What To Do With Old Hearing Aids

Updated: Apr 17, 2023
Medically Reviewed by:

Key Takeaways

  • If your hearing aids still work, you should consider keeping them as a backup pair.
  • Reselling your old hearing aids might be difficult, so check with your local hearing clinic to see if you can receive credit toward a new pair instead.
  • You can help a growing number of people with hearing loss access hearing aids by donating yours to a hearing aid recycling program.
  • Always recycle your old hearing aid batteries properly. Never throw them away in the trash.

What To Do With Old or Used Hearing Aids

When purchasing hearing aids, one of the most important factors to consider is the lifespan of each model. On average, most hearing aids will need to be replaced after five years of wear and tear. Hearing aid technology advances quickly, so your device may become outdated. More importantly, your hearing changes as you age. That’s why it’s recommended that you take a new hearing test every year.

While you may extend the life of the hearing aids to seven years with proper maintenance—including regular cleaning and storage in a dry place—upgrading your hearing aids will ensure you’re reaching your hearing potential and optimal quality of life. But don’t throw away your old hearing aids. Consider keeping, selling, trading in, or donating them instead.

We asked Amy Sarow, Au.D, a Michigan-based audiologist and Forbes Health Advisory Board member, what she suggests to her patients.

“One of the best ways to donate old hearing aids is to give them to a hearing aid bank, such as your local Lions Club,” she said. “Alternatively, an old pair of hearing aids can serve as a good back-up pair if your newer technology is in for repair. As with old phones or laptops, hearing aids can also be recycled.”

Amy Sarow, Au.D

Keep Old Hearing Aids as Backup 

As hearing aids become more advanced, there are various features to consider, including compact styles, rechargeable batteries, and Bluetooth connectivity. But even the most advanced hearing aids need routine maintenance and can sometimes need repair. If a hearing aid’s tubing and receiver are clogged with earwax or dirt, it can impact how the device delivers sound to your ear. Excessive debris can also damage the tubing and may require professional help. If you’re not sure how to properly clean your hearing aids, you may need to see your hearing provider.

Whether you’ve misplaced your hearing aids or they’re in for repair or cleaning, old hearing aids can serve as a convenient backup.

Sell Used Hearing Aids

It’s possible to sell your used hearing aids online, but it can be difficult for two main reasons.

First, not everyone’s ear anatomy and hearing loss are the same, so some styles of hearing aids will fit better than others. Behind-the-ear styles are easier to transfer to another person because they’re generally one-size-fits all. However, in-the-ear or in-the-canal styles are personalized to fit unique canal shapes, so they may be harder to sell. The same can be true for prescription hearing aids.

You should also consider that your hearing aid’s programming and technology may not meet the needs of every buyer. The more specific your needs are, the more difficult it will be to resell your hearing aids.

Second, medical device sales require strict parameters and heavy responsibility. For example, Ebay allows sellers to list over-the-counter hearing aids, but their medical device policy requires that each listing:

  • Does not require a prescription.
  • States that the item has been opened or used.
  • Is properly cleaned and handled according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Has not changed in any way that affects performance, function, or safety.
  • Discloses its expiration date.
  • Shows the seller’s name, address, telephone number, and business information (if applicable).

In addition, each listing must Include the following statement and action: “The sale of this item may be subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state and local regulatory agencies. If so, do not bid on this item unless you are an authorized purchaser. If the item is subject to FDA regulation, I will verify your status as an authorized purchaser of this item before shipping of the item.”

Although the new Over The Counter Hearing Aid Act repeals old laws and regulations restricting the sale of hearing aids, the FDA still regulates the style and design of all over-the-counter hearing aids on the market. This is to protect the consumer from sound over-amplification or from inserting a hearing aid into their canal improperly. Over-the-counter hearing aids on any online marketplace must also follow FDA regulation. 

Seller and buyer beware: Ebay and Amazon marketplaces do not list or reference these specific regulations on their policy pages. Sellers are responsible for following FDA regulation, and buyers should be cautious when purchasing.

Trade-In Old Hearing Aids

Many hearing aid clinics and brands have programs that let you return old hearing aids for credit toward new ones.

Trade-in programs at hearing aid clinics are long-term incentives that encourage hearing aid users to donate old pairs rather than throw them away. It also encourages people to buy hearing aids from the clinic instead of outside vendors.

Similar to a trade-in, some brands like Beltone or Miracle-Ear buy used hearing aids in the form of a “buyback” program. When the brand buys your old hearing aids, they provide you with credit towards new ones within the brand. These programs are usually seasonal or promotional events, so you have to keep your eyes peeled for opportunities.

Check with your brand or local clinic to see what programs they offer.

Donate to Hearing Aid Recycling Programs

If your hearing aids no longer work or you’re ready to say goodbye, consider donating them to one of the many hearing aid recycling programs that repurpose hearing aids for those in need. 

Depending on the program’s location, you can drop them off or mail them in. Most recycling programs accept used hearing aids of any style, brand, or condition. Hearing aids that no longer work can still be refurbished by hearing aid manufacturers or used for parts to do repairs.

Benefits of Donating Old Hearing Aids

There are major barriers preventing people from accessing hearing aid support, such as cost and lack of education. By donating your used pair of hearing aids, you could be helping someone access the support they need. 

More Affordable Access

Hearing aids can be expensive. Those seeking over-the-counter options can still expect to spend at least $200 if not more. Cost is one of the major reasons why 46% of all adults who need hearing aids do not use them.

This is a particularly difficult problem for anyone who has severe to profound hearing loss and requires advanced hearing aids. “These patients will likely benefit from higher level features like frequency lowering and speech enhancers, and assistive listening devices such as remote microphones and TV streamers,” said Brian Murray, a hearing instrument specialist and workshop consultant for Alpaca Audiology.

Think of it this way: Your donated hearing aids could be a miracle to someone who could not otherwise access them.

Repurpose Materials for Future Demand

There are currently 28.8 million adults who could benefit from using hearing aids. According to JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, the number of adults with hearing loss will nearly double over the next 43 years in the United States due to an aging society and natural hearing loss with age. This is an alarming projection that demands preventative education and the increased production of hearing aids.

Even if your donated hearing aids aren’t functioning, the materials can be repurposed to create new ones for future demand. Recycling hearing aid material is a smart move for manufacturers and for the environment because it conserves natural resources and avoids creating more greenhouse gasses caused by manufacturing new materials. If every used hearing aid was thrown away after its expiration, there would be millions of hearing aids in waste. The plastics, metals, silicone, and acrylics used to make hearing aids can contribute to environmental concern as more are produced every year.

Supports Mental Health

Hearing has a massive impact on quality of life. The ability to hear directly influences speech, social interactions, mental wellness, and brain health. Those who do not address hearing loss are at an increased risk of developing symptoms of depression and dementia.

A donated hearing aid can improve someone’s daily life by helping them remain an engaged member of their community and family.

Tax Deductible

When you donate used hearing aids, you may qualify for a tax write-off. To do this, make sure to get a receipt containing your name and address to claim your deduction during tax season. You are eligible to deduct your donation’s fair market value, or the amount that the item would cost if it were on the market. To determine fair market value, refer to the IRS Publication 526.

Learn more about charitable contribution deductions on the IRS website. Direct all questions about tax deductions to your tax advisor.

Where Can I Donate Hearing Aids Near Me?

There are many organizations that make hearing aid donations easy. Some organizations have donation bins around the community, and others encourage mail-in donations. Whenever mailing a donation, be sure to include your name and address if you want to receive a receipt to submit with your taxes. The organizations listed below accept used hearing aids of any condition.

The Lions Club International

The Lions Club International is one of the most popular organizations that accepts hearing aid donations. It partners with locations like libraries and community centers for collection.

All donations are then sent to Lions Hearing Aid Recycling Center in your region. Many hearing aids will be refurbished by a hearing aid professional for redistribution to those in need.

Email Lions Club International at [email protected] regarding donations, or call 630-571-5466 for more information.

Hearing Charities of America

The Hearing Aid Project is a campaign by the Hearing Charities of America (HCOA) to collect, recycle, and redistribute hearing aids to those who need them. 

HCOA works closely with the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing: Sciences and Disorders at the University of Kansas to fulfill their goal of providing hearing aids to low-income individuals who cannot afford hearing interventions.

Although they partner with community centers nationwide, they highly encourage donations over mail to the following address:

Hearing Charities of America
1912 East Meyer Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64132

Be sure to secure the hearing aids in a container with a protective buffering, like cotton or bubble wrap, so that they aren’t damaged during shipment. Don’t forget to include your name and address to receive a donation receipt for tax season.

Call HCOA at 816-333-8300 for more information.

GiveHear

GiveHear is a well-established charitable organization with a 10-year record of providing hearing services to those in low-income households. They have clinics serving three locations in Indiana, offering assessments, rehabilitation, and other services.

If you’d like to donate your hearing aids to GiveHear, they ask that you fill out their form online to receive a pre-paid envelope so you don’t have to pay for shipping. 

Email GiveHear at [email protected] regarding donations, or call 260-602-3276 for more information.

Check Your Local Audiologist

The next time you visit your local audiologist or hearing clinic, ask if they accept hearing aid donations. They may partner with an organization already mentioned, or they may work specifically in your community.

Your regular audiologist can point you in the right direction. Various Walmart and Costco locations also offer hearing clinics in-store that may accept donations in conjunction with other services they provide the community.

Recycling Hearing Aid Batteries

Don’t overlook your tiny hearing aid batteries. One of the biggest concerns regarding batteries is the chemical content. All batteries need to be disposed of properly so that the chemicals don’t pollute our environment. 

Hearing aid batteries are considered button-cell or coin batteries. Button-cell batteries typically contain one of the following heavy metals:

  • Mercury
  • Silver
  • Cadmium
  • Lithium

Today, a majority of hearing aid batteries are made of lithium, which can be lethal when not handled properly, and zinc air, which contain low levels of mercury and can cause environmental harm. The Environmental Protection Agency warns against placing lithium batteries in the trash as they can spontaneously spark a fire. They also warn against storing them in easy-to-reach places since they are a swallow hazard for young children.

Hearing aid batteries should be recycled at a nearby store that provides battery takeback services, or by finding a recycling location near you.

Once the batteries are recycled, the heavy metals are often recovered and reused for future batteries. This helps bring down the cost of manufacturing and protects the environment from these heavy metals.

Many modern hearing aids have rechargeable batteries, which help decrease the need for battery production. When possible, consider purchasing one of the many rechargeable hearing aid options available.

Remember, even rechargeable batteries require special recycling instructions. Some rechargeable batteries can’t be removed from hearing aids. In this case, most recycling programs will accept the device and remove the battery themselves.

Bottom Line

When deciding what to do with old hearing aids, remember that they still hold value, even if they no longer work.

Hearing aids that do still work can be kept as backups. They can also be sold according to current state and federal regulations, although these regulations are strict and are not always outlined well in marketplace policies.

You can donate your old hearing aids, functioning or not, to hearing aid recycling centers near you. With the projected rise of those who need hearing services, every donation goes a long way.

And finally, never throw away your hearing aids. Your hearing aids, especially the batteries, can contribute to environmental pollution if not disposed of properly. Always take your old batteries to recycling centers.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can either keep, sell, trade in, or donate old hearing aids. There are many people who could benefit from donated hearing aids, regardless of their function or condition.

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WRITTEN BY

Nicole Hernandez is passionate about empowering people to live their lives to the fullest. She is a licensed DPT (doctor of physical therapy) in Nevada and received her degree from Campbell University in North Carolina. Nicole has used her degree to treat patients, produce research, and publish online pieces regarding health and rehabilitation. Now, her primary focus is to produce evidence-based content for AgingInPlace.org to ensure people receive the most factual information available as they make important decisions regarding their wellness journey.

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MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

Brian Murray earned a bachelor's of science degree in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology in 2010 from Ithaca College. He is licensed to dispense hearing aids in New York, North Carolina, and Virginia, where he has worked in both private practice and retail clinics. He is currently a workshop consultant with Alpaca Audiology. 

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MLA8

Hernandez, DPT Nicole. "What To Do With Old Hearing Aids" AgingInPlace.org. Apr 17, 2023. Web. May 18, 2023. <https://aginginplace.org/hearing-aids/what-to-do-with-old-hearing-aids/>.

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Hernandez, DPT N. (2023, Apr 17). What To Do With Old Hearing Aids. AgingInPlace.org. https://aginginplace.org/hearing-aids/what-to-do-with-old-hearing-aids/

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Nicole Hernandez, DPT, "What To Do With Old Hearing Aids," last modified: Apr 17, 2023, https://aginginplace.org/hearing-aids/what-to-do-with-old-hearing-aids/.