A commonly asked question about hearing aids is whether they can be reused by someone else. There are really two main things to consider about used hearing aids: the physical fit and the technology available with the device.
Should you buy used hearing aids?
The physical fit of the hearing aids can be described according to two basic styles: in-the-ear (ITE) and behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids.
Used in-the-ear style hearing aids will need 're-casing'
ITE hearing aids are custom-fit, or made specifically to fit an individual’s ear canal. Because the shape of everyone’s ear canal is unique; this style of hearing aid cannot be worn by another person unless the custom shell is remade, which is not always possible and may be cost-prohibitive. This is known as re-casing. It may be more sensible to buy new hearing aids in this situation.
Behind-the-ear styles are more likely to fit
BTE hearing aids are one size fits all that sit behind the ear. They are coupled to the ear via custom earmolds or standard ear domes. While someone else's custom earmolds cannot be re-worn, the hearing aids themselves may be reused by someone else, provided the device is reprogrammed by a practitioner to fit the second person's hearing needs.
The new wearer would simply need to pair the hearing aids with new custom earmolds or ear tips. Therefore, BTE hearing aids are more likely to be reusable, depending on the technology built into the hearing aids.
To get help, we highly recommend visiting a hearing clinic so they can help program the hearing aid to your individual hearing loss needs.
You'll need the hearing aids recalibrated for your prescription
Everyone's hearing loss is unique. Hearing aids are carefully programmed and fitted to correctly amplify the specific frequencies a person struggles to hear. You will need to find a hearing care provider willing to reprogam your hearing aids based on your audiogram results.
Technology of used hearing aids also matters
Technology is an umbrella term that encompasses many aspects of the hearing aids, like the power source, the programming capability, the age of the circuit and how well it’s working. A hearing care professional will need to evaluate the hearing aids to determine whether the technology will work for you.
The latest hearing aids come with advanced technology like deep learning/artificial intelligence and Bluetooth. These are quite handy, especially if you use apps on your smartphone or like to stream music. You are less likely to find these features in older, used hearing aids.
When you buy hearing aids without the help of a hearing care professional, there are no guarantees the hearing aids will work as expected, nor be covered under a warranty for loss or damage.
Can I sell my hearing aids?
Yes, refurbished hearing aids are legal to buy and sell, although you must follow the rules stipulated by federal and state laws. This can get complicated. At a minimum, the hearing aids must come with packaging that clearly indicates they are being resold. Be cautious and do your research before embarking on selling your hearing aids.
Desert Valley Audiology in Las Vegas recommends going a step further and adding "all the relevant information a buyer would want to know: the manufacturer and model number, the unit’s age and condition, warranty type, the type of battery it takes, and your reason for selling it."
As they point out, you can also keep your old hearing aids as backup. "This is not a bad idea, in the same way that keeping your old pair of glasses as a backup is a good idea when you get a new pair," they explain on their page.
To find out if used hearing aids are right for you, see a hearing care specialist
The first step to determining if a used hearing aid will work for you is to see if they are appropriate for your type of hearing loss. Contact a hearing care professional near you for a complete hearing evaluation. Be sure to bring the hearing aids to the appointment. After quantifying your hearing ability, the practitioner will run electro-acoustic tests to determine the amplification and programming capability of the hearing aids to determine if they might be appropriate for your hearing loss.
The second step is to have the hearing aids fully inspected and tested by the hearing care professional to ensure they are still in good working order. If there are concerns, they might need to be sent to the manufacturer for reconditioning or repair. After the hearing aids are approved for your use, find out whether they are covered under any existing manufacturer warranty. If they aren't, consider whether you might want to purchase an extended hearing aid warranty to cover any loss or damage.
Finally, once the hearing aids are determined to be ready for you to wear, the practitioner will need to program them specifically for your hearing ability. Like any other hearing aid fitting, this programming may require more than one session to fine-tune the hearing aids to your specific hearing, preferences and lifestyle needs.
Be prepared to pay for the services that you need to get your used hearing aid fitted for you. Although you may have received the hearing aids themselves for free, you should expect to pay the professional for a testing and/or fitting fee, as well as any fees for reconditioning or repair that may be needed.
Can I donate used hearing aids?
Yes! If the hearing aid won’t work for you, it might work for someone else, and many people find them unaffordable otherwise.
One of the best things you can do with used hearing aids—whether they're in great condition or need repairs—is to donate them to a charity that will accept used hearing aids to be re-purposed, reprogrammed or recycled to assist others in need in both the U.S. and around the world.
For example, you can donate via the Hearing Aid Project by the Hearing Charities of America or, alternately, the Lions Clubs International Foundation collects hearing aids at its recycling centers, which are located around the community in public places like libraries or in audiologists' office. Some private practices such as the Texas Hearing Institute also accept used hearing aids and cochlear implants, which can be used as teaching tools or as temporary loaners.