sauna/steam room and for them to come back to collect you at a pre-arranged time. In my experience, most spas are happy to accommodate this request.

5. After the visit

If you think your hearing devices have been exposed to excessive moisture, it’s a good idea to pop them into a drying box when you get home. It’s good practice to do this every night but, an extra session on returning home may also be advisable.

“If you don’t have an electronic drying box, a very simple way to dry a hearing aid is with uncooked basmati rice,” says Biggins. “If you put basmati rice into a jar with a lid and then put your hearing aid on top of the rice then screw on the lid and leave overnight it will dry the hearing aids.”

Written by Angie Aspinall