August 27, 2013

Ask the Audiologist – Do I need new hearing aids?

By Rachel King, Au.D., CCC-A
Audiology Consultants, P.C.

The purchase of hearing aids and audiology services is an investment in your ability to hear and communicate with those around you. Like most other electronic devices, hearing aids do eventually wear out and need to be replaced. How do you know when you need new hearing aids? This is a decision that your audiologist can help you with. A few things to consider include whether the aid can be repaired or you can afford to keep repairing the aid, whether the hearing aid is still improving your hearing as well as it used to, or whether you’ve had a change in hearing or communication needs that warrant different technology.

Hearing aids have an average life span of approximately five to seven years. This doesn’t necessarily mean you automatically need new hearing aids every five years. When the hearing aid starts to get old, you will likely start to notice more problems with the hearing aid. Parts inside the hearing aids start to wear out, and have to be replaced. Most of the time, hearing aids can be repaired. However, the costs of repairs do start to add up. And, the older the hearing aid, the harder it gets to find parts for the hearing aid. If you have a custom made hearing aid or ear mold, our ears continue to grow as we age, so the hearing aid may not fit in your ear properly anymore. If so, then the shell or mold that goes in your ear will need to be re-made to better fit your ear. This is usually an additional cost. In the case of repairs, it’s similar to the type of budgetary decisions most of us make with our automobiles – how much is too much for repairs and when is it better to just invest in new?

An important consideration is whether or not you are hearing as well you did when you were first fit with your hearing aids. This could be due to the need for repairing the hearing aids. It could also be as simple as a buildup of ear wax in the ears blocking the sounds coming from the hearing aids. There could also be a change in your hearing, which would mean the hearing aids are no longer adequately amplifying the sounds around you. Your audiologist can help you sort through the possibilities. Sometimes repairing the aid or reprogramming the aid to your new hearing test results is all you need. There are times, however, when one’s hearing loss changes enough to exceed the capabilities of the hearing aids, and new ones would need to be considered.

Perhaps you’ve had a change in your communication needs and habits. For example, you didn’t used to find yourself in the theater all the time, but you’ve found a new passion for plays! Perhaps you are socializing in larger groups than you used to. Maybe you’ve decided to go back to work or volunteer at an organization. If you’ve had changes and are noticing that you’re having more difficulty hearing in these new environments, you may need to consider newer technology. If you find this is the case, consult with your audiologist. Sometimes, there are other accessories one can purchase to work with your current hearing aids to help in certain situations. Sometimes you need different hearing aids. Your audiologist will help you make the best decision.

The best perspective is to determine how much you value being able to hear the people you love and the sounds of life that are so important to living. It’s worth getting new hearing aids when the time is up for your current hearing aids!