Audiology

Buyer Beware of Hearing Aids from the Internet

I’m sorry for the hiatus, but the holiday was a great time to rejuvenate, recover, and rethink!

As people discover I’m an audiologist and finally figure out what it is I do, they immediately have questions for me.  This is particularly important if they themselves or their family members have hearing loss.  A common question I receive is, “well can’t I just buy hearing aids on the internet?”  Well, there really isn’t a shorter answer than NO but the reason behind this powerful two letter word is of more importance.  Here are 7 reasons why buying hearing aids over the internet is a poor decision.

1.  Hearing aids are not just some random electronic for anyone’s use.  Hearing aids are medical devices in which proper fitting and care must be taken.  Hearing aid companies must adhere to several laws from the FDA because of this medical device classification.  Insurance companies also classify hearing aids as medical devices, which is why patients with a hearing aid benefit must seek audiologic care in order to be fit with a hearing aid.  Hearing aids are complex digital devices not a basic amplifier.

2.  Hearing aids that are available on the internet may be stolen, once reported as lost, or obtained some other illegal way.  If someone purchases a hearing aid over the internet and needs to be sent in for repair to a company, it may be confiscated and can cost the patient a lot of money.  In the Greater Minneapolis area recently a person was charged with stealing hearing aids after trying to sell many of them on ebay.  This article is just one of the few we as professionals hear about.  Buying a hearing aid via the internet can cause more havoc and issues than by just going to a professional first.

3.  Hearing aids online may be outdated and you may be buying something that is not appropriate for your hearing loss.  I have seen countless cases of patients who purchased hearing aids online that are either not powerful enough for their loss, the technology is very outdated, or so poorly fit that sores have developed in their ears.  Audiologists are trained to help the patient choose the most appropriate device based on fit, technology, and amplification range so that they may do the best in overcoming their hearing loss.

4.  When purchasing hearing aids, most professionals include their services in the fee.  Choosing the most appropriate device for your hearing loss is only the first step for success.  Hearing aids need fine tuning and adjustments.  Fitting of hearing aids is a process not a one time purchase.  By having the services included in the purchase, you can be assured that the audiologist will do everything to ensure you are successful with your hearing aids and they are set appropriately for your hearing loss.  Face-to-face communication rather than via the phone, email, or internet leads to better success with amplification and that is the role of the professional.  When purchasing hearing aids via the internet, this is not included.  In order to program the hearing aids purchased online, service packages may be pricey that may cost the patient more money in the long run.

5.  Some hearing aids may be locked so that the audiologist may not be able to program the hearing aids.  This can lead to not being able to wear the hearing aid at all and a waste of money.

6.  Aural Rehabilitation, counseling, and strategies are needed for success of wearing amplification.  Just as stated in #4, the devices are the first step in success of wearing amplification.  Audiologists spend countless hours with patients instructing, consoling, informing, and supporting patients.  Patients who have receive appropriate counseling and aural rehabilitation are much more likely to be successful with amplification than those who do not receive it.

7.  The most important reason (at least for me) is that professionals like myself, do not get to meet an awesome patient like you!  We like our job and we want to help people improve their quality of life.  Audiologists are there to listen to your frustrations, share in your joy, and help you experience success.

Buying hearing aids via the internet can lead to frustration, disappointment, and wanting to give up.  Professionals can help to ensure this won’t happen.  The internet is great for Cyber Monday products, finding information, and helping us navigate an unknown route when travelling.  When purchasing hearing aids, ignore the internet and turn to your local audiologist for support, expertise, and a promise of success!

Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D.

About Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D.

Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D. is the owner of Chicago Hearing Services and a Doctor of Audiology dedicated to empowering her patients and the public with greater knowledge and education around hearing health.

3 thoughts on “Buyer Beware of Hearing Aids from the Internet

  1. Just a rebuttal to buying hearing aids over the internet. I’m a pretty old chick 🙂 . In the early days of my hearing aided life, I could not buy hearing aids over what??? internet. When the internet was born, it was illegal to purchase aids over the internet.

    BUT I purchased an analog Oticon 390 and 380s from a couple of sites. I knew exactly what I wanted. It was easy. They were 1/2 the cost had I purchased them locally. I even tried buying a digital aid over the internet. That was a bit more difficult and came with a fitting fee that I did not lose because it didn’t work. There’s a way to do it and I “test drove it” but they just didn’t work with the earmolds I had. As not all hearing aid dealers are bad, not all internet hearing aid companies are bad and they are cheaper for the consumer.

    It does work. I’ve purchased a total of four hearing aids from two different sites. I never had a problem (other than my first dog eating one and that was quickly replaced under warranty).

  2. Sorry but one more.
    1. Anyone can sell an obsolete item. That’s nothing new. I have one 380 or 390 in some use … speaking of obsolete.
    2. I remember the old days when the FCC made Miracle Ear remove their ad that their aid could remove background noise. So, anyone can lie anywhere and sometimes get away with it.
    3. We do our homework. Buying an aid from eBay shows an immense amount of ignorance. But here are two comparable cases in point: a) A dealer at Sears wanted me to buy an all-in-the-ear aid. I looked at the specs and said it’s not strong enough. He was an idiot. We made a deal. I’d get the aid and have a test by my audiologist. If she said no deal, he’d take it back and I wouldn’t pay a dime. It was a waste of time and that’s exactly what happened. b) I told a fellow who worked for me in the computer field his hearing aids were not strong enough for him and he needed new ones. He ran out, found an AD from a dealer and got “hooked.” He came back (my only clear word of advise was to make sure he could return it. The aid specs and his audiogram didn’t come close to being correct. He took them back and got ones that worked.

    You can be “had” anywhere. I know there aren’t many people like me 🙂 .

    When you purchase a real aid (not the $39.95) over the internet, you are face-to-face. When you purchase a joke, you get what you paid for.

  3. Like you said not many people are in your situation about knowing what they exactly need. For patients today who are uneducated, it is important for them to know the problems that can go wrong with internet hearing aids. I want my patients to be informed consumers, which is the purpose of this post. I completely agree with you that there are bad things that can happen in person as well. This is why an informed consumer is the best consumer.

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