Posted by - For Consumers, Hearing Aids.

My patients are always asking: “How often should I replace my hearing aids?

How Often Should I Replace My Hearing Aids?

The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There are many factors that you may need to consider when replacing and/or upgrading your hearing aids. Here are a few that come to mind:

  1. Are your current hearing aids functioning well?
  2. Are your current hearing aids fully meeting your hearing needs?
  3. Are your current hearing aids meeting your hearing prescription?
  4. Is it worth upgrading to take advantage of new hearing aid technology?
  5. How do you plan on financing your replacement/upgrade?

Let’s take it one question at a time.

1. Are your current hearing aids functioning well?

To perform well, hearing aids require regular maintenance and occasional technical repair. Hearing aids are worn on the body, and they go wherever you go. They aren’t like your cellphone, sitting securely in your pocket or in your purse. They are exposed to the elements, just like anything else on your body, and may be exposed to rain, excessive humidity, extreme temperatures, dust, dirt, etc. Remember, at least part of every hearing aid sits inside the ear canal. Seeing that most ear canals contain a mixture of moisture and earwax, it’s clear that hearing aids aren’t residing in the most hospitable of environments.

Depending on the type of hearing aid you wear, your lifestyle, and your ear canals (some are drier than others), your hearing aids may require a lot of maintenance, or none at all. I have had some patients wear their hearing aids for 5 years without requiring any significant repairs, and others who are in and out of the clinic every few months with moisture (or wax) related issues.

When should I replace my hearing aids - Wax in hearing aid speaker

Ear wax in hearing aid speaker. Photo Courtesy Jodivac

Without regular maintenance, the performance of your hearing aids may change gradually over time, as microphones, speakers, and other important technical components become “clogged up” with moisture, wax, and other debris. Here’s the kicker: I have encountered a number of patients who just “live with it,” without realizing they can actually do something to improve the situation. Sometimes the solution is as simple as changing a wax filter on the speaker, or brushing debris out of the microphone ports. Other times it may require sending the hearing aid to the factory for disassembly and internal-cleaning or (worst case scenario) a complete overhaul (new microphones, speakers, amplifiers, etc).

Bottom Line:  If your hearing aids aren’t performing well, you should consider cleaning and/or repairing them before purchasing new hearing aids.  Ask your provider to perform a “text-box measurement” to see if your hearing aids are performing to the manufacturer specifications. If they aren’t, they probably need some attention.

2. Are your current hearing aids fully meeting your hearing needs?

Try this. Write down at least 5 specific hearing needs. These could be anything from “hearing on the phone while in the car,” to “hearing my best friend while we’re at a party together.” Now, think about each of these hearing needs. Are your hearing aids delivering a significant benefit to you in the situations you listed? Are you somewhat satisfied, but still looking for more?

Bottom Line: If your hearing aids are delivering benefit in the situations that matter to you, it may be premature to consider new hearing aids. On the other hand, if you see room for improvement, it may be time to look at newer technology.

3. Are your current hearing aids meeting your hearing prescription?

To get the most from your hearing aids, they need to be set to your hearing prescription.  There are a number of methods for calculating a hearing prescription (don’t worry you can leave this to your hearing provider), but broadly speaking, more hearing aid volume is prescribed for worse hearing levels. To verify that your hearing aids are meeting your prescription, your hearing provider should perform a “real-ear measurement” to measure the sound levels produced by your hearing aids, inside your very own ear canals.  Without performing this type of measurement, no one (including your hearing provider) can be certain that your hearing aids are doing their job.

Bottom Line: If your hearing aids are not meeting your hearing prescription, you should ask your hearing provider to improve the fitting. This may require an adjustment of your hearing aids’ digital programming, or some type of cleaning or repair of the devices. If the fitting cannot be improved, your hearing aids may not be adequate for your hearing loss, and you should consider replacing them (especially if they aren’t meeting your hearing needs!).

How Often Should I Replace My Hearing Aids? Performing Real Ear Measurements

Performing Real Ear Measurements. Photo Courtesy Frye Electronics

Some hearing providers provide real-ear measurements for every single patient, as a part of their clinical protocol. The provider must match the output of the hearing aid (in your ear) to a target which is set on the computer screen. A hearing aid “test-box” (seen on the left) is used for testing the hearing aid against its specification. 

4. Is it worth upgrading to take advantage of new hearing aid technology?

So let’s assume your hearing aids are performing to their optimum level, meeting your hearing prescription, and without any hardware faults. Should you look at upgrading your hearing aids, just to have the latest technology? It turns out this is a difficult question, and one that will depend on whether your current hearing aids are meeting your hearing needs.

Let’s assume your hearing aids are working well, with the exception of taking phone calls in the car. Identifying your hearing need(s) is the first step.

Now you can investigate the new technologies and see if there is anything available that might help. After researching online, you discover a hands-free Bluetooth hearing aid that streams phone calls to both of your hearing aids simultaneously. Bingo. That sounds like it might help!

Now make an appointment to discuss things with your hearing provider. They should suggest a specific hearing aid with the new technology, and (importantly) one that suits your hearing loss needs. You’re getting close to figuring things out; now you have a product recommendation and a price.

Bottom Line: Weigh up the cost of the new hearing aids against the benefits you expect receive. Do the math, and make your decision. If you’re still not sure, ask your hearing provider about their policy on hearing aid evaluations.

5. How do you plan on financing your replacement/upgrade?

If you are receiving funding from the government (or another 3rd party), there may be limitations on how often you can replace your hearing aids. For example, Medicaid regulations in Florida dictate that “hearing aids are limited to one per ear every three years,” while Idaho’s dictate “one hearing aid in a lifetime.”

For a complete listing of states see Medicaid Regulations

Private insurance companies are less likely to help with the cost of hearing aids, but if you’re lucky enough to live in New Hampshire or Rhode Island, you may be entitled to regular hearing aid upgrades through your insurer. In Arkansas, insurers are required to offer coverage to employers in the state.

More about paying for hearing aids at AARP

Bottom Line: If you’re personally financing your hearing aid replacement, upgrade whenever you feel the need. Otherwise check with your 3rd party funder, to see how often you’re able to receive funding.

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  • hopebest

    Great discussion and great resource for hearing aids quality comparison. What is missing is the suggested retail cost of the hearing aids. It would help consumers tremendously if the cost of the suggested retail was listed and that way the consumer could negotiate the additional services with the audiologist. Until that is done the consumer will remain in the dark.
    By forming Hearing tracker you have stated that “information is knowledge” which I agree. With the power of the web, consumers are empowered by knowledge, that enables them to make the best choice in purchasing hearing aids; why not extend that to the price of hearing aids?
    Audiologist can compete for the cost of the hearing aids and by offering service packages for services ranging from several visits to a one or two years contract. By continuing to keep consumers in the dark, a revolution against purchasing from audiologist is already in the making as suggested by a number of articles and the sales figures of internet sales, Costco and Sam club.
    Please give us the full knowledge that we need, disclose the cost of the hearing aids without the bundle!

    • Hi there hopebest. Thank you for your comment!

      Q) “Why not extend that to the price of hearing aids?”

      A) Audiologists are currently moving toward a system of providing unbundled services. We believe this is the way forward for our profession, as it will give patients the option to purchase hearing aids with a minimum, or a more comprehensive set of services. Think of this as a more pay-as-you-go system, with the option of purchasing a service plan at the beginning. Once this transition is more complete I think audiologists will be far more comfortable with Hearing Tracker posting unit prices for devices.

      One of the other issues is the difficulty of obtaining unit pricing. Manufacturer suggested retail prices are based on bundled prices, and audiologists purchasing prices vary wildly. This means there is no reliable indicator for wholesale unbundled unit price. The closest we could come to this would be asking patients how much they paid for their devices during the review process, but this would be difficult due to the differences in unbundled vs bundled pricing that currently exists in the market.

      The last thing we want is for patients to schedule appointments with the audiologist providing the lowest prices. When prices are lower, this often indicates less comprehensive services in the bundled sale. We are focused on clinical outcomes on hearing tracker, and it is up to the patient to comparison shop with their local audiologists if they are focused on obtaining the cheapest price. We will continue to feel out the market, and will add pricing if and when audiologists shift to the unbundled service model, and feel comfortable with Hearing Tracker publicizing pricing.

      • hopebest

        Thank you for the information. The issue here is that hearing aids companies and service providers have a product that is a medical necessity for 17% of the US population , study after study and what you read in numerous forums is that only a small percentage of people can afford hearing aids. My good wishes and respect for audiologist is not going to pay for what I need. Like most people with hearing loss, I would love to walk into a hearing aid dispenser and purchase the best hearing aid available, but like most, I cannot afford even the most basic model hearing aid.

        Comparing the cost of the hearing aid unit will be a good thing for everyone. The dispenser will compete for the sale of the unit and then work for the trust of the consumer by offering the audiologist expertise. With the internet and the power of reviews, bad audiologist would not last a long time.

        I read a good article in, it is the story of ihear. If Mr. Shennib is successful and I suspect if anyone can do this, it would be a person like him, he will change the hearing aid industry forever and in the process transformed the lives of millions of people around the world.

        It is this kind of visioning that creates cultural giants, heroes of humanity. Mr. Shennib will make billions in the long run, but it seems to me he is not doing it for the money. The hearing aid industry need, must, change. The word is out, people have more information and knowledge. The old ways of the hearing aid industry is not going to survive without a major change.

        Hearing tracker can be in the category of world changers by providing information and transparency to an industry filled with secrecy and that is accused by many people in different forums and media articles with exploitation of people in need of health care. Whether this true or not is irrelevant because it is true to the millions of people suffering. They know that a hearing aid can be made for under $100, but the cost to buy it is in the thousands of dollars. Medicare and most Insurance companies do not pay for the HA. To the millions who suffer and have very few options what is there to do? They live their lives with great limitations and much suffering an anger towards the hearing aid industry, as a sufferer myself, I can’t blame them. No amount of fancy words can bring relief, what is needed is affordable good quality hearing aids. It is time for millions of people to hear the wonderful sounds of this most beautiful world. Please help.

  • Alison

    The problem with the whole system is that no one wants to pay for service….. So, Audiologists have had to bundle the cost of the hearing aids with the service that people need and want. I suspect that if unbundled pricing is available – that the patient will want “freebee” service or will simply not get the service they need. The reality is the reality, if a hearing company does not make enough money to pay the staff and keep the lights on they will no longer be there. Then everyone suffers. Ask yourself this – an Audiologist can only do approximately 8-10 hearing tests a day – how much are you willing to pay for that? It is takes more way more than what you probably said x 8-10 per day to run a hearing center .

    • Steven Kopischke

      Alison, you make a lot of assumptions about what patients are and are not willing to pay for. I’m more than willing to pay for services as needed. I just wish the health care insurance companies would get on board. Other medical devices are covered under insurance. Why not hearing aids?

    • Ricardo Pereira

      Bullshit. Research, bla bla bla. Smartphones also need research, engineers and so on and they are state of the art and they dont cost a fortune

  • Hearing aids can experience better relationships with family and friends, higher self-esteem, improved mental health, and greater independence and security.


  • Steven Kopischke

    Excellent article on the analysis we should all go through when we think it’s time for new hearing aids. I know the next time, I will truly understand which high-tech features I really need and which are merely nice additional features.

  • Ann Conway

    I think a big issue is lack of Medicare coverage–but with the PACT report, I’m hoping this will change.

  • Dam Spahn

    In all my years of using hearing aids, only one provider out of four has used ‘real ear measurement” or even had the equipment to do it. Maybe Starkey could have a sit down talk with those who chose not to use this measurement.