This is a tricky question. The short answer is every 4-5 years. The long answer is it depends. There are a number of factors which should be considered when replacing hearing aids. If your hearing has changed, new hearing aids may be more appropriate than your current ones. Similarly, if your communicative demands have changed, newer technology may be necessary to meet your new demands. Even if both your hearing and communicative demands have changed minimally, newer technology may be worth considering.
Looking at these factors individually….
1. Hearing loss typically progresses slowly over time. Hearing aids can be modified to accommodate most changes but sometimes this is not possible if the change in hearing is pronounced. We fit hearing aids with enough “head room” to allow for a progressive decline. But, some types of hearing loss change more rapidly than others and the possible modifications in the hearing aids are limited. In these cases, changing the hearing aid programming may help a little but newer, more appropriate aids are much more satisfactory.
2. Have your communicative demands changed since you purchased your hearing aids? Everyone has a unique set of communicative demands and the hearing aid that is most appropriate today may not be as useful in 4-5 years. Your job may have changed and now involves different listening environments, such as multiple talkers, group meetings, increased phone work etc. Or, you may have taken on new committee work associated with your condo, charity or other association that requires you to hear folks from a distance, or in a group setting. Sometimes, hearing aids can be modified or fit with accessories to meet your new communicative demands. But other situations are best managed with new technology.
3. How effective are your current hearing aids? Even with the best care, hearing aids can malfunction or function less than optimally. We live in a very humid area and electronics and moisture are not good friends. Hearing aids are exposed to dust, dirt, hairspray, extreme temperatures, ear wax and lots of other unsavory things. They are not working in friendly environments! For some people, this results in a need to replace hearing aids more frequently, despite routine preventative maintenance.
Generally speaking, if your hearing aids do not seem to be functioning as well as they initially did, consider having them cleaned by us first. Sometimes we are able to resolve the problems. When we are not able to do so, repairing or replacing them may be the next step.
4. Sometimes, even if your hearing aids are working well, the advantages of new technology are so attractive, replacing the hearing aids is a good thing. Fifteen years ago, technology changed at a much slower rate than it does today. Now, there is a new generation of technology every 12-18 months. In a 5 year period, there can be 4-5 generations of technology. Occasionally the improvements may be modest but more often they are really impressive. The best hearing aids in the world will not restore hearing to normal, but newer technology can and does make living with a hearing loss much easier, especially in challenging situations.
In summary, replacing hearing aids is not a simple decision. Rather it depends upon many factors which should be evaluated in the context of the lifestyle and needs of the person using the hearing aids.