Should You Buy Hearings Aids on the Internet?
We've all seen ads on the internet and in magazines that say, “Why pay $3,000 for a hearing aid when you can buy one for $295?” Is that really the case or is there more to the story? What are the facts about these less expensive products, and what, if any, are the real differences?
Products. Conventional hearing aids are medical devices registered with the FDA that are normally prescribed and dispensed by a licensed audiologist, physician, or hearing instrument specialist. Yet some marketers have started to advertise hearing aids for sale by mail or through the internet. You might see them described as sound or hearing amplifiers.
This current class of devices may look like hearing aids, but many aren’t. Many electronic devices, like cell phones, are “one size fits all”; the only difference is how many features the customer wants.
A true hearing aid needs to be programmed to match the hearing loss and needs of the patient. Hearing loss is a medical issue that should be examined by a university trained audiologist. It's a little different from buying a phone from your local cellular supplier.
There are conventional hearing aids that sell for $295 plus testing and programming fees by reputable companies like Hearing Wellness Center. Both the internet hearing aids and the entry level product from Hearing Wellness Center are meant for mild to moderate hearing loss, and have limited features. They don't have the sophisticated circuitry to monitor and adjust to the sounds in the listening area. The new advanced hearing aids target voices rather than noise; some even have fall detection.
Products sold by internet companies could potentially harm hearing by over amplifying sound. Most of the cheaper internet products are made by small, new, less stable companies. All hearing aids, regardless of manufacturer or vendor, require regular service. What good is a rechargeable hearing aid from the internet if the battery or circuitry fails and no one can fix it? So if the price is similar, where should you make your purchase?
Providers. There are basically three options. The internet and magazine ads, hearing aid sales stores or audiology practices.
Internet hearing aids will probably be a less costly option because there is no examination, hearing test or adjustment by trained hearing specialists. There's nowhere to go to get service or adjustments. Hearing aids purchased from a remote location have the risk of under or over amplifying sound. Most hearing aid users will also not know which frequencies need to be adjusted. This could lead to frustration rather than solutions. A more significant risk is a treatable medical condition could be missed by eliminating the medical profession and licensed audiologists.
The last two options are not as easy to distinguish. Hearing aids sales offices are often mistaken for audiology practices. If a sales office has one audiologist for multiple stores they can legally claim to be an audiology practice. In most cases, the end cost is the same regardless of the promised savings.
According to the ADA (Academy of Doctors of Audiology) this is the scope of practice for a licensed audiologist.
• Comprehensive audiological evaluations including tests of hearing sensitivity, speech understanding, middle ear function, inner ear and auditory nerve function.
• Diagnostic tests for balance/dizziness disorders.
• Auditory processing evaluations for infants, children and adults.
• Design, selection, fitting and verification of hearing instruments and assistive listening devices.
• Design, selection, installation and monitoring of classroom amplification systems.
• Rehabilitation therapy for hearing disorders which might include strategies to improve aided and unaided hearing, speech-reading (including lipreading) and sign language.
• Rehabilitation for auditory processing disorders.
• Rehabilitation for vestibular (balance) disorders.
• Cerumen (earwax) management.
• Evaluation and management of tinnitus and hyperacusis.
• Patient and family counseling about living with hearing loss.
• Development of hearing conservation programs.
• Research and development of new evaluation techniques and rehabilitation strategies.
By contrast, the scope of practice for hearing aid specialists is very limited. They perform the following services.
• Basic hearing tests exclusively for the purpose of selling hearing aids to adults.
• Hearing aid fitting and sales.
Hearing Wellness Center is a perfect solution since we employ only licensed audiologists to prescribe our products. Our prices are competitive and we have inexpensive Personal Sound Amplifiers (PSAP) that can be programmed and turned into an FDA reulated hearing aids at the users request. We have products to cover all needs and budgets with hearing aid leasing starting at $38 per month.
Hearing Wellness Center, at 6653 Grand Haven Rd. in Norton Shores and 569 S. State St. in Shelby, offers everything from hearing aids and assistive devices, including hearing testing and rehabilitation, to ear wax removal and tinnitus treatment. Owner and Audiologist Margaret M. (Peg) Sass-Simon, M.A., CCC-A, and Doctor of Audiology Michelle Foos, Au.D., licensed audiologists with university degrees in hearing, prescribe hearing aids and prescriptions. Hearing Wellness Center has donated more than $250,000 of hearing loops to the community to make sure everyone has equal access to excellent hearing in all facilities. Extra precautions are in effect to keep patients and staff healthy. Visit HearingWellnessCenter.com to learn more. Call (231) 798-2323 or email email@example.com for an appointment.