Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Can Hearing Aids Last?
We are always charmed when the occasional patient presents a working hearing aid 12, 14 or more years ago. One long time patient recently reported that the aid he got from us in the 1990s is still working! Usually (and hopefully) it has been a spare that they have kept just in case, but those vintage classics do exist. Our general rule of thumb is that replacement be considered in 5 or 7 years. Not only have advances in technology easily surpassed the older aids ability to provide optimal benefit, but also because with such long term use they simply wear out and are not worth repairing.
Hearing aids are a miniaturized electronic device that sit in the ear or beside the head where they are exposed to skin oil, ear wax, perspiration, soil, hair spray, sticky fingers and can be detrimentally soiled extensively when not cleaned regularly. Humid climates are very hard on hearing aids as can excess heat should they be left in the hot sun or a warm car. They are amazingly robust for their miniaturized size but can be negatively affected if dropped on hard surfaces.
We provide all our new aids with dry kits, battery testers, and cleaning kits appropriate for the model. We show our patients how best to maintain their hearing aids, ask them to return regularly so that we can check their performance and provide preventative service. We readily provide minor repairs in our office whenever possible with a sincere desire to save our patients time, money and inconvenience. Many of our patients are prone to excessive production of ear wax which can clog the hearing aids, their ear molds or prevent the amplification from effectively reaching the ear drum. For this reason, we regularly perform cerumen management, which helps optimize aided benefits and prevent premature breakdown. A hearing aids microphone(s) and receiver are especially susceptible to damage given the small size of these tiny sound-responsive diaphragms.
The bottom line is that we advise our patients that a properly maintained hearing aid should be able to give them 5 or more years of service, understanding that they may need repair, by us or the manufacturer during that period. Some people go years without needing repair at all.
How do I care for my hearing aids?
Hearing aids are remarkably durable considering their small size and the components that make them work, but, naturally, they are not invincible. They are prized for what they can do but require proper care.
- Keep them clean. Touch them with clean and dry hands. Avoid applying hair spray when wearing them, and be mindful of skin oils, wax and other substances that can easily collect on them.
- Avoid dropping them on hard surfaces.
- Don’t force the battery compartment in ways that might improperly lodge the battery inside (some aids come with rechargeable batteries that eliminates or reduces this risk).
- Protect your hearing aids from high heat. Don’t lay them in direct sunlight as on the dashboard of the car or put them near heaters.
- Keep them dry. They are at risk if worn in the shower, in the bath or when swimming. Humidity and moist environments (like the wash room) are not good for these small electrical devices. Use an appropriate dry kit to prevent moisture from building up on essential components within the aid. Remove the battery when not in use and keep the battery drawer open to allow the instrument to dry out.
- Keep hearing aids out of reach of children and pets. Dogs and cats are easily drawn to the smell of skin oil and wax or to the sound of the aids if they feedback (squeal) unattended out of your ears. Chew toys are great, but not when your hearing aid becomes one!
- Wipe your ears regularly to help keep the aids clean. At our clinic, we regularly debride wax from our patient’s ears who are particularly prone to it. Wax can plug your hearing instruments and block or muffle the amplification that you need.
There are many things that a patient can easily do to clean and maintain their hearing aids but avoid “fixing” what you might break!