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Hearing Aid Aftercare
Making a purchase of hearing aids is just the start of your journey and that is what it is, a journey. You and your chosen hearing healthcare professional will travel together for probably five years at the least. During that time you will need assistance, re-assessment and ongoing service. Let's talk about aftercare, why it's important and what you should expect.
Your hearing will continue to change just as your eyesight does. Hearing aids will require periodic maintenance and adjustments throughout their life span to reflect the changing situation. It’s important to for you to understand at the start, what level of support your professional offers after you make the purchase, what a service is and what your hearing aid warranty covers you for.
What is free servicing or lifelong aftercare of hearing aids?
When professionals talk about free servicing on hearing aids, what they usually mean is ongoing cleaning and adjustments, not repairs of your devices. Repairs outside warranty will cost.
Many professionals talk about lifelong aftercare and free servicing as part of their service. However, it is important that you don't confuse this with free repairs if there is breakdowns. Free service or aftercare will cover ongoing office cleaning, moisture removal and adjustments of the hearing aid programming. All of these services can be provided in-house by most professionals. The hearing aid manufacturer handles actual repairs, which can cost you money if your hearing aid is outside warranty.
What does a hearing aid warranty cover?
Hearing aid warranties cover failure of the instruments or components within the instrument due to manufacturers fault during the specified period. That period can vary between one to two years as standard but can be extended to five years with most hearing aid manufacturers. The extension will normally cost you although some hearing healthcare professionals offer it free with their services. It is important to note here that most hearing aid repairs are made on receivers and microphones which fail because of wax, moisture or dirt ingression into the component.
It is very rare that the amplifier/chipset fails in modern hearing aids. Failure of the receiver or microphones are actually usually caused because people don't take care of their hearing aids. To now, hearing aid manufacturers have let this pass, covering the repair as part of their warranty. However, that may change at some date in the future, one way or the other, taking good care of your hearing aids pays off for you.
Are extended hearing aid warranties worth it?
RIC or CIC Device? Extended Warranty? Hell Yes!
Hell YES! I can't really put that any other way, although I need to qualify it a bit. If you choose RIC (receiver in canal) or custom (in the ear) hearing aids you really need to think about an extended warranty. Because of the placement of the receiver in the ear canal, it is liable to failure, in particular in the RIC devices. The manufacturers have attempted to protect the receivers, but the ear canal is inherently hostile to electronics.
That combined with the fact that despite all your good intentions you will forget to change the wax guard leads to issues. After your warranty is finished, receiver repairs will add up. In the UK & Ireland they are usually around £70. If you are repairing two receivers a year after the warranty has finished that will add up quickly. So yes, extended warranties are most definitely worth it for some devices. BTE (behind the ear) devices are a little different, in general they are very reliable.
Occasionally there can be issues with receiver and microphone failure, but it always seemed to me that they were only occasional. I would say if you have BTEs, you should weigh up the cost of the extended warranty before you make up your mind. As I said though, many independent hearing healthcare professionals are offering extended warranties free as part of their service.
What happens during the initial appointments?
Initially when you have your hearing aids fitted, you will need follow up to ensure you are getting on well with them. There is a lot to learn during the initial period like using them properly, caring for them and using coping mechanisms to make sure you get the very best out of them. This is a lot of information and normally a professional will introduce you to it during the first few initial appointments. They will also undertake any changes that need doing to your hearing aids to make sure they are completely customised for you. After these few initial appointments you will move onto an aftercare schedule.
What is the aftercare schedule?
Some professionals want to see you every six months, some would like to see you on a yearly basis. It really depends on the professional and indeed you the customer. Some customers need more attention than others because of ear canal conditions and hearing loss type. However, you should be on at least a yearly re-assessment schedule. This allows the professional to assess your hearing for changes and give your hearing aid a good clean and service.
What happens at an aftercare appointment?
Generally the professional will get you in for a half hour appointment, they will take the hearing aids from you and begin to service them. During that period they will often ask you about your experiences since your last meeting. They will check your ear canals and then give you an abbreviated hearing test or scan test, this is designed just to identify any changes in your hearing. Finally they will make any changes to the programming of the hearing aids to reflect your experiences or changed hearing.
What does a hearing aid service involve?
In my experience, a hearing aid service is similar across professionals, it usually involves a process that allows for a thorough cleaning and checking of the hearing aid:
- Cleaning and examination of battery contacts
- Check of tubing and ear fittings (mold or tip)
- Cleaning of the casing and microphone inlets
- Cleaning of the receiver sound outlet and wax guard change if needed
- Check hearing aid performance and read data log