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All About Used Hearing Aids

March 13, 2023
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Written by
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Amy Sarow is a practicing clinical audiologist and serves as Audiology Lead for Soundly. Her expertise and experience span topics including tinnitus, cochlear implants, hearing aid technology, and hearing testing. She holds a doctoral degree in audiology from the University of Iowa. During her residency at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Sarow was inspired by the three-tiered, patient-centered approach, incorporating clinical work, teaching and research.

Soundly Staff
Reviewed by
Soundly Staff
Soundly Staff
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Are you considering wearing a used hearing aid? Recently, I had a patient who was wearing a family member's old hearing aid and was unhappy with the device and asked if it was customary to hear an echo. While using a family member's old hearing aids is possible, there are essential points to consider and adjustments to make. In this article, we'll review all the issues you may want to consider before putting those devices in your ears.

Can you wear someone else's hearing aids?

To begin, the hearing aid process includes an audiogram (aka, an individual graph of a person’s hearing loss). With the audiogram, the hearing devices can be fitted to a specific person. Here’s how hearing aids fit: The devices are fit to the prescription on the audiogram, and the hearing aid settings can vary depending on an individual’s hearing loss. 

Want a clearer picture? Let's use the analogy of glasses and vision prescription. Everyone has a different vision prescription, and glasses are made for the individual's prescription. If you took another person's glasses and put them on, what you see through them may appear blurry and out of focus. The same is true when wearing another person's hearing aids.

If the used hearing aids are still in good working condition, an audiologist can sometimes fit them comfortably to your ear and your hearing loss. Now, we’ll go through some of the factors to consider.

How to Use a Family Member's Hearing Aid

If your family member no longer needs their old hearing aid, you may wonder if you can use it. The answer is maybe, but you should remember a few things:

  1. You'll need to have the hearing aid professionally fitted for your ear. You'll want to find a local audiologist who can take an impression of your ear and order a custom earmold or appropriate dome tips.
  2. You'll need the correct programming and settings for your hearing aid and hearing loss. 
  3. Finally, it’s important to remember that a used hearing aid will not come with a warranty and trial period. Ensure you fully understand what is involved with fitting a used hearing aid and the costs before deciding whether this is your best option. 

While there are some benefits to using a used hearing aid, such as saving money, risks include not knowing the device's history or how well it has been maintained.

Hearing Aid Style

Style is important. And there are essential points to consider, depending on whether the hearing aid is a RIC or a custom device. Let’s take a look.

RIC

Can you wear a used RIC hearing aid? The wire length needs to fit the size of your ear. If the wire is too long or too short, the microphones on the hearing aid will not sit in the right place, and the wire will not be comfortable in your ear. Too long, and it will not stay in the ear and may slide out. Too short, and it will pull uncomfortably on the ear as well.

The piece on the end that goes in the ear canal must fit with a dome tip or earmold that fits your ear canal geometry and is appropriate for your hearing loss. For example, if the hearing aids were previously fit for moderate or severe hearing loss, they will have a power dome or earmold attached. However, if you have mild hearing loss, you'll need an open fit, such as an open dome, to avoid overamplification and occlusion in the ear canal.

Custom Hearing Aids 

Did you receive a used pair of custom hearing aids? The hearing aids may or may not be able to be adjusted to fit your ears. Ear canal geometry is particular to each individual, and a custom hearing aid shell must be remade to fit your ear by taking an impression and creating a new shell. That being said, not every hearing aid can be recased. Smaller hearing aids—like IIC or CIC—most likely cannot be recased, but a larger hearing aid could be refit. You'll want to contact a local hearing aid clinic to determine whether it can be adjusted.

Earmolds

If the hearing aid has an earmold or encased receiver attached to it, you'll need to change it. First, an earmold may suit you, depending on your hearing loss. However, another person's earmold will not fit your ear. To make an earmold, you must have an impression taken of your ear. Then, if a dome tip is more appropriate, an audiologist can fit the proper receiver or tubing (for a BTE hearing aid) and select the right piece to fit your ear.

Programming

Finally, the most crucial part when configuring used hearing aids is to adjust the programming for your hearing loss. An audiologist will use an updated hearing test to change the programming for your hearing loss. Again, the price for programming will vary depending on the clinic.

eBay: Pros and Cons

While some may be tempted to purchase inexpensive devices on eBay, there are caveats. Let's talk about both the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Devices are sometimes very inexpensive

Cons

  • Purchasing used hearing aids on eBay often means they have no warranty
  • There are no services included with the purchase of hearing aids on eBay
  • Sometimes, the hearing aids may have been stolen, loss and damage replacement devices, or VA hearing aids

While the price may be attractive, these devices require readjustment to fit your ears appropriately. Also important to note: If the devices are out of warranty, you'll be responsible for paying for any repairs out of pocket. Occasionally, it has happened that a patient comes in with a pair of hearing aids they've purchased on eBay or Craig's List and needed to have them sent in for repair and unknowingly purchased devices that were loss and damage replacement devices, or even stolen devices. Unfortunately, that means the manufacturer will retain these devices and not send them back.  

Alternative Solution

If you’re thinking of using eBay as a hearing aid solution, proceed with lots of caution. Most people consider options on eBay because they're budget-conscious. However, devices on eBay are wild cards and it can be more trouble than it’s worth. You don't know their history, the aids still need to be adjusted to fit your ear and hearing loss, and there won't be any warranty or services with the devices. That can be a major headache, to say the least. 

A better alternative? Purchasing a lower hearing aid technology level or device from an economy line is a great way to get everything you need in a hearing aid, including service and warranty coverage for any repairs you'll need for the next few years.

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Conclusion

If you have a used hearing aid, you may wonder if you can use it (or gift it to a loved one). The answer is maybe, but there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, you'll need to have the hearing aid professionally fitted for your ear by an audiologist. Second, you'll need to update the programming and settings of the hearing aid for your hearing loss. Finally, be aware of the pros and cons of using a used hearing aid before deciding and be very wary of devices on eBay.

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