Hearing aids enable enhanced quality of life and make hearing better. Just as any healthcare product or service, you need to be careful of where you obtain the hearing aids and who is dispensing the devices to you. The Audiologist is more important than the type or style of the device. Here are the important issues to consider when deciding where to purchase the device.
• Service: Be aware of discount big box stores. These stores use hearing aid sales because you are in the store anyway buying multiple items for you home and use. Most often these stores do not employ an Audiologist who understands the hearing system and physiology behind hearing loss. Instead, they train a hearing aid specialist to fit the hearing aids according to manufacturer specifications. The hearing aids that are offered in these big box stores often have the same manufacturer as your local audiologist, but don’t be fooled, these are NOT the same hearing aids. Manufacturers build devices specifically for these big box stores, and typically they are watered down versions of the real thing.
- Retail Chains: Like big box stores, retail hearing aid chains, are in business solely to make a profit from hearing aid sales. Most stores, do not employ Audiologists, and most have a relationship with a specific manufacturer to sell as many as their devices as possible. If the advertisement seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be real.
• Fittings: Hearing aids typically require several professional adjustments before they are adjusted appropriately for each individual’s needs. Audiologists not only have specialized training, but also an understanding of the auditory system and brain function that makes adjustments more precise and individualized.
• Price: Though there is a difference in initial price, in the long run, an Audiologist may turn out to be the better deal. Most Audiologists will include several years of service, office visits and batteries in the cost of the devices. Many big box stores and retail hearing aids stores sell the hearing aid, but then require additional office visit fee for every return visit, if you can even get an appointment for a return visit. In order to keep costs at a minimum, big box stores and retail chains do not want to see hearing aid purchasers back for follow-up. Also, frustration, poorly fit devices and problems with service can end up costing the patient more in the long term.
• Hearing Health: Hearing loss is a health issue with potential serious health consequences. Big box stores and retail chains are not in the business of providing healthcare, but in the business to make money. Make it a point to see an Audiologist and be fit by a professional. In the long run it is more cost effective, more personal and healthier.