5 Things to Know Before Buying Hearing Aids

Your audiologist can help you find the best style for your lifestyle, budget, and hearing loss..

Buying hearing aids for the first time can be just as scary as buying a new car. It is easy to be overwhelmed with choices and not know where to go or who to trust. Here are some tips to consider to make this process a little easier:

1. Beware the generic brand. Some practices have private label hearing aids; which is fine if you are going to stick with that particular practice, but not good if they go out of business or you travel/move.

Buying known-brand hearing aids ensures that they can be programmed by another provider if needed and the companies are large enough to stand behind their products if something happens to them or if they need to be repaired. Examples of large hearing aid companies include: Widex, Siemens, Oticon, Unitron, Resound, Phonak, and Starkey

2. Find out what is included in the price. Pricing may be bundled; that means it includes service and extras such as batteries, special dry aid kits, and/or extended warranty. If pricing is unbundled, the cost of the hearing aid will be lower but you will pay for each service visit and extras. Ask if your audiologist has loaner hearing aids available if your hearing aid is lost or needs to be sent for repair.

In general, the better the technology, the higher the price. However, not everyone needs the most advanced technology. Think about where you have difficulty hearing and where you spend most of your time.

If you are generally at home where it is quiet and only need help hearing your spouse and the television, a less expensive hearing aid will likely fit your needs. If you are active, attend meeting with multiple speakers, go out to eat at noisy restaurants, use a cell phone regularly, and spend time doing outdoor activities, you are going to do better with a higher technology hearing aid with better noise reduction capabilities and other advanced features.

3.Find a reputable audiologist. Audiologists are the experts in hearing and hearing aids. An audiologist has a doctoral level degree and specialized training in auditory rehabilitation (hearing aids are considered part of auditory rehabilitation). They are able to recommend and program your hearing aids to provide the best sound quality and audibility for your hearing loss. Other professionals, such as "hearing instrument specialists" and "hearing aid dealers or dispenser" may be able to dispense hearing aids in your state so it is a good idea to ask about your provider's qualifications and experience. A hearing aid dispenser is not an audiologist and does not have to have a college degree related to hearing loss. Hearing aids are very sophisticated and to get the best results you will want someone to work with them who understands the specific hearing aid, psycho-acoustics, how the ear works, how to objectively verify the hearing aid benefit with real ear measures, and programming the hearing aid.

To find an audiologist in your area, search here. 

4. Steer clear of PSAPs. A personal sound amplification product (PSAP) is a device used by people with normal hearing to amplify hard-to-hear sounds. For example, if you are sitting at the back of a lecture hall, eating in a crowded restaurant, or bird-watching, a PSAP may be helpful.If your hearing is impaired, don’t use a PSAP as a substitute for a hearing aid. That may delay the diagnosis of a potentially treatable condition and cause more damage to your hearing.

5. Don’t buy your hearing aids online. Your hearing loss needs to be evaluated to rule out medically treatable conditions that can be corrected without hearing aids. Also, not everyone’s ears are shaped the same; a hearing aid that does not fit properly can result in poor hearing, annoying feedback, and painful sores in the ear. If you purchase from an online vendor, they are programming the hearing aid to a basic setting and not taking into account personal preference, sound tolerance issues, and you will have the hassle of sending the hearing aid back and forth in the mail if any changes or repairs are required.

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