I hear versions of this question often. A family member has passed and someone else wants to use their hearing aids. Or a friend is upgrading their hearing aids and has offered their current pair to you. Seems like a good idea, but it is not quite as simple as slipping on a pair of shoes. Let’s talk about some things to think about.
Hearing aids are medical devices
Hearing aids are medical devices that are regulated by the FDA. The FDA requires the manufacturer of hearing aids to keep records of which hearing healthcare professional the device was sold to, who the device was fit on, and every hearing aid’s warranty and repair history. This information is used to track any issues or recalls with the hearing aids. If someone else “inherits” the hearing aids, the registration — and any warranty — will be lost.
Hearing loss is personal
Every individual’s hearing is unique to them. With hearing aids, this comes into play in a couple different ways — the physical fit of the aid and the wearer’s actual hearing needs.
Custom hearing aids are uniquely molded to comfortably fit each patient’s ear — and even standard hearing aids typically feature custom ear molds. A custom molded product most likely will not fit well or comfortably in someone else’s ear. Some manufacturers may not remold a device for a different person because it is a medical device. Even if the custom component can be remolded, it may be cost prohibitive.
As for your hearing, the likelihood that your hearing needs are the same as the original owner’s is very slim. This means wearing the device may not help. Hearing professionals fit and program hearing aids based on each person’s unique needs and the results of their audiograms and other hearing tests. For instance, one thing to be aware of is the amount of “gain” or how much louder the device amplifies sound. Having too much gain will make things too loud, which could be dangerous for your existing hearing.
Support and service are key to success
If you can physically wear the hearing aids, you will still need to find a hearing professional to adjust and support them. It’s recommended that you get a full hearing and communication evaluation. Your hearing healthcare professional will then be able to determine if the hearing aids will work for you. If they can, he or she will be able to adjust the devices for your unique needs. This will typically be done for a fee. In addition, consider purchasing a service and support plan to allow long-term follow-up and care.
Finally, if the hearing aids cannot be used by you, another option is to donate them. There are several charitable organizations that will take donations of hearing aids and allow you a tax credit. Two of these organizations include the Starkey Hearing Foundation and the Lions Club.
Hearing aids are life-changing devices that should absolutely be squeezed of their usefulness. Just know they aren’t one-size-fits-all, so with hand-me-downs, “results may vary.”
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