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Monday, July 11, 2011

How Long Do Hearing Aids Last?

How long do hearing aids last?


Photo of my hearing aids, taken in 2008.

I got my first (and only pair of hearing aids so far) in September 2006. As I'm approaching their 5 year anniversary, I'm wondering if I will be needing to purchase a new pair in the near future.

I vaguely remember asking my audiologist this question once and receiving an answer of 7 years. A few months ago when I attended a presentation on "How to Talk to Your Audiologist", I asked presenter Tina Childress the same question and she thought 5 years was more likely.

Tonight I did an Internet search to find information on how long hearing aids generally last. I learned that it depends upon the type of hearing aids, how much they are worn, and other personal variables such as the amount of earwax and perspiration a person produces, how well they are maintained, and even the climate where they are worn. Storing your aids in a dry aid kit at night and having maintenance and cleaning done by your audiologist regularly are two ways to help your aids last longer.

Estimates for how long a hearing aid will last varied from as little as 3 years to as much as 10 years. The most common figure I saw was 5 years. But, it's important to keep in mind how well you are doing with your current aids. As someone wisely pointed out on a Hearing Aid Forum discussion on this topic, "If you are doing perfectly well then it doesn't matter how old they are. They are solving your hearing problem. On the other hand if they are not adequately helping then it makes since to replace them even if they are fairly new."

Advancements in hearing aid technology is another reason to consider replacement. According to the website Audiology Online, "New hearing aids are coming out about once a year and so after 5 years, your hearing aid is 5 generations behind the latest technology." This website suggests that we may want to think about our hearing aids the way we think about our computers. Sure, a five year old computer can still work, but a new model will perform better and have more to offer. I have to admit that's definitely a factor in my thinking and something I will want to discuss with my audiologist.

Some people replace their hearing aids while the old ones are still working, ensuring that they have a backup pair "just in case". That idea appeals to me more than waiting until mine break down completely and I'm forced to deal with the issue. Ideally, I'd like to have time to consider my options, put aside the money, and not deal with the stress of being without working hearing aids.

To conclude, I found this online article to be an excellent summary on this subject.

Now I'd like to hear from you. If you've owned more than one pair of hearing aids, how long did yours last? What made you decide to replace them? Were there any warning signs that your hearing aids needed replacement? Would you like to replace your current hearing aids?

I look forward to hearing your responses. For newcomers, the easiest way to comment is by using the Anonymous option. You can include your name in your comment if you wish. Comments are moderated and there may be a delay before you see it posted here. When writing your comment, you can check mark a box to receive notification of comments by email. I find that's the most convenient way to keep track of discussions on my friends' blogs where I've left comments.


PinkLAM said...

I've always heard five years. I got my first pair of hearing aids at 3.5, got a new set at 8, then receives CI's at 12 and 13, so I'd say I stuck to the 5 pretty well! I think it's important to stay knowledgeable on the latest hearing technology, even if you do think you are doing well enough with a current pair of hearing aids. It's always nice to be up-to-date on what could help your type of hearing loss.

Each time I've changed hearing devices, I've done it for a significant upgrade in technology (analong aids to digital aids to digital CI's), so if nothing beneficial had come out within those 5 years, I don't know if I still would have upgraded to something newer.

Anonymous said...

I'm just now replacing my first pair of hearing aids. I got one for my left ear first, and I think that was over 10 years ago. The right one is probably 7 years old. They still work but have been giving me problems that tell me they won't last much longer.

However, the technology is so different now that I'm having a hard time adjusting to the new aids. I may not wait so long to replace them next time, though I have a hard time spending that kind of money to replace something that's still working

Megan said...

Well, I got my first pair of hearing aids when I was 5, and replaced those with digital aids when I was 12 (7 years there), then got my current aids when I was 23 (11 years there). I think it depends a lot on all of the factors you mentioned. My parents were diligent about making sure I took care of my aids. Still, I think I really needed a new pair of the digital aids maybe 2-3 years before I actually got them. 5-7 years seems like a good estimate to me.

EmmaVerdona124 said...

digital hearing may last 5 to 7 years so that's my reason why I replaced my old ones with the newer one :)

I had my 1st set during my infant years, got my 2nd ones at 10 years old and a 3rd one this year so my third pair is way much better for my severe loss since I almost recived no benefit from my 2nd pairs as I reached severe LOL

Anonymous said...

I'm on my 4th pair since I started losing my hearing 20 yrs ago. At that time I had ITEs. First one ear. Then a year later, the other ear. My hearing dropped below what the aids could handle. More ITEs. Then upgraded to "programmables," still ITEs. Gave more "range" for adjusting to further loss. Hearing dropped again. New aids again. Currently I have behind the ears that are digitals. These BTEs were recommended as they could have more adjustible range for more loss. That was about 5 years ago. A year and a half ago my hearing dropped beyond further adjustment. :( I couldn't afford to replace them then, and still cannot. None of my aids were ever covered by medical insurance. Still aren't. Al paid for out of pocket. A year and a half ago the cost quoted for both aids replacements was about $5500. I'm sure it's more now. I am in my 60s. DH will not retire as long as he not forced to by employer. There is no likelihood for getting new aids. We are learning ASL. For now, the aids are still working fine and they help. Just not as helpful as they once were. :\

CDM said...

I wait at least 5 years before going for new hearing aids. My last hearing aid still works well (despite its cutting off when my hair brushes over the mic/static electricity....), but I decided to go for a new hearing aid, with newer technology. I'm still wearing my old hearing aid, I just moved it over to the left ear (new one on the right ear, the left ear I'm trying to get a cochlear implant and wear a hearing aid for stimulation purposes).

I will say, when I got the Phonak Supero, I previously had the Phonak Claro, which I only had for about 3-4 years. Claro was completely maxed out and there wasn't any more room for adjustments, so the Supero was a big improvement, with more volume and further adjustments. But now I've got Phonak's Naida IX UP, which I wanted mostly for some the features available (SoundRecover, WindBlock, better feedback control, etc.).

SpeakUp Librarian said...

@Anonymous #2,
Stories like yours are why hearing aid insurance coverage is so needed. Thanks for sharing.

Magic Ear Kids said...

Julia just got her second pair of hearing aids this month. The audiologist had told us five years, but recommended replacing them when they were only three years old for many reasons. The old aids were pretty worn out and the battery door would just flop open on them. Julia's hearing loss has progressed making it important to get her into a higher powered instrument. We have Medical Assistance in PA which covers new aids 100%, so getting new ones was really exciting for us. Now she sports PHONAK Naidas.

Tina Childress said...

Phew! Glad I was right. :)

As mentioned, adjusting to the new sound is probably one of the hardest parts to getting to new hearing aids. That and getting used to all of the new bells and whistles that come with it.

Like many of you I transitioned from analog to digital to power digital to CI and finally, to bilateral CI. For me, even though my hearing kept getting worse, I was able to benefit from the next level of technology to maximize my hearing.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Tina,
Thanks for visiting my blog!

steve said...

Hi Sarah,

Over the years I think I've probably changed aids every 5 years or so and that's been because of my progressive loss and needing more power over time.

5 years of service from a device that I use all day every day is pretty good going in my opinion.

Definitely think it's important for people to ask this question when they go to buy aids and make sure that the aid they are buying has a good fitting range in case their hearing gets worse.

Keeping up with the latest tech is not so important in my opinion. I firmly believe that if you buy, for example, a top of the range Phonak then it is roughly equivalent to a top of the range model from any other manufacturer (in terms of audio quality anyway, they all have different 'extras' like bluetooth etc). I think it's a bit like buying a $700 TV from Panasonic and then thinking of switching to a $700 Toshiba - there might be some tiny differences but the picture and sound quality is going to be almost identical. A 5 year gap in technology is probably significant but I don't think there's any point in constantly looking for better tech all the time.

I was starting to think that I might have to replace my Starkeys a little while back because I was struggling but after a visit to a new Aud for a re-programming I am hearing much, much better than before.

Anonymous said...

I bought my wife her first pair of hearing aids(digital) in 2009; they cost $3,000 (out of pocket). I dread the day when they will have to be replaced, as the price in three to six years, will probably be around $6,000, or more!
It seems that the hearing aid industry is a monopolistic one, similar to the utility industry. There is very little competition,and hearing aids are only made by a few manufacturers. The hearing aids which were purchased in 2009, probably cost no more than $400.00 to produce. Then, they were sold to a distributor, for perhaps $800. In turn, he sold it to the hearing dispenser which we used for about $1,400. The final price was actually $3,200, but we were able to get a $200 discount. My point is that the end user is essentially being taken advantage of, because of the lack of competition. Not only are hearing aids not covered by private insurance or Medicare, but most homeowner's insurance policies, will not cover them, in the event of loss, or theft. It is truly a sad commentary on our times, that the majority of Americans who could benefit from hearing aids, are not using them, because of the high cost.
Incidentally, I feel that it is inaccurate to compare a five year old hearing aid to a five year old computer. Whereas the price of computers has dropped extensively in the last few years, the prices of hearing aids has undergone the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Hi, with respect to the cost of hearing aides, I just checked into them for my parents and learned that Costco sells them at a decreased cost. You can do a search on their web site to find which stores carry them.

Hope this helps someone!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

An important factor in choosing a hearing aid is professional fitting and service. I would caution against choosing a hearing aid on your own from Costco or similar discount chain stores and recommend seeing an audiologist.

Naida said...

I'm 27 years old and have had 3 sets of hearing aids. First set were body worn so I upgraded at 8 years old to analog Phonak Superfront hearing aids.
My Superfront hearing aids lasted 17 years old. I only upgraded as I was told digital hearing aids were better for feedback control so upgraded to digital Phonak Naida S UP hearing aids nearly 2 years ago.
I'm hoping for just as long with my Phonak Naida S UP hearing aids.

Xpressive Handz said...

Hi, Sarah,

I got my first pair when I was about 24 years old, living in Germany courtesy of the U.S. Army. (BTE)

They lasted about 10 years.

My second pair were covered by Vocational Rehabilitation so I could attend school..and had to attend full time. Wearing my hearing aids that long each day caused ear infections, and I lost more hearing, and could not finish school... Doesn't matter how clean I keep them, with chronic ear disease, nothing should be in the ears but air..

Those lasted about 10 years. (BTE)

I had another pair given to me by an audiologist who knew someone who was purchasing a new set, and she asked if they would be willing to donate those to me. It was a lovely gift. I had those a few years, but had to keep getting them repaired. They were pretty old when I got them, but I appreciated them while I had them.

My current pair are courtesy of the Lions Club, Coos Bay, Oregon, and I've had them about 8 years, but they were used before I got them.

None of these are digital. I hear awful things about the digitals breaking, not lasting as long, more money but less quality,, etc.

At this point, when these go, I won't be getting another pair. I have applied for a hearing service dog, and I can't afford both, a hearing dog and a pair of hearing aids.

Sad to even think about it this way, but the dog offers so much more than the hearing aids will, and hopefully live a lot longer, as well.

I've been considering going cochlear, but honestly, after the last surgery I had, surgery is NOT something I want to consider today. Maybe in a few years I will revisit the option, but right now, I'm just not keen on it.

I would love a pair of donated old analogues, but there is no place that collects old used ones and distributes them like that here in Pennsylvania... that I know of. I have the impression people just throw them out instead of donating them or recycling them to audiologists or charities around here.

Xpressive Handz said...

I just received an invitation to an event in Philadelphia coming up in October with the latest CI technology. I'm going to go and check it out. Though I said at this point I'm not considering another surgery because I went through a lot from my recent surgery, I do want to keep an open mind for the future. What I just read about the new device is AMAZING!! but...not happy with the warranty only lasting for 3 years.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks for your comments, Joyce.
You have really made your hearing aids stretch. I will be interested to hear about your hearing dog when you get it.
All the best,

Anonymous said...

hearing aids are the best solutions of any type of hearing losses, about a few weeks ago my friend had a surgery the doctors say it was successful but he his still facing many difficulties in hearing i hope the new invisible version of it will be available soon

Be the one said...

Each time I've changed hearing devices, I've done it for a significant upgrade in technology (analong aids to digital aids to digital CI's), so if nothing beneficial had come out within those 5 years, I don't know if I still would have upgraded to something newer.

first aid at work

Lillian Schaeffer said...

I like how you mentioned that five years is the most common amount of time for hearing aids to last. My husband is about to get his first set, and I want to make sure they're taken care of and last as long as possible. We'll definitely plan on replacing them a few years down the road, but we'll take good care of them to make them last.