BAA President, Kath Lewis, has asked for the following to be shared from her Trust’s Senior Calibration Engineer about damage to headphones from infection control cleaning and using the appropriate cleaning wipes.

Just a brief warning about an issue that has cropped up since the arrival of COVID. In my travels round Audiology services whilst Calibrating Audiometers… I’ve come across TDH headphones that have been seriously damaged by inappropriate cleaning. The use of “detergent wipes” has led to liquid from the wipe making its way through the port that the sounds come from and thus seriously damaging the internal workings of the headphone(s).

As a result, on checking the affected headphones, the output levels are permanently 5 to 30 dB lower than they should be at a number of frequencies. This error should of course be immediately apparent on a “Stage A” check, and as such no inaccurate audiograms should result if protocols are in place and adhered to.

Also, as a second line of defence, and as part of the stage A check, a visual check of the affected headphones will reveal a clearly “wet” area on the face of the TDH due to the residue from cleaning. The chemicals in the wipes also damage the rubber ear cushions used on the headphones, rendering them sticky to the touch and shiny in appearance.

There are instructions for cleaning all Audiometric equipment given in the User Manual supplied with the equipment with a view to avoiding such cleaning damage, giving guidance on appropriate method of cleaning – ignore these at your peril! 

Replacing affected headphones is expensive, and of course requires us to calibrate the new headphone up with the audiometer concerned; as well as the audiometer being out of use whilst this is being rectified. I am confident that a suitable solution can be found ( no pun intended) to eliminate the risk of damage whilst adequately disinfecting and cleaning equipment, but in the meantime I would recommend that steps are taken to avoid any further damage to equipment.

Regional NHS Audiometric Calibration Service

Audiology Department, Withington Community Hospital

Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation trust