“Should I replace or repair an older hearing aid?” is one of the more frequent questions we are asked. The answer is “Depends.” The question of whether to replace or repair depends on many factors, and the “right answer” is particular to the person asking the question.
For starters, it should be noted that hearing aids – no matter how well-crafted they are and what their original cost was – sometimes break, or start to work less than optimally. The surroundings that hearing aids inhabit – your ear canals – is an inhospitable one for complex electronic devices, full of moisture and ear wax. Both moisture and ear wax are natural, but your hearing aids dislike them both. Moisture can damage the fine electronics while ear wax can ‘gum up’ the interior. Over and above the hostile environment, accidental breakage from falls, and wearing away of parts both contribute to declining performance. You should expect that your hearing aids will require replacement or repair at some point. They won’t keep going forever.
One of the things that should most influence your choice to “replace or repair” is whether you like your current hearing aids. If you like them and are familiar with the sound that they produce or really like how they fit, repair may be the better option for you.
Cost is obviously another main consideration. While brand new hearing aids may cost thousands, repairing your existing hearing aids might be possible for a few hundred. Balancing this, however, some people have insurance coverage that will fully or partly cover the cost of new hearing aids, but which won’t cover repairing them.
If you decide to have your hearing aids fixed, another topic that arises is, “Should I take them to the location I purchased them from, or send them to one of the numerous laboratories who advertise on the Internet?” While internet advertisers will try paint your community audiologist as just a middle-man, that’s not true. There are numerous advantages to staying nearby. Think about whether you are qualified to assess whether a poorly performing hearing aid needs cleaning versus repair? Can you figure out if your damaged aid is capable of being repaired? Your local hearing professional can tell you what is in fact wrong with it and might be able to correct it then and there. For hearing aids that do need laboratory or manufacturer repairs, the office will coordinate all the paperwork and shipping for you. Don’t presume the price will be higher for these value-added services, because audiologists deal with repair facilities in bulk.
If you choose to replace your aids, more options are available to you. Take the time to understand the technical improvements since the last time you purchased and be open to improved designs. More recent digital hearing aids have additional features that might help your hearing and can be more readily set to work the way you want them to. The answer to the “repair or replace” question is still your responsibility, but we hope that the information we have provided will help you.