Submitted by Jennifer Waddell, Sound Hearing Care
The selection and purchase of a first hearing aid can be an overwhelming and daunting task for anyone. Fear, anxiety and doubt are common issues that first time buyers can encounter. Who can I trust, will the hearing aids actually work, and can I afford them?
I will provide a few tips to help you when shopping for your first hearing aid. I can’t cover all the information you need to make this important decision in this article so please have a read through Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids – a useful in-depth decision making tool provided by The Better Hearing Institute (BHI), a non-profit corporation that educates the public about hearing loss and what can be done about it. Here are our suggestions:
- See an experienced hearing professional. Since programming a hearing instrument is one of the most crucial aspects of hearing well with a hearing aid, going to a professional with experience and knowledge is key. Simply loading your audiogram and letting the computer software that comes with the hearing instrument set your instruments will not be enough in most cases for a good fit. A good hearing professional will take the time to adjust the programming to a comfortable volume that you can adapt to hearing again, play background noises to ensure speech is loud enough to understand, and ensure you are comfortable with your own voice.
- Determine which type of hearing aid you need. As a hearing professional I have some patients who tell me what they will wear and many times it’s not a good option for their specific hearing loss. Your hearing loss will dictate the type and size of the hearing instrument in many cases. Listen to your hearing expert, they know what’s best for your specific loss and you will have better results in the end. The ultimate goal is top notch hearing and you have to remember that it can’t be all about the looks. With the Nanotechnology of today, most instruments are very discreet. Do discuss dexterity concerns and vision issues, high wax or constant drainage of the ear. These aspects will need to be addressed to ensure upkeep and your ability to install the aids on your ear.
- Research hearing aids of this type. There are just a handful of manufacturers making the high end instruments being sold today. Ask the professional how many brands they carry and if the model they are recommending is a private label. There are franchises that offer private versions from the manufacturers and it’s hard to know what you’re buying if the name has been changed. If the clinic is a franchise, they normally offer only one brand and you cannot get adjustments or programming from anyone other than that franchise. Use the Internet to look up information about different models. Look for comparisons from different vendors, reports on the frequency of problems and repairs, and most important, reviews from users as to the unit’s comfort and reliability.
- Search for and select a hearing center you can rely on. Ask your professional about their guarantees, warranties, exchanges and return policies. Read reviews online about the practice at sites like google and Facebook and see what other patients have to say about them. Remember, if you are going to a provider who only offers one product and you aren’t happy, you most likely will be paying a hefty fee to return these aids and then have to go elsewhere, which can be time consuming and costly. Some patients have given up and don’t wear their aids. Always go back to the professional; if they can’t make it right for you, return the aids in the allotted time listed on your agreement. I see folks that have hearing aids in drawers; this is unfortunate, since the junk drawer really has no benefit in hearing better! Another fact to remember is that you should like your hearing professional and feel comfortable talking to them. This is a relationship you will have for years and you need to like them.
- Many patients need financing. With good credit you can get better quality aids and then split the purchase up monthly for as long as 24 months at 0% interest. Be sure you can pay the balance off on time, since you can be charged interest from the purchase date if you don’t meet the terms.
- Your hearing aid should fit comfortably and sound great. This should be done before walking out the door after your first fitting, and the vendor you select should support this. The vendor should also provide free followup sessions to fine-tune either the fit or the performance of the hearing aids, and should be willing to offer you a “satisfaction guaranteed” warranty when purchasing them.
The moral of the story is that you have to educate yourself, ask questions and then make a decision. Your hearing is too vital to neglect and you should maintain your hearing health. Just be wise and make good decisions. Good luck, and know that experienced hearing professionals are here to help you in any way that we can!