Should you replace your damaged hearing aid?

One of the questions most asked of hearing specialists is, “My hearing aid is damaged or is not working as well as it used to – should I replace it with a new one, or have it repaired?” The honest answer has to be, “That depends.” Deciding between repair or replace doesn’t have a one right answer. It truly depends upon the specific situation and the requirements of the individual asking the question.

It is worthwhile to state in advance, that all hearing aids, regardless of their original price or quality, can be expected to stop working sooner or later. The surroundings that hearing aids operate in – your ear canals – is a hostile one for advanced electronic instruments, full of moisture and ear wax. Ear wax is normal and necessary because it protects the delicate lining of the outer ear, but it can be tough on hearing aids; water that stays in the ears after showering or swimming can be even harder on them. Add to these 2 factors breakage (from inadvertently dropping the hearing aids) and natural wear and tear (as inner tubing or components degrade), and you can be fairly certain that at some point your hearing aid will need either repair or replacement.

So how do you choose between repair and replace? The biggest consideration really is you, and whether you like your current hearing aids. If you do, or you have gotten used to the sound they produce( as many wearers of older analog hearing aids do), it may make more sense to have them fixed than to replace them with newer digital aids which could produce a very different sound or wearing experience.

Another factor to consider, obviously, is cost – while a new pair of hearing aids might cost thousands, your existing hearing aids might cost only a couple of hundred dollars to repair. This monetary concern can be influenced by insurance, however, which in some instances covers replacement hearing aids, but will not cover having existing aids fixed.

Another common question that arises if you decide to have your hearing aids repaired is, “Do I return them to the store where I bought them, or send them to a repair laboratory myself?” While internet advertisers will try paint your neighborhood audiologist as just a middle-man, that isn’t accurate. There are several advantages to staying nearby. To begin with, they can figure out if repairs are actually necessary. Second, they may be able to get the repairs completed on site decreasing the amount of time you are without your hearing aid. For hearing aids which do need lab or manufacturer repairs, the clinic will coordinate all the communications and paperwork for you. Do not assume the price will be higher for these value-added services, because hearing professionals work with repair labs in larger volumes.

If you choose to replace your aids, more choices are available to you. Take the time to learn about the technological improvements since the last time you bought and be open to newer designs. Newer digital hearing aids have additional features that might help your hearing and can be more readily programmed to perform the way you want them to. Ultimately, the “replace or repair” question can’t be answered by anyone besides you.

Hearing care is health care. If you have the symptoms of hearing loss let a professional help you find out why. The hearing professional will help you sort out the technology level to meet your need, your budget, and answer your hearing need questions.

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Jeffrey L. Bayliff, NBC-HIS, is owner, Hear the Birds Hearing Aid Center, Lock Haven.

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