Hearing aids are very specialized devices, designed to hold a lot of technically advanced components in a very confined space. Comfort is of great importance, meaning that manufacturers must consider how to create a shape that will be highly functional but unobtrusive to the user. Because of the engineering demands, a typical hearing aid will last from between three and five years before it needs to be repaired or replaced.
A number of factors contribute to the degradation and eventual failure of a hearing aid device. These include rain and moisture, ear wax, electrical disconnections, and loss of material integrity caused by sharp impacts. Even with the advanced manufacturing techniques now being used to construct hearing aid devices, the market demand for longer-lasting units does not really exist.
Causes of Hearing Aid Failure
A hearing aid is literally an amplifying device that is covered in a thin plastic sheath. Regardless of whether the model is an exterior type that fits behind the ear lobe, and interior type that sits at the entrance to the canal, or an in-canal type that is virtually unnoticeable when worn, the components of these devices are packed very tightly and are made of the smallest possible materials.
Hearing aids do not come with a set of backup components because there is simply no room for them. This means that there is only one speaker, one digital signal processing unit, and one tiny battery. If any one of these parts should fail, the unit is in need of repair or replacement. That is why it is important to consider hearing aid repair costs when making a purchase.
Moisture from the outside environment can eventually cause an electrical short in the unit. A buildup of ear wax or other bodily fluids can seep into the entrance of the device and cause a malfunction. Cosmetics and hair products are damaging to the hearing aid because they introduce chemicals into the interior of the device.
The Average Life Expectancy
Most manufacturers state that the hearing aid will last for about five years if proper cleaning and maintenance procedures are followed. Most hearing aids come with a cleaning kit that is specifically designed for the model purchased. Using a dehumidifier will greatly lengthen the usable life of nearly all current models of hearing aids.
Most of the new models have advanced wide-bandwidth speakers, better sound processing units, and programming that washes out ambient background noises. This is the technology demanded by the public, especially those users who need to wear their hearing aid in a variety of indoor/outdoor environments. The cost to develop these new technologically advanced models is reflected in the price tag, but the usable life of the hearing aid has not significantly increased.
When Hearing Loss Worsens
Individuals with hearing problems may experience a worsening of the condition as they continue to age. It is important to have regular hearing tests performed to see if the current device is still the best choice. Many people begin to have problems with high-frequency sounds at an earlier age but eventually have trouble hearing low-frequency noises in later years.
If there is a concern about the high price of today’s hearing aid devices, asking the audiologist or hearing instrument specialist about to extend the life of a hearing aid model. Many of the hearing aid models on the market can be adjusted to some extent or have the processor unit replaced with an upgraded model. However, even with proper care of the unit, hearing aids will experience wear and tear over time and most cannot be corrected after about five years of use.