One of the questions most asked of hearing specialists is, “My hearing aid is broken or is no longer working – should I replace it with a new one, or have it repaired?” Presented with only that limited information, we have to answer truthfully, “That depends.” It is really an individual decision, and the “ideal answer” is as individual as the people who ask it.
It is worthwhile to state upfront, that all hearing aids, without regard for their initial quality or price, can be expected to stop working sooner or later. They function, after all, in an environment (your ear canals) that is hostile to them because it contains cerumen (ear wax) and moisture. Ear wax is produced naturally, and we need it because it safeguards the lining of our ear canals, but it can “gum up the inner workings” of hearing aids; similarly, residual water is natural after swimming or bathing, but it too can harm hearing aids. Beyond the hostile environment, unintended breakage from drops, and wearing away of parts both contribute to declining performance. You should be expecting that your hearing aids will need repair or replacement at some point. They are not going to last forever.
So how should you decide between replace and repair? The biggest factor really is you, and whether you like your current hearing aids. If you do, or you have become used to the sound they deliver, it might make more sense to have them repaired than to replace them with newer digital aids which could produce a notably different sound or wearing experience.
An additional thing to consider, naturally, is cost – while a new set of hearing aids might cost thousands of dollars, your current aids might cost only a couple of hundred dollars to repair. Countering this, however, many people have insurance coverage that will fully or partly cover the cost of new hearing aids, but that will not pay for repairing them.
Another concern that arises if you decide to have your hearing aids repaired is, “Do I take them back to the clinic where I purchased them, or send them to a repair laboratory myself?” Although you could decide to work with a far off repair laboratory directly, your local hearing specialist is a valuable resource. Think about whether you are capable of assessing whether a badly functioning hearing aid needs cleaning versus repair? Can you determine if your broken aid is capable of being repaired? Your local audiologist will be able to tell you what is in fact wrong with it and might be able to fix it right then. For hearing aids that do need laboratory or manufacturer repairs, the practice will coordinate all the paperwork for you. Don’t assume the price will be higher for these value-added services, because hearing professionals deal with repair facilities in larger volumes.
If you choose to replace your hearing aids, more choices are open to you. Make an effort to find out about the technological advances since the last time you purchased and be open to newer models. Newer digital hearing aids have more features that may help your hearing and can be more readily programmed to perform the way you want them to. So the final decision whether to “repair or replace” is still yours, but hopefully this information will assist you.