There have been recent announcements by Best Buy and UnitedHealthcare that they will soon begin providing hearing aids to consumers for purchase directly through the internet. The concept of selling cheap stock amplification directly to consumers is not a new one. The Internet has changed how all business is done. More and more people go to the Internet to gain product knowledge and check prices before or after going to local stores. It’s not surprising, then, that there are companies that want to try to attract your eye when you are researching a hearing aid purchase. And with the state of the economy, the easiest way to get your attention is through your pocket book.
Buying cheaper hearing aids on line may seem like the fiscally responsible thing to do. We all want to be careful about how we spend our hard-earned money. In reality, however, this approach provides poor solutions for consumers. The reason for this is that fitting hearing aids is an art as much as it is a science. Brandon Sawalich, Senior Vice President of Starkey, one of the better-known and well-trusted hearing aid manufacturers in the US released a statement recently, denouncing the plan for on-line hearing aid sales by direct-to-consumer companies. He stated,
“better hearing is not a commodity. It is an art, guided by science and delivered by experience.”
In an email to hearing healthcare providers, Kim Herman, President of one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers, GNReSound, also denounced the sale of hearing aids directly to consumers. She noted, “As HIA research has shown, eight of the top ten reasons for patient delight with hearing aids are directly attributable to the patient’s experience with a trained hearing instrument professional. At ReSound we are committed to the principle that hearing aid technology is successful only when a trained professional has evaluated the hearing loss and fit a hearing solution that meets the patient’s individualized needs.”
When fitted correctly, hearing aids can improve the quality of life for anyone who wears them. When fitted incorrectly, they can become a very expensive addition to the side table drawer. So, even if you do get a “great deal” on-line, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t wear them. If you buy hearing aids on-line, how do you know you’ve picked the right one? Who will be there to help if the sound isn’t quite right? What will you do when the hearing aid breaks down? Who is going to teach you how to best use them in your varying listening environments? The better choice is to work with a highly trained hearing healthcare professional who has your best interests in mind, not a website that is simply trying to sell you hearing aids.
How do you find the professional that is right for you? Start by researching the professionals around you. But, think about this: what do you do when you want to find a good mechanic, dentist or financial advisor? You begin by asking those you trust who they prefer.
1. Ask for a referral from friends you know who have been successful with hearing aids. Did they respect and trust the person they worked with?
2. Ask your Primary Care physician which hearing professional they refer patients to for hearing loss and hearing aids. Remember, this person reflects either positively or negatively on the physicians themselves. Normally they select other professionals they refer to very carefully.
3. Check the web. What are other people saying about the professional or clinic you are considering?
4. Then check the professional’s website. Are they highly trained? Does what they say about themselves and their clinic fit with what you are looking for? Do they give you a clear reason why you should select them? What sets them apart from the other professionals in the area? Is their website an information resource?
5. Finally, make certain the hearing healthcare provider holds a valid license, are in good standing and have no serious complaints against them. Every state has a licensing board for hearing healthcare providers. Check the state’s website for information.
Doing your homework about the professional you will work with is the best first step toward better hearing. And although it may cost a bit more to work with a hearing healthcare provider, you’ll find you are much more satisfied with your hearing aids and the benefits they provide than if you purchase your hearing aids from an on-line company that really should stick to selling MP3 players and ink cartridges.