Consumer Information

Should I Purchase My Hearing Aids Online?


Background

One can buy almost anything online ‘for less’; however, the State Board for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology advises that buying a medical device such as a hearing aid online is not in your best interest. Hearing aids are complex medical devices requiring a competent professional to select, program, fit, verify and maintain them, and to provide ongoing follow-up care. In fact, New York State requires that hearing aids or any other instruments to compensate for impaired hearing must be dispensed and adjusted by a competent hearing healthcare professional.

Who can Dispense Hearing Aids in New York State?

Licensed Audiologists, certified hearing aid dealers and, under certain conditions, physicians are the only healthcare professionals that are allowed to select, fit, sell, rent, adapt (adjust) or service hearing aids in New York State. In addition, each dispensing facility or practice must be registered by the New York Department of State to conduct business within the State. Legislation was passed under the General Business Law (Article 37-A) by state law makers in 1998 "to protect the hearing-impaired public by insuring competent, honest and accountable dispensers of hearing aids who will protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of the State. "When you purchase hearing aids from your local audiologist or hearing-aid dealer you can be assured that the professional is certified and licensed in New York State to sell hearing aids.

Why should I Be Concerned About Purchasing Hearing Aids over the Internet?

Fitting hearing aids requires much more than simply the numbers on your hearing test. Online hearing testing is inaccurate and will not identify many conditions that are medically treatable or which may require immediate medical intervention. The configuration and cause of your hearing loss, your medical history, ear/ear canal anatomy, listening needs, lifestyle, vision, dexterity, expectations and budget are all critical elements of a professional evaluation for hearing aids. Once the hearing aids are fitted, then the real work begins. Most hearing-aid users require more than one visit for adjustment and modification of their hearing aids to maximize and validate their performance. Currently, about 10-20% of hearing aids are either returned for credit or exchanged. New technologically advanced hearing aids will likely reduce this number; however, only the proper evaluation of your hearing along with the proper selection, orientation and verification can maximize your success with hearing aids. In addition, the US Food and Drug Administration strongly recommends that each individual see a physician to rule out treatable medical conditions before purchasing hearing aids.

What Are Some of The Benefits of Purchasing Hearing Aids from Your Local Hearing Healthcare Professional?

When you purchase hearing aids from your local audiologist or hearing-aid dealer, you are investing in the knowledge and skill required to keep up with the continuously evolving hearing aid technology that is available to you as a consumer. You are purchasing a hearing rehabilitation program and developing a partnership with a professional specifically trained to identify the level of technology you need in your hearing aid. In addition, your local audiologist or hearing aid dealer will identify features from a specific hearing aid brand and model that will best fit your specific listening needs. Your hearing healthcare professional is there to ensure that the hearing aids are performing to your expectations, and if not, to make the appropriate adjustments or modifications which will maximize your listening benefit. Further, your local hearing healthcare provider will provide you with ongoing support by maintaining, repairing and adjusting your hearing aids to changes in you hearing or lifestyle needs. This important service is often not included with hearing aids purchased online. Worse yet, you may not even be able to have them adjusted locally as the software is often proprietary and unavailable to your local hearing healthcare professional. As such, modifications may require the hearing aids to be returned to the online manufacturer with little personal input on what needs to be ‘fixed’. What needs to be fixed is best identified after a thorough discussion with your healthcare provider. Your audiologist or hearing aid dealer is trained to identify your reported listening preferences and make the needed programming modifications to your hearing aids to customize the hearing aid technology to your hearing loss and personal preferences. This is done face to face with your hearing health professional while you are wearing your hearing aids connected to the computer. You will receive immediate feedback on your hearing aid listening experience in real time and can communicate your listening preferences to your healthcare provider for additional modifications.

How Can I Be Successful with My Hearing Aid Purchase?

Success with hearing aids involves much more than the devices themselves. Seeing your New York State licensed audiologist or certified hearing aid dealer face-to-face ensures you will receive the best care, maximize your hearing aid benefit and receive individualized ongoing support. Hearing healthcare is a lifelong journey and success with your hearing aids can be greatly improved with a committed local and accessible hearing health care provider.

Last Updated: December 11, 2014