Q: My hearing aids are 5 years old, why should I upgrade?
By, Emily Steffel, AuD
A: There can be many reasons a patient may opt to upgrade their current hearing aids. Like everything else in our modern world hearing aid technology continues to evolve. The manufacturers are constantly funding research into better ways to analyze speech, process out background noise, use less battery power, and many other aspects of amplification function to continue to improve the quality of life for the millions of patients with hearing loss. This research leads to newer and more advanced hearing aid products. Patients often upgrade in order to gain these new features, such as rechargeability or direct connection with Bluetooth devices.
Other times a patient may upgrade their hearing aids because their hearing has changed. Like clothing or shoes hearing aids have a “fitting range” into which a person’s hearing loss must fit in order to gain the full advantage of the product. Ill-fitting clothing doesn’t appropriately cover a person’s body and an ill-fitting hearing aid will not appropriately help the patient. Hearing loss continues to decrease as a patient grows older, therefore the patient may need stronger, more powerful hearing aids. Hearing aids purchased several years ago may no longer be capable of amplifying sounds loud enough or clear enough, leaving the patient to struggle to hear or communicate as well as they could be capable of.
Additionally a person’s hearing needs may change as their hearing loss progresses; a patient may be in need of more listening or sound processing support compared to what they needed when they were previously fit. There may be an increased need for the hearing aids to focus on speech occurring in front of a patient in noise or an increased need for the hearing aid to reduce the background noise because the patient’s brain is no longer filtering out un-needed sounds as well as it did when the patient was younger. This increased need for support may necessitate an increase in technology to best address the newly developed communication problem.
Lastly as with any manufactured product the hearing aids may break and need repair. If a device is no longer under warranty there will be a charge for the device to be fixed. Often patients will look at the cost to have the devices repaired vs. the cost to purchase new devices. This may include considering if the patient’s insurance will help pay for new devices yet, will only help pay up until a certain date, or will help pay at all; as well as the patient’s self-perceived likelihood of needing to have the hearing aids repaired again in a short period of time. Often the user will choose to upgrade when they believe the cost-benefit ratio favors obtaining new devices.
Whatever the reason for choosing to upgrade the hearing aid devices, our goal is always to help each patient hear and communicate as well as possible.