So someone will mail me hearing aids. Should I try them?
It’s so easy these days to order hearing aids online. Is it a good idea?
What is a mail order hearing aid model?
Mail order hearing aid delivery models consist of a patient either taking a hearing test on their home computer (or submitting a professional test). They will then receive a hearing aid that is “specially fitted” and is relatively low in cost.
How is the traditional delivery model different?
Traditional hearing aid delivery models consist of seeing a specially trained professional for a hearing test. They use equipment that is calibrated annually. The professional explains a solution that may or may not include hearing aids. If hearing aids are recommended, they select what devices would work the best within your lifestyle. They may have to choose from 8 hearing aid styles, 6 technology levels, and 6 major manufacturers. This includes additional assistive listening accessories to give the patient the best chance at hearing in various environments.
Who picks these solutions for the traditional delivery model?
The best qualified clinician to diagnose and rehabilitate persons with auditory or balance disorders is an audiologist. This professional should have completed post-graduate work, a national certification exam, holds a state license, and adheres to a code of ethics. He or she should also complete hours of continuing education per year. Despite their extensive coursework, hearing aid specific classes are typically limited to only 1 to 2 courses. This is because understanding how to program a hearing aid is not nearly as important as the diagnostic and rehabilitative process.
Who makes these decisions for the mail order model?
It is unclear who determines the appropriate solutions for a diagnosed hearing loss and what credentials they hold. As a result, some states have banned the sale of hearing aids through the mail. This is because it does not meet their licensure requirements. Or maybe it falls short of their requirements for the delivery of a medical device. In the Spring of 2012, some of these major companies also received cease and desist letters from the FDA. Why? Because they did not obtain proper approval and clearance prior to releasing their products. Since then the majority of these companies no longer offer online hearing tests. They now require the consumer to see a licensed professional for the test first.
Are there any risks to getting mail order hearing aids?
If a patient is being fit without being seen by a professional, you could either:
- miss a hearing loss that could be medically corrected
- fail to diagnose the hearing loss being the symptom of a more severe medical problem
- get hearing aids that are inappropriately set
Over-amplification can lead to more hearing loss over time, and under-amplification can have the same effects as untreated hearing loss. This includes depression, isolation, reduced cognitive input, reduced mental scores and auditory deprivation.
With all of that knowledge who will order hearing aids online?
A recent study suggests the main consumers who order hearing aids online are retired males making $26,000 or less per year. Also whose education averages a high school diploma (Kochkin, 2014). Previous studies have suggested cost is the largest factor in a patient’s decision to delay the purchase of a hearing aid.
Well why are hearing aids so expensive?
Hearing aids are more or less expensive because of the technology within them. They now sample your environment multiple times a second to make changes according to algorithms. This will make your environment more comfortable and the speech clearer. They also have the same processing power the Apollo 11 had that took us to the moon! Getting that kind of processing power to be smaller than a car battery has taken time and resources. That’s why it costs more. Also, hearing aids usually come with a service package that is included in the upfront cost. This will cover the patient’s many adjustments required throughout the lifespan of the hearing aid.