Are Hearing Aids Designed to Fail? | Planned Obsolescence

Are Hearing Aids Designed to Fail? | Planned Obsolescence. Dr. Cliff Olson, Audiologist and founder of Applied Hearing Solutions in Anthem Arizona, discusses Planned Obsolescence and if it exists in the hearing aid industry.


The consumer electronics world is well known for designing products that have a limited life-span. Some of these products are even designed to fail.

Several weeks ago the Country of Italy fined Apple and Samsung for creating updates to their Operating Systems that make their older smartphones function slower. Back in 2003, YouTuber Casey Neistat, made a video about how Apple iPod batteries only lasted 18 months and it was cheaper to replace the device than replace the battery. Both of these are cases of Planned Obsolescence which, as the name implies, is the development of a product with the intent for it to someday become obsolete so it forces the purchase of a new product.

What about hearing aids? Are they designed to become obsolete?

Hearing aids can be repaired by “all-make” repair services no matter how old they are. If parts can’t be found, parts can be made. There are nearly no limitations from a repair standpoint for hearing aids.

How about programming?

Hearing aid software can be obtained from the manufacturer no matter how old your hearing aids are. If it isn’t already embedded in the current software, the manufacturer can be contacted to get a CD, Flashdrive, or web link to download it. Again, no matter how old the hearing aid, there is software to program it.

When it comes to hearing aids, they are designed to last. You just have to find a hearing care provider who is willing to put in the work instead of just defaulting into a recommendation of new hearing aids.


zia uddin says:

Thanks you sir I like your video… doing very good…..I like you so much sir gud help you…..

Ryan David says:

What brand otoscope do you think is the best regardless of price?

Dmitry Shapsis says:

Hi Dr Cliff
Is it normal for audiologist to plug aide vent if there is feedback, or is the fitting bad?
Are ICC usually low power in picking up low sounds?
What are best ICC in your opinion?
Thank you

jesus110709 says:

After buying hearing aids, is the follow up customer service the same with an audiologist as it is with a company like Miricle Ear? Thank you for your time.

Scot Frink says:

I’m an audiologist in Oregon and TOTALLY agree with Dr. Cliff. Older hearing aids can continue to function for people so long as they can appropriately meet their needs. My record for the age of an instrument sent in for repair was 23 years old (although our office record, since we have multiple providers, is 26 years!). The poor woman who had this hearing aid couldn’t afford anything new, even though our entry-level products were below $1,000 and would be a significant improvement over her hearing aid that needed repair. So should I lie and tell her she just needs a new one? Absolutely not. For about $350 we got her old hearing aid fixed and she was happy with the results. Who am I to judge what’s best for her? I only know her hearing loss and about her hearing aids, not about her home life and finances. That’s why it’s the responsibility of the audiologist or hearing instrument specialist to provide the patient with ALL of the options available, not just the ones that financially benefit them. Some audiologists would disagree with me, saying that it’s unethical to keep her in such old technology when she could benefit from something new. If she can’t afford it, then how good the new technology is really doesn’t matter!

I find most patients replace their hearing aids after about 7 years. The three primary reasons to replace are (1) physical wear-and-tear; (2) hearing loss outpacing what the hearing aid is capable of; and (3) better technology becoming available. For #1, it all depends on how well you take care of the device and, as indicated, they can almost always be repaired. For #2, a good audiologist will plan for the patient to get additional hearing loss, providing “headroom” so we can turn things up should the hearing loss get worse. But we don’t always plan perfectly, so sometimes it’s just time to get something new. For #3, new technology is usually the most optional reason to replace, but is also usually the main reason a patient decides to proceed. And for good reason. Is newer technology always better? It really depends on your needs. Compare it with a cell phone. iPhones have been around for quite a while, but would you rather stick with the original first generation iPhone, or even an old flip phone? Depends on what you plan to use it for. I saw a patient today who has a “Jitterbug” phone, and he’s very happy with it. Others want all the best, and will upgrade whenever a new phone comes out. It’s for the user to decide. We just discuss the options available.

But think about what cell phones were like 7 years ago. Do you think they’re better not? Obviously you can do a lot more with them.

The same can be said for hearing aids. So keep that in mind.

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