Choosing a hearing aid and the person to fit and adjust the hearing aids can be a difficult decision. In the state of Arizona, there are two licensed professionals who can sell and fit hearing aids: a hearing aid dispenser and a dispensing audiologist.
A hearing aid dispenser will often say that an audiologist’s education concentrates on the diagnostic procedures, whereas the dispenser is a hearing instrument specialist. That may have been true many decades ago but in addition to diagnostics, audiologists study hearing aid amplification and technology in the university setting. Many of the professionals developing new hearing aid technologies and the professionals from the hearing aid manufacturers training the hearing aid dispensers… are audiologists.
The Business of Selling Hearing Aids
Unfortunately, there are people who do not provide ethical services. People may be sold what they think are “high end” hearing aids and received a “low end” model. Ask questions if you “feel the push” from the person selling you hearing aids or you feel your interests and concerns are not being addressed then take a step back and think about it.
No matter who you are working with, remember that person is a salesman. Do not worry about hurting someone’s feelings; it is a business decision you are making. It is appropriate to ask the person to write down the exact make and model of hearing aid you are about to purchase and then go online to learn more about the particulars of that hearing aid. If someone is hesitant to give you that information, do not purchase a product from him or her. You want to know if the aid you are purchasing is actually the aid with the features for which you are paying. Ask to be shown the place on the aid where the make and model are stamped. You may need to use a magnifier to see the information but check it anyway. If there is no information printed on the aid, do not purchase that aid!
Low Priced Hearing Aids
You may see ads that advertise low priced hearing aids but show the picture of an expensive, high-end model aid. The ads may mention features that are in the high-end model as if they are included in the lower-priced model. Hearing aid model names are not common knowledge and most consumers would never know which model is better. The low price is to get your attention and get you in the door. Bait and switch!
There is a consumer brochure about hearing aids and buying hearing aids that may help guide you. It is available at: www.dca.ca.gov/hearingaid/consumers/brochure.pdf
Mail Order/Internet Hearing Aids
The following information was taken directly from the CA Department of Consumer Affairs website: www.dca.ca.gov/hearingaid/consumers/mail_order.shtml
Purchasing a hearing aid by mail order/Internet may seem inexpensive, but there could be hidden costs. I am using the California information because Arizona does not yet have protection in place for its residents. California is ahead of the curve.
- California law stipulates that mail order/Internet hearing aids may only be purchased through a dispenser licensed by the California Hearing Aid Dispensers Bureau.
- The Calif. law states that when hearing aids are purchased by mail order/Internet, there must be no fitting, selection or adaptation of the instrument.
- By law, the seller may give no advice with respect to the taking of an ear impression (ear impressions are made to ensure the proper fit of a hearing aid on some models of hearing aids).
- The Calif. law requires that prior to purchasing a hearing aid through mail order or the Internet; you must provide a statement signed by a physician, audiologist or a licensed dispenser that verifies direct examination of your ear.
- To work effectively, hearing aids must fit correctly. If a mail-order/Internet sale doesn’t involve personal contact with a licensed dispenser, it’s difficult for you to benefit from a proper fitting.
- Follow-up evaluation is important to ensure the hearing aid is working appropriately and meeting your needs. That evaluation is probably not available if you buy online.
- It may be difficult to get a refund from an out-of-state seller.
- Always deal with a licensed hearing aid dispenser or dispensing audiologist to take best advantage of Arizona’s consumer-protection laws. Ask the dispenser if he or she is licensed in Arizona, call the Bureau or check the Bureau’s Web site to verify license status.
- Read the fine print on advertisements. If a pitch seems “too good to be true,” it probably is. FBN
Karon Lynn is a doctor of audiology and practices at Trinity Hearing Center. She has 30 years of experience working
with hearing impaired individuals. Dr. Lynn may be reached at 928-522-0500, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dr. Karon Lynn, Au.D.