One of the more common questions we hear is, “My hearing aid is broken or just isn’t functioning the same way it used to – do you think I should purchase a new one, or have it repaired?” The truthful answer needs to be, “Well, that depends.” The issue of whether to replace or repair depends on many factors, and the “best answer” is as individual as the people asking the question.

It’s worthwhile to state upfront, that all hearing aids, without regard for their initial quality or price, can be expected to stop working at some point. The surroundings that hearing aids operate in – your ear canals – is a hostile one for sophisticated electronic devices, filled with ear wax (cerumen) and moisture. Ear wax is generated naturally, and we need it because it protects the lining of our ear canals, but it can “gum up the works” of hearing aids; likewise, lingering water is normal after swimming or showering, but it too can harm hearing aids. Add to these two factors breakage (from inadvertently dropping the aids) and normal wear and tear (as internal tubing or components wear out), and you can safely bet that at some point your hearing aid will need either replacement or repair.

So how do you decide between replace and repair? The most important factor really is you, and whether you like your current hearing aids. If you like them and are familiar with the sound that they produce or really like the fit, repair could be the better option for you.

Another factor to consider, naturally, is cost – while a new pair of hearing aids might cost thousands, your current hearing aids may cost only a few hundred dollars to fix. The part we can’t answer for you is the impact of insurance. A few insurance plans include replacements, but not repairs or have different policies on full or partial coverage.

If you decide to pursue a repair, the next logical question is “Should I take them back to where I purchased them?”Although you could choose to work with a far off repair lab directly, your neighborhood hearing specialist is a valuable resource. Ask yourself if you are capable of assessing whether a poorly functioning hearing aid needs cleaning versus repair? Can you determine if your broken aid is capable of being repaired? Your local audiologist or hearing instrument specialist will be able to tell you what is actually wrong with it and might be able to correct it right then. For hearing aid repairs which cannot be accomplished locally, your audiologist will manage the shipping, paperwork and lab directions for you. Because they work in volume with suppliers, their pricing may be the same or better than you could get yourself.

If you choose to replace your hearing aid, you will have many additional options to look at since the last time you shopped. Newer hearing aid designs may have functions that you are interested in, and can be fine-tuned and programmed to match your unique hearing needs. So the choice whether to “replace or repair” is still yours to make, but hopefully this information will help you make it.