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Are you really saving money buying internet hearing aids?

Written by by Dianna Randolph, AuD, CCC-A. Posted in October

When hearing aids have been recommended to you, there are many options to consider, such as the style, circuitry, and price. At Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic, we have had a few patients ask us about purchasing hearing aids through the internet. Although this may seem like a good idea at first, and you may think you are saving money, in the long run the hearing aids will end up costing you more and it may not be the best option for optimal hearing.

 

First and foremost, establishing a relationship with an audiologist is so important when you have hearing loss and/or hearing aids, and this relationship is lost with an internet purchase. An audiologist is a highly trained professional (most have a doctorate degree in audiology) who will evaluate your hearing and give you the appropriate recommendations. Your audiologist strives to treat your hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

When you walk in to our office, you will be given a complete audiological workup, including a case history that will be reviewed with you and a diagnostic hearing evaluation. The diagnostic hearing evaluation can include speech-in-noise testing and a tinnitus (ringing in the ears) evaluation if needed. Along with the evaluation, your lifestyle, hearing needs, and budget will be discussed, and with the help of the audiologist, the best amplification for your needs will be recommended. We will send a copy of your hearing test to your family physician or ear, nose and throat physician to consult and obtain medical clearance before we fit you with hearing aids.

Your relationship with your audiologist does not stop there. The audiologist will provide you with the hearing aid fit, follow-up care, adjustments, warranty coverage, cleaning, and counseling right there in the office. We can help you troubleshoot problems either in the office or over the phone. In some cases, we have even made house calls. At Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic, we have three doctorate-level audiologists on staff to help you with your recommendations. Once this decision is made, you will see the same audiologist for each appointment. This will ensure that you have maintained consistent hearing health care.

When you purchase a hearing aid through the internet, you may not be getting what you think. You may be getting a poorer-quality instrument or even an instrument with no instructions. You may also have to put the device together yourself. If the hearing aid needs to be adjusted or repaired, you may have to ship it back to the vender on your dollar. With the continued adjustments, you could end up paying what you saved in shipping costs.

Another important aspect of purchasing hearing aids is the fit of the device. Poor-fitting hearing aids can lead to feedback, discomfort, and poor sound quality. With an internet purchase, a proper fit is not guaranteed because the shape and size of your ear canal are not considered. You may be getting a “one-size-fits-most” type of device. We have seen instances of hearing aids purchased by patients over the internet or through eBay that were either not working when they received them or did not belong to the seller to begin with. Most reputable hearing aid manufacturers will not warranty a hearing aid that is purchased through the internet or support it in any way.

Many internet or mail-order hearing aids will provide the hearing aid but not the programming or service. It is your responsibility to find a provider to program and service your hearing aid at a separate added cost. Hearing aids are not “wear-out-of-the-box” devices. It may take multiple adjustments and reprogramming to ensure you are getting the right amount of amplification.

Verification is a very important aspect of fitting a hearing aid. This ensures that the hearing aid is programmed precisely to your hearing, and is done by using Real Ear Measurements (REM). By using REM, we are able to see what the hearing aid is actually doing in your ear, taking into consideration the resonance of the human ear canal. Sometimes, just programming a hearing aid to the audiogram is not appropriate and the sound quality of the hearing aid is not pleasant.

An REM is done by placing a probe tube down the ear canal along with the hearing aid. Sound is played through a speaker to demonstrate soft, loud, and average speech. The probe tube is connected to a microphone, which picks up what is coming out of the hearing aid and into your ear canal. We can make adjustments to the hearing aid using this measurement to get the precise sound quality through the hearing aid.

Finally, just remember that when you purchase a hearing aid, you are not purchasing an amplifier for your ear, but a digital medical device that is regulated by the FDA in the same manner as a pacemaker or an artificial joint. You would never purchase either of those through the internet or eBay and take it to a surgeon to have it implanted. You would rely on the surgeon to make the appropriate recommendation for you.

Getting hearing aids from the internet or eBay may not save you money in the long run. It may actually lead to more frustration without treating your hearing loss. Establishing a relationship with an audiologist and working with her or him will help your overall hearing health care. If you or someone you know has a problem with hearing, let the audiologists at Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic help.❦