by Neil Bauman, Ph.D. with Steve Barber
Steve Barber is a great hard of hearing guy and a friend of mine. He also knows his stuff. If you are thinking about getting hearing aids, you would do well to read the following.
I get asked a lot about how to shop for hearing aids:
I usually tell people several things:
1. Get all the free hearing screenings you want, but don’t buy a hearing aid based solely on one. Especially, if you don’t know what is causing your hearing loss, then a full audiological exam and consultation with an ENT is a very good idea. Some losses don’t need hearing aids; some can be helped by other means; and some may be a symptom of another medical problem that you don’t want to ignore.
2. The bigger, and more frequent the advertisement, the more cautious you should be.
3. The more the ad promises, the less you should be willing to believe it.
4. Never buy an aid that is offered at a “special price” if you must decide immediately.
5. If the seller’s primary selling point is that the aid is “invisible”, be very suspicious; If that’s your primary desired feature, then examine your motives. Hearing better is the real reason to buy a hearing aid, not invisibility.
6. If you can’t name and describe possible benefits for at least 3 features of hearing aids, then do more homework. There are a lot more things to consider, but at the very least, you should know the benefits of directional mics, telecoils and vents or open fittings.
7. Make sure you know the terms of the trial period. 30 Days is a minimum with only a relatively small fitting fee charged if you decide not to buy the aids—typically around 10% of the total price.
8. If you ask the provider about whether the aid has a telecoil, and the seller says you don’t need one, get a second, unbiased opinion. You may not need or want one, but you may be missing out on a great feature if it turns out that it would help you.
9. Unbiased opinions are most readily obtained from people who are successfully using hearing aids; not from people whose aids are in a drawer! Successful users can often be found by attending any Hearing Loss Association of America chapter meetings. (See their website for the location of the numerous HLAA chapters throughout the USA.)