Hearing aid lifespan is a crucial consideration for individuals coping with hearing loss. Hearing aids provide access to the audible world, offering to people the ability to experience the rich variety of sounds that color everyday life. These small, advanced pieces of technology may seem insignificant to the untrained eye, but they hold paramount importance to those who rely on them. Just like any other gadget or device, hearing aids are subject to wear and tear over time, and understanding the average hearing aid lifespan is crucial for potential users, current users, and their families alike.

In this article, we discuss about hearing aid lifespan, exploring factors that influence it, and offering tips on how to maximize the life of these valuable devices.

Life Expectancy of Hearing Aids

On average, the life expectancy of a hearing aid is between five to seven years. However, this can vary considerably depending on various factors. These include the type and model of the hearing aid, the amount of care taken by the user, the degree and type of hearing loss, and even the individual’s lifestyle and environment. High-end models, when taken care of properly, can last up to seven years or longer. Budget models or those exposed to rough handling may have a shorter lifespan. The degree and type of hearing loss also play a part; a hearing aid used for profound hearing loss may be used more rigorously and thus wear out faster.

Moreover, lifestyle factors such as exposure to sweat, humidity, and dust can shorten a hearing aid’s lifespan. Those living in humid climates or leading an active lifestyle may find they need to replace their hearing aids more frequently. In addition to these factors, rapid advancements in technology also mean that even well-functioning hearing aids may become outdated as newer, more effective devices come into the market [1]. 

Factors Impacting the Lifespan of Hearing Aids 

The durability and life expectancy of hearing aids are influenced by a multitude of elements. Here, we dig into the eight major factors that can determine the average lifespan of a hearing aid [2,3]:

  1. Materials Used to Make Hearing Aids: Hearing aids are composed of materials such as plastic, metal, silicon, and polymers, each susceptible to different degrees of wear and tear over time. Despite protective nanocoating designed to withstand moisture, dust, and water, their sensitivity to shock and impacts necessitates gentle handling.
  2. Frequency of Cleaning: Regular exposure to moisture, dust, skin oils, sweat, and earwax can shorten a hearing aid’s lifespan. Therefore, daily cleaning as advised by your audiologist, coupled with professional cleaning every three to four months, can significantly enhance their durability.
  3. Where Hearing Aids are Worn: Wearing hearing aids in damp or dusty environments can lead to more frequent performance issues. Regular professional cleaning may be required for individuals often exposed to such conditions.
  4. Hearing Aid Style: Behind-the-ear (BTE) styles generally last longer than in-the-ear (ITE) styles due to less exposure of electronic components to the damp environment of the ear canal. However, advancements in nanocoating technology are bridging this gap in durability.
  5. A Person’s Body Physiology: Factors like oily skin, high earwax production, or excessive sweating can also affect the life of a hearing aid. 
  6. Frequency of Maintenance: Regularly replacing parts like wax guards, earmold tubing, and silicone dome earpiece tips can help extend the life of your hearing aids. Damaged or nonfunctional parts like battery doors, earmolds, external speakers, and microphone covers can usually be repaired or replaced in-clinic.
  7. Technological Advancements: The rapid evolution of hearing aid technology can render older models obsolete. After five to ten years, manufacturers may stop producing replacement parts for certain aids, and the software used to program them may become outdated. Furthermore, the advancement in features and performance might make newer models more appealing.
  8. Changing Hearing Needs: As your hearing loss progresses or your lifestyle changes, you might need to upgrade your hearing aid to a more powerful model or one with different features. In such cases, even functional hearing aids may be replaced.

In conclusion, the durability of hearing aids is contingent upon a variety of factors, some of which are within your control. By working closely with your hearing care professional, you can optimize the hearing aids lifespan and ensure that they continue to serve you effectively for as long as possible.

Do Hearing Aids Wear Out?

Just like any other piece of technology, hearing aids do indeed wear out with time. However, the rate at which they degrade can vary significantly, largely based on factors we’ve outlined above, such as material quality, maintenance routines, usage conditions, and personal physiological aspects. Over time, their components may degrade, particularly when exposed to conditions like moisture, dust, or extreme temperatures. This degradation can manifest in several ways, e.g., you may notice a decline in sound quality, experience more frequent technical difficulties or even encounter physical damage to the device.

Moreover, as technology advances rapidly, hearing aids may become obsolete in terms of features and performance. This doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped functioning, but newer models may offer improved sound quality, additional features, or more efficient battery usage that could significantly enhance your experience. As such, understanding and regularly reviewing these factors will enable you to get the most out of your hearing aids and decide when it’s time for a replacement.

How Often Should Hearing Aids Be Replaced?

The typical recommendation is to replace hearing aids approximately every five to seven years. However, the specific time frame for replacement varies greatly depending on factors such as the quality and style of the hearing aids, how well they’re maintained and cleaned, the user’s physiological conditions, and technological advancements in the industry.

Regular check-ups with your hearing care professional are crucial to monitor the performance of your hearing aids. They can assess whether the devices are still functioning optimally and providing the necessary amplification for your current hearing needs. Furthermore, as hearing loss can progress over time, your hearing requirements may change, necessitating an upgrade to more advanced or powerful hearing aids.

Technological advancements can also prompt a replacement even if the current hearing aids are functioning well. Newer models often come with improved sound quality, enhanced features, better connectivity, and more efficient power usage.

Additionally, signs that your hearing aids might need a replacement include consistent poor sound quality, frequent repairs, or discomfort while wearing them. It’s important to remember that if your hearing aids are not providing the support you need, it’s worth discussing replacement options with your hearing care provider.

Signs You Need to Replace Your Hearing Aids

Recognizing the signs that your hearing aids may need to be replaced is crucial to ensuring you continue to have optimal hearing support. Below are some key indicators that it might be time for a replacement [4,5]:

  1. Consistent Poor Sound Quality: If you are experiencing distorted or muffled sound despite having clean, well-maintained hearing aids, it might be time for a replacement.
  2. Frequent Repairs: If your hearing aids require frequent repairs or parts replacements beyond regular maintenance, it’s usually a sign that they are nearing the end of their lifespan.
  3. Outdated Technology: If your hearing aids lack modern features such as Bluetooth connectivity, directional microphones, or rechargeable batteries that could significantly improve your hearing experience, it might be time to consider upgrading to a newer model.
  4. Physical Discomfort: If your hearing aids no longer fit comfortably or cause irritation, it’s worth discussing with your hearing care provider whether a different style or fit could be more suitable.
  5. Changes in Hearing Ability: Hearing loss can progress or change over time. If your hearing aids no longer provide the necessary amplification even after reprogramming, you might need to upgrade to a more powerful model.
  6. Short Battery Life: If you notice that the batteries are draining faster than usual, it might be a sign that your hearing aids are nearing the end of their life.
  7. Difficulties in Various Settings: If your hearing aids aren’t performing well in specific settings that are important for your lifestyle – such as noisy environments or over the phone – it might be time to look into newer models that are designed to handle these scenarios better.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to consult with your hearing care professional to assess whether it’s time for a replacement. They can provide personalized advice based on your specific hearing needs, lifestyle, and preferences.

Caring for Your Hearing Aids

Proper care and maintenance can significantly extend the hearing aids lifespan. Here are some essential steps to follow:

  1. Clean Regularly: Clean your hearing aids daily with a soft, dry cloth to remove dust and earwax. Avoid using water, solvents, or cleaning fluids, which could damage them. Special cleaning tools such as brushes or wax pickers can help remove earwax from small openings.
  2. Store Properly: When not in use, store your hearing aids in a dry, cool place out of children’s and pets’ reach. Consider using a storage case or dehumidifier for added protection.
  3. Handle with Care: Handle your hearing aids gently to avoid dropping them or damaging their delicate components. When not in use, it’s best to keep them in a protective case.
  4. Replace Batteries or Recharge Regularly: For hearing aids with disposable batteries, always keep spare batteries on hand and store them in a cool, dry place. If your hearing aids are rechargeable, ensure they’re charged properly and consistently.
  5. Regular Check-ups and Maintenance: Regular visits to your hearing care professional will ensure your hearing aids are functioning optimally. They can conduct professional cleaning, reprogram the hearing aids as your hearing changes, and replace parts as necessary.
  6. Summer Care: During summer, check for and eliminate any moisture inside the hearing aids, and avoid exposing them to excessive heat or direct sunlight.
  7. Beach Precautions: At the beach, protect hearing aids from saltwater, sand, and sunscreen, which can damage the device.
  8. Cosmetic Products: Remove hearing aids before applying cosmetic products like hairspray, perfume, aftershave lotion, or sunscreen, which can contain harmful chemicals.
  9. Winter Care: Cold weather can create condensation inside hearing aids and affect battery performance. Store batteries at room temperature and consider using a hearing aid dryer during winter.
  10. Water Exposure: Even though many hearing aids are water-resistant, prolonged exposure to moisture can cause malfunctions. If your hearing aids get wet, let them ventilate overnight or use a dryer to remove moisture.

Remember, each hearing aid may require specific care instructions depending on the model and type. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult with your hearing care professional for the best advice on maintaining and extending the lifespan of your hearing aids.

Hearing Aid Lifespan Conclusion

Understanding the hearing aids lifespan and the factors that affect their longevity is an essential aspect of managing hearing loss. Remember, these devices, while durable and designed to endure daily wear, do not last forever. They are influenced by factors such as material quality, care routines, user’s physiological conditions, and the rapid pace of technological advancements.

That said, even the best-maintained hearing aids may need to be replaced eventually due to changes in your hearing ability or simply to take advantage of the latest technological developments. Regular hearing tests are crucial to ensure that your current hearing aids still meet your needs or to ascertain if your hearing has worsened. If you’re considering getting a new pair of hearing aids, a current hearing test will help your hearing care provider make the best recommendations for your specific hearing needs. Taking active steps towards maintaining your hearing aids and staying informed about your hearing health will ultimately allow you to enjoy the full benefits of your devices for as long as possible.

References:

  1. Anderson Audiology. (n.d.). Average Lifespan of Hearing Aids. Retrieved from https://andersonaudiology.com/resources/average-lifespan-of-hearing-aids/
  2. Healthy Hearing. (n.d.). How long do hearing aids last? Retrieved from https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/30926-Long-do-hearing-aids
  3. Associated Audiologists. (n.d.). 5 Factors That Affect How Long Hearing Aids Last. Retrieved from https://www.hearingyourbest.com/5-factors-that-affect-how-long-hearing-aids-last/
  4. Oticon. (n.d.). How do I know when it is time to update my hearing aids? Retrieved from https://www.oticon.com/your-hearing/getting-help/how-do-i-know-when-it-is-time-to-update-my-hearing-aids#:~:text=Hearing%20aids%20can%20last%20anywhere,for%20many%20hours%20a%20day
  5. AARP. (n.d.). When to Replace Hearing Aids. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2022/when-to-replace-hearing-aids.html
Eleftheria Georganti
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Eleftheria's world revolves around sound - whether it's designing high-quality audio applications, crunching numbers in audio signal processing (DSP), decoding room acoustics, listening to music or crafting the latest hearing aid technology and new features. She has a professional career spanning over 15 years and a strong research record (over 40 articles and patents) and has been the driving force behind top-notch products at leading hearing aid and audio tech companies. But what really makes her enthusiastic is sharing what she knows. As an avid writer, she loves spreading the word on the science of hearing, hearing aids and health technologies. Her ultimate goal? To give people with hearing impairments the insights they need to live their best life.

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