Maintenance. Pretty much every mechanical or electrical device in our daily lives requires it.
We change the oil and check the tire pressure in our cars for optimal handling and gas mileage. A change in the filter of our furnace helps to improve the air quality in our home. Vacuum cleaners need to be emptied with washing or replacement of the air filters to keep suction. We sharpen the blades on our lawnmowers to get a good cut and clean our gutters to maintain water flow away from our home's foundations. Defrag your hard drive and run system checks on your computers to improve space and performance when they get slow. We even need to hard-reset our iPhone time to time.
The list above isn't meant to remind you of all the things still on your "TO-DO" list, but is to serve as a reminder that all these services are performed in an effort to ensure the device performs at its peak and extend the life of the device. They are also typically performed on a quarterly (3 months) to semi-annual (6 months) basis.
In addition to the basic cleaning and maintenance the owner of the hearing instruments will perform, hearing instruments require a similar level of professional service. Quarterly or semi-annual service will help keep the devices, not just in good working order, but also allow for optimal performance for the end-user.
When a hearing instrument is fit for the first time, not only is the device new, it is has been programmed to the unique characteristics of your hearing loss and also to the physical conditions and circumstances of your ear that day. With parts of the instrument being made of silicone, plastic, and wire, just like a pair of new shoes, a "breaking-in" process will occur where these pieces will begin to conform to your ear. Over time, some of these items may need to be cleaned, replaced or modified by your hearing healthcare provider or their staff.
You may have even had an experience like the following: You live in a drier climate (Example: Colorado) and then you travel to a location with more humidity (California Coast or Florida) - your hearing instruments seem more "sensitive", your molds and ear pieces seem to move more or seem loose - what changed? Moisture. Moisture in your ear canal has caused the molds/domes to move easier possibly allowing sound (whistling) to escape. How about having shorter hair the day the hearing aid is fit and than you grow your hair a little longer or you are nearing your typical haircut appointment and your hearing aids are a little more "sensitive" (whistling)? Typically, during the hearing aid fitting, programming such as a feedback test are based on the conditions of you ear that day and now your hair is closer to the microphones and a new feedback test could help account for the changes in your new hairstyle; or it will go back to its typical performance when you get your haircut and your hair is back to the general length it was when you hearing aids were fit.
All of this is normal. Having regular check-ups and services performed will help mitigate these issue and help prevent problems down the road.
Typically, many service providers will perform this service at no charge while your devices are under warranty. However, keep in mind when your warranty expires, it is just as important to keep up the service schedule to extend the life of your devices. The average life of hearing instruments tends to be 5-7 years, but many consumers replace their hearing instruments not because they no longer work or can meet their hearing loss, but because new technology has come out and they wanted to upgrade. We see this all the time in our society with cars and other electronics like phones and TVs.
(I'm sure you remember moving your perfectly good standard definition TV to the basement when high-definition (HD) flat screens came out? - I sure do, "look honey, I can see the individual blades of grass on the football field" - then I got an eye roll - by the way, that TV is still down there, isn't it...)
I have witnessed an individual keep their hearing instruments working well and looking new for 12 years. I've also seen hearing aids come in three months after purchase that look like they have gone to the top of Mt. Everest and then to the depths of the Pacific Ocean with a demolition derby or two in between.
At the end of the day, hearing instruments are well designed, built well and resilient, but they are still electronic devices with mechanical parts. It all comes down to maintenance, care and proper service.
By being aware of the proper care and performing basic and professional service on your hearing instruments, you should be able to get the most optimal performance and life out of your hearing instruments for years to come.
(*FootNote: If your hearing instrument purchase did not come with one, consider getting a hearing aid dryer for your devices,- ask your hearing healthcare provider for different options - they come in "active" (where warm air circulates) and "passive" (a desiccant) versions. Well worth it to help protect your investment.)