When purchasing a hearing aid, it is important to make sure you’re buying a verified and regulated device that is clinically designed to treat your type and severity of hearing loss. Because there are a variety of devices on the market, finding a trusted source to buy your hearing aid from is essential to effectively managing your hearing loss. Here are 3 ways you can buy a hearing aid.
Through an Audiologist
An audiologist is a licensed specialist clinically trained to diagnose hearing disorders and manage hearing loss, often with the use of hearing aids. According to Consumer Reports, audiologists can be found at private practices, at wholesale clubs like Costco, or at stores owned by hearing aid manufacturers, such as Oticon, Phonak, ReSound, Starkey and Widex.
The best way for consumers to buy hearing aids is through a licensed audiologist, “specifically one who uses the gold standard in verification—probe microphone measures—to ensure the amplification is best suited to benefit the individual," Carolyn Smaka, AuD, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
Probe microphone measurements, also called real-ear measurements, involve taking measurements while you wear your hearing aids. The settings are adjusted to your individual level of hearing loss.
“If hearing aids are set and then not verified in this way, they may be underfit,” meaning there is not enough amplification to allow you to understand speech clearly, “or overfit,” meaning there is too much amplification, which can cause discomfort and risk hearing damage, Smaka says.
Through a Hearing Aid Dispenser
You can also purchase hearing aids through a hearing aid dispenser. While hearing aid dispensers cannot diagnose hearing disorders, they are trained and state-licensed to administer hearing evaluations and fit hearing aids.
Your dispenser will typically verify the hearing aids through probe microphone measures. Like audiologists, hearing aid dispensers “can program hearing aids to enhance speech and significantly reduce background noise, which are two of the most common complaints of hearing loss,” Lindsay Hobbs, AuD, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) or Online
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Hearing Disorders (NIDCD), patients with mild to moderate hearing loss will soon be able to purchase OTC hearing aids.
A federal law passed in 2017 directs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put regulations in place to ensure the safety and effectiveness of OTC hearing aids. But because there are currently no regulations in place for OTC or online sales, the devices you purchase through these means may actually be hearing amplifiers rather than true hearing aids.
“Hearing amplifiers are not designed to enhance speech clarity, adjust background noise levels, or be frequency specific in sound enhancement,” Hobbs says. These devices are not regulated to treat hearing loss and simply amplify sound intensity.
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.