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One of the most frequent questions we hear is, “My older hearing aid is broken or is not working the same way it used to – do you think I should replace it and buy a new one, or have it fixed?” The honest answer needs to be, “That depends.” The question of whether to repair or replace depends upon many factors, and the “best answer” is as individual as the people asking the question.

An important thing to take into account is that all hearing aids – no matter how expensive they were or how well they were crafted – will sometimes start to work less effectively, or break. They operate, after all, in an atmosphere (your ear canals) that is hostile to them because it contains cerumen (ear wax) and moisture. Ear wax is natural and necessary because it guards the sensitive lining of the outer ear, but it can be hard on hearing aids; moisture that remains in the ears after bathing or swimming can be even tougher on them. Over and above the inhospitable environment, accidental breakage from falls, and wearing away of parts both play a role in declining performance. You should expect that your hearing aids will need repair or replacement sooner or later. They won’t last forever.

One of the things that should most affect your decision to “replace or repair” is whether you like your current hearing aids. If you do, or you have become accustomed to the sound they deliver, it might make more sense to have them repaired than to upgrade them with newer digital aids that may produce a substantially different sound or wearing experience.

A further thing to consider, obviously, is cost – new hearing aids could cost thousands of dollars, but repairing your present hearing aids might cost only a couple of hundred dollars dependent on what is wrong with them. The part we cannot answer in this article is the influence of insurance. A few insurance policies include replacements, but not repairs or have varying policies on partial or full coverage.

Another question that comes up if you choose to have your hearing aids repaired is, “Do I return them to the clinic where I purchased them, or send them to a repair laboratory myself?” There are numerous added benefits taking them to a local audiologist as opposed to trying to deal with a remote repair lab directly. Your local hearing professional will be able to establish if repairs are truly necessary, might be able to make small repairs themselves, or have relationships with local tradesmen that work on your brand of hearing aid so you will reduce the length of time you are without it.For hearing aids which do need lab or manufacturer repairs, the practice will coordinate all the paperwork and shipping for you. Do not presume the price will be higher for these added services, because audiologists work with repair facilities in larger volumes.

If you decide to replace your aids, more options are open to you. Take some time to understand the technical improvements since the last time you bought and be open to improved models. More modern hearing aids are more compact and offer enhanced programability to obtain the sound quality you prefer. In the end, the “repair or replace” question can’t be answered by anyone besides you.