Hearing aids have been used since the early 1920s, and they’ve come a long way since then. Modern hearing aids are small, discreet and have powerful enough technology to amplify the specific sounds that you can’t hear due to your individual hearing loss while also restoring a sense of balance to your ears. However, even with these advances in listening devices and engineering, there is still a myriad of factors that affect how long do hearing aids last, including how often they are cleaned and maintained.
For many people, hearing aids are a necessary part of life. So, how long do hearing aids last and how often should they be replaced are very important questions. In this article we’ll discuss how long hearing aids last typically as well as the factors that affect their longevity. Let’s take a look at the reasons why and find out.
How long do hearing aids last?
Generally speaking, most hearing aids will last between three to five years before needing to be replaced. However, you are a key factor in determining how long do hearing aids last: If you take good care of your hearing aids and make sure that they are regularly maintained by a hearing professional, you may be able to get more than five years out of your device.
Following are the key factors that impact how long do hearing aids last:
- Operating environment
- Cleaning practices
- Regular maintenance/checkup
- Type of hearing aids
- Changes in patient’s hearing needs
- Technical obsolescence
1. Operating Environment
The environment is a key factor in determining how long do hearing aids last: If you wear your hearing aids in environments that are dusty or have a high degree of moisture it is more likely that your hearing aids will have issues than if they were worn in cleaner, drier environments. You may want to ask your hearing care professional about nanocoated or even waterproof hearing aids, this is especially important for those who live an active lifestyle. These types of environments make it more of an imperative that you cleaning your hearing aids daily and have them maintained periodically by a hearing care professional. You may also want to ask your hearing care professional about a hearing aid dehumidifier.
2. Cleaning Practices
Regardless of the type of hearing aid you wear – in-the-ear or behind the ear – hearing aids are generally subjected to high and low temperatures, moisture, dust, natural skin oils, earwax and hair styling products. Cleaning practices directly impact how long hearing aids last: Hearing aids need to be cleaned daily as directed by your hearing care professional, preferably every morning before you put them on.
The reason to clean them in the morning instead of the evening is that this practice allows any earwax present on the hearing aids to harden, which makes it easier to remove. Daily cleaning with a brush, a wax loop and a soft dry cloth, will increase how long do hearing aids last.
3. Regular Maintenance
You should take your hearing aids to be cleaned and maintained by a hearing care professional every four to six months. Regular maintenance will positively impact how long do hearing aids last. Also, these periodic visits will allow your hearing care professional check and, if needed, replace common parts as earwax filters, silicone tips, tubing and speakers – also known as receivers.
Also, since hearing loss changes over time, during one of these periodic maintenance visits you should also schedule your annual hearing evaluation. Having a annual hearing evaluation ensures that your hearing aids are programmed to your most current hearing loss prescription.
4. Type of Hearing Aids: In The Ear vs. Behind The Ear
How long do hearing aids last also depends on your choice of the type of hearing aids you want to wear: The ear canal, with its warm temperature, high degree of moisture and the presence of dead skin cells and earwax, which is slightly acidic, is not the friendliest of environments. That is why hearing aids that are worn inside the ear tend to have a shorter lifespan than devices worn behind the ear.
Nanocoating technologies in newer hearing aids and earwax filters help increase the lifespan of hearing devices but the conditions inside the ear are normally harsher than those behind the ear.
Hearing aids worn behind the ear, on the other hand, require periodic cleaning of the tips, speakers and tubes that go inside the ear. Also, the tubes and the wires in behind-the-ear hearing aids experience some degree of physical stress and these will have to be replaced – albeit at a much lower cost – a few times over the years.
Changes in patient’s hearing needs
How long do hearing aids last may be a mute point if your hearing aid needs have changed: Over time, a patient’s hearing loss may worsen to the point where a new, more powerful set of hearing aids is needed. Also, as the patients’ lifestyle needs change they may need hearing aid features that are not present in their current devices – like automatic noise reduction adjustments, connections to external microphones, connection to your TV, streaming to smartphones, connecting to an app, etc.
Sometimes the question should not be how long do hearing aids last but rather how soon should you replace them: If your hearing aids are very old, manufacturers may have stopped making replacement parts for your particular hearing aids – or they may no longer be updating the programming software for the model you own. This makes it very difficult – if not impossible – for your hearing care professional to repair your devices. This situation usually takes place when the hearing aids’ lifespan has already been reached and it may be all together better to purchase a new updated model.
Even if your old hearing aids are working properly, you may benefit from technological advances present in newer devices – Sound processing algorithms, Bluetooth connectivity, rechargeability, tinnitus-masking features and controls via smartphones are some of the features present in state-of-the-art devices that will likely help you hear better.
What are some signs that you need new hearing aids?
If you start noticing changes in the quality or clarity of sound coming from your current hearing aid devices, this could be a sign that they need to be replaced. Other signs include difficulty understanding conversations in noisy environments, feedback noise coming from the device itself, or physical damage such as cracks or scratches on the body of the device. If any of these occur then it is time to visit your hearing care professional for a checkup as the hearing aid lifespan of each device will vary for each user.
Signs your hearing aids are due for an upgrade?
- You purchased your current devices more than 4 years ago
- More advanced hearing aid technology is available
- You’ve saved enough money for a higher quality hearing aid
- A major change in lifestyle, new job, or daily activity levels have changed
- You’ve outgrown them and no longer meet your current needs like they once did
How often should hearing aids be replaced?
So, how long do hearing aids last? Most professionally fit hearing aids, which require a comprehensive hearing in evaluation to be prescribed, come with two-, three- or four-year warranties and, in many cases, with a time matching loss and damage protection plan. Repairs covered by the manufacturer’s warranty usually don’t represent any out-of-pocket expense for the patient. If you lost your hearing aids of crack them – say by stepping on them – the loss and damage protection plan will usually cover the repair or replacement with the payment of deductible.
Once your warranty period is over or you have used your original manufacturer’s one-time replacement coverage, you may want to consider purchasing ESCO hearing aid insurance as repairing hearing aids can be an expensive proposition. As always, you should discuss with your hearing care professional if it may be time to upgrade your hearing aids.
How long do hearing aids last depends on you
Hearing aids are an important tool for those with hearing loss but, like all electronic devices, they require regular cleaning and maintenance and eventually need replacing after a few years. Knowing how long do hearing aids last typically and what signs indicate when your devices are no longer functioning effectively will help ensure that you have access to the best possible hearing at all times. If you notice any changes in the performance of your current hearing aids then it’s time to visit a hearing care professional for an assessment so that you can get back on track with better sound quality and better hearing.
Florida License: AS-2471 – NPI: 1992749147
Ivonne Baixeras is a Florida-Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist with a track record of almost three decades treating hearing problems in Miami-Dade County and serving the needs of thousands of satisfied patients. Ivonne is a graduate of both Miami-Dade College & Florida International University and worked for many years at the largest national chain of hearing clinics in the US where she's received multiple awards.