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Buying Hearing Aids Online: Everything You Need to Know

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Medically Reviewed by Lilach Saperstein, AuD on June 08, 2021
Buying hearing aids online can be safe, but you need to know how to choose the right aid. It’s also helpful to know the difference between online hearing aids, prescription hearing aids, and over-the-counter hearing aids.

Hearing aids are one important part of an overall treatment plan; however, receiving guidance and personalized programing from a qualified hearing healthcare professional, such as an audiologist, will greatly improve your experience and the benefit you receive from the hearing aids.

Still, hearing aids sold online can help you quickly gain better hearing, especially if your doctor has a long waiting list. Buying hearing aids online can also be safe, Thomas Powers, PhD, a hearing loss consultant and managing member of Powers Consulting, LLC, tells WebMD Connect to Care. However, these devices are not regulated to the same degree as either prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.

Who’s Eligible for Hearing Aids Sold Online? 

In 2017, the U.S. government signed the Over the Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 into law. The law requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create guidelines for the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids to correct mild-to-moderate hearing loss. However, these aids are not yet available. Since the law requires OTC hearing aids to become available within 3 years, they should hit the market later in 2021, Powers says. 

For now, though, there are no OTC hearing aids. Instead, the FDA has approved a limited number of devices as direct-to-consumer (DTC) aids, according to a 2019 article published in Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Anyone can buy these devices. You don’t need a doctor or a prescription. Instead, you purchase them online, then test them out at home. 

People with severe hearing loss, however, may not get relief from these devices. Trying to choose the right hearing aid may also be difficult without a professional there to assist you. “The assistance of a hearing care professional in the selection and post-fitting process can be helpful in getting the most benefit from these devices,” Powers says.

How to Buy Hearing Aids Online 

A 2018 Trends in Hearing study asked 126 participants to assess 28 DTC hearing aids as compared to the most popular prescription hearing aid offered by the U.K. National Health Service (NHS). Most devices rated lower than the NHS device. 

In general, the DTC devices offered less flexibility, potentially causing uncomfortably loud noises or low sound quality. So while a DTC hearing aid might be a better option than no hearing aid at all, you may find better results with prescription hearing aids. 

Powers offers the following tips for finding the right online hearing aid: 

  • Choose the style that you think will work best for your lifestyle and comfort level—either in-the-ear or behind-the-ear. 
  • Consider battery options. A rechargeable battery can be helpful if you don’t want to change batteries every 10 to 14 days. 
  • Make sure the company offers a warranty or in-home trial, so you can return the device if it doesn’t work for your needs. 
  • Review device features. A directional microphone, for example, can help you hear better when there is background noise. Some DTC hearing aids also offer feedback reduction, which may help with squeaking noises and other unpleasant sounds. 

Hearing Loss Can Be Managed and Treated

The earlier you address the symptoms of hearing loss, the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage. Get the answers you need to start treatment today.