February 1, 2012

Ask the Audiologist

Information fromAudiology Consultants, P.C.

Hearing Aids: Do you buy them online or do you buy them from a local Audiologist? How do you decide?

It is becoming more and more common to check the internet for better deals on products these days, but is it really a better deal for all products? It is fairly easy to purchase a jacket online from a store you are familiar with but what about purchasing a hearing aid? What are you going to miss by not going to an Audiologist? That is what will be answered in this article.

Although I am writing as an Audiologist, it would be difficult to tell you exactly what services you would receive from every Audiologist when purchasing hearing aids. So, I will be telling you what we, Audiology Consultants, provide for services during the hearing aid purchasing process and then compare those services to the services you would receive from an online hearing aid purchase.

The first step to purchasing a hearing aid is to have your hearing evaluated. Here at Audiology Consultants, we perform a complete hearing evaluation. A complete hearing evaluation would include otoscopy or visual inspection of the ear canal and eardrum, air conduction, bone conduction, speech recognition testing and word discrimination testing performed in a sound proof booth. A complete evaluation will let us know when you can hear tones at a very quiet level as well as how well you can understand speech with no visual ques. A tympanogram may also be completed to evaluate the function of your middle ear and eardrum. These tests will allow us to determine if you are a candidate for hearing aids and what kind would work the best for you. As Audiologists, we are also trained to identify any possible medical concerns that we would have with regards to your hearing loss and may also recommend that you see a physician prior to pursuing hearing aids. Common causes for a referral to your physician are ear wax or ear infections. The FDA also requires a hearing evaluation and medical clearance from a physician within six months of being fit with a hearing aid. We would request that medical clearance from your physician by sending them a copy of your hearing evaluation.

At this point, we would discuss hearing aid options with you. There are two main decisions to be made when picking out a hearing aid, the style or how the hearing aid will look and the technology in the hearing aid itself. We will discuss with you the different styles and explain what will and what won’t work for your hearing loss. Not every hearing aid is made for every hearing loss. We can also show you an actual model of the hearing aid you chose. The technology in the hearing aids will be based off your lifestyle and needs for the hearing aids. This is also what determines the cost of the hearing aids. We will help you pick a hearing aid that will work for your hearing loss and your budget. We will use our knowledge and experiences with the hearing aids to best fit you.

If you are still undecided if you are ready for a hearing aid, in most cases we are able to provide you with a demo to try. This will give you the opportunity to try some of the best technology on the market and decide if the benefits of the hearing aids outweigh the cost. We do require a small deposit to demo the hearing aids, which is fully refundable, so there is no cost to you to try them.

When you first receive your new hearing aids, we will take the time to go over all the details including, cleaning, care, batteries, warranties, your trial period and how to get them in your ears. We will make sure that you are able to care for them before you leave the office. We also will make sure that they fit properly and will be comfortable for you to wear. During that first visit, we may also make initial adjustments to the hearing aids if needed, one common reason is for any feedback or whistling. Also at this visit, we will use a Real Ear Verification system to verify that your hearing aids are working properly in your ear canal. The hearing aids are programmed through the computer, but this system will verify how they are working with the natural resonance of your ear canal. If we see that the hearing aids need to be adjusted, we would make those needed changes to ensure that the hearing aids are working their best for you.

Once you have received your hearing aids and are experiencing all those sounds you haven’t heard in a while, We will always be there for you when you have any questions, whether it is through an appointment, phone call, email or you just drop in. We are also here to service the hearing aids for cleanings every six months, make adjustments when needed or if the hearing aids stop working properly. There are times where some charges will apply to the services; we do our best to discuss these charges with you prior to doing the service we would charge for. We try our best to inform you ahead of time so that you don’t have any unexpected charges coming your way.

During the entire hearing aid purchasing process, you will be one on one with an Audiologist. We also do our best to make sure that you see the same Audiologist every time you come into one of our offices. That way we have a great opportunity to get to know you and your family better and build a relationship with you. We will be here to help you through the hearing aid process with whatever you need during the lifetime of your hearing aids.

If you purchase a set of hearing aids from the internet, they may or may not offer an online hearing evaluation. If you chose to take an online hearing evaluation, you are not receiving a complete hearing evaluation, you will be receiving a screening. A screening only takes into account a few frequencies and does not include speech testing or bone conduction testing. That is not enough information to properly fit a hearing aid. There is also no way for you to look into your own ears and see if there is wax or an infection. Your hearing loss may be caused by a treatable medical condition, and the internet test will not be able to tell you that you need to see your physician. Which means, you may spend money on hearing aids when you don’t actually need them.

The internet sites do not discuss the different options for hearing aids with but only ask you what you would want. As I mentioned earlier, not every hearing aid is made for every hearing loss. You may like how a certain hearing aid looks but it may not be an appropriate fit for you. You don’t want to spend money on hearing aids that are not going to help you. You also may not be aware that you are not purchasing a hearing aid but a personal amplifier. A personal amplifier does not work the same way that a hearing aid does. We recommend calling an Audiologist to discuss this difference.

When you receive the hearing aids from online it is up to you to read the instruction book and learn to take care of them. You also have to learn from pictures how to put the hearing aids in your ears. No one is there to help you and show you what you may be doing wrong. When you get them what do you do if they don’t seem to sound right? Or if you have feedback or that whistling? At that point you are calling the company you ordered from and possibly having to send them back to the company for adjustments. That can take a lot of time out of your trial period if you have one. There is also no way to use a Real Ear Verification system to ensure that your hearing aids are working properly in your ear canal.

When it comes to making adjustments in the hearing aids you may have to send them back to the company every time you need a change made and hope that it comes back the way you wanted it. That could mean a lot of time without your hearing aids. If you ordered your hearing aids from a site that does not offer adjustments what do you do when you need them? You would then need to find a local Audiologist to make those adjustments. Unfortunately, not every Audiologist works with every hearing aid brand out there. This could mean that you purchased a hearing aid that you can’t get serviced in your area. If you can have them adjusted at a local Audiologist’s office you will be looking at charges for the services that they provide to you. These charges will be discussed with you prior to the services being completed.

When the hearing aids need cleaning or are not working properly you can take them to an Audiologist in your area but it is recommended to call ahead and check what charges you will be expected to pay. You can expect charges no matter where you take them since you didn’t purchase the hearing aids through that Audiologist. They may be able to offer a plan that you would purchase that would cover those costs for a year or two. This would be a topic to discuss with a local Audiologist prior to purchasing your hearing aids from the internet. Good chances you will find out that it doesn’t save money in the long run to purchase from the internet.

When you purchase from the internet you lose that one on one personal experience you get at the Audiologist’s office. You are also missing out on all the knowledge and experience we have to share with you. If we have not had good success with a hearing aid we are not going to recommend it for you. We are familiar with the products we work with and know what will work and won’t work with your hearing loss. We are here to help you make a good investment for your hearing loss. We truly want you to hear your family and friends and have a better enjoyment in life.

Please give us a call if you would like to start the hearing aid purchasing process or if you would just like to ask us questions about hearing aids. We are here to help you with your hearing needs.