If you’re reading this post, you’re probably thinking about getting hearing aids. You’re doing what almost everyone does today before they buy a vacuum or TV, or book a vacation or try a new restaurant — you’re doing online research.
You are smart. Consumers today have an abundance of information and reviews at their fingertips. There’s little reason today not to research a product or service before you purchase, particularly if it’s a bigger investment.
And there is no getting around the fact that hearing aids and better hearing are an investment. An investment that can significantly better your life.
This article isn’t about the different makes, models or features of hearing aids. For that, visit our Hearing Aids page. Instead, we’re going to talk about where to get hearing aids and the pros and cons of each.
There are two main options; either from a local hearing professional or from an internet retailer. Let’s compare the two.
The pros of buying hearing aids online
No doubt, buying products online is easy and convenient, and hearing aids are no exception. Ordering from the comfort of your home or office — and having it delivered to you without needing to go anywhere — is pretty much the benefit that online shopping was founded on.
Of course, returning items can quickly negate that benefit if you need to repackage it and take it to a post office or shipping facility. And certain things just beg to be “tried on” first, increasing the likelihood they’ll need to be returned if you don’t. That’s why 30% of all products ordered online are returned, vs. only 9% of products purchased in a store.1
Hearing aid prices
Cost can also be a benefit of buying online. While it’s not the case with every item (especially if there are shipping fees involved), it is when purchasing hearing aids online. In fact, cost is probably the biggest incentive for buying hearing aids on the internet.
Unfortunately, convenience and cost are where the benefits of buying hearing aids from an online retailer end. And even those two aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Convenience is offset by the fact that — to get a hearing aid programmed for your hearing loss — you’ll want a proper evaluation and will need to send in an audiogram, which you can only get by leaving your house and going to a hearing professional. Then there’s that 30% online return rate discussed above. Meaning there’s at least a 1 in 3 chance you’ll want or need to return it. (Probably more for hearing aids bought online due to the “try on” factor.)
Plus, if you need any adjustments made to your hearing aids to optimize comfort and performance, you first need to repackage and ship them to the retailer. Then, it can take weeks to receive the instruments back from an online service.
As for cost, while you’ll most likely find hearing aid prices are less online, most people conclude that what they get in return is not worth the savings. To explain that, let’s move into the benefits of buying hearing aids from a local hearing professional — also known as “the things you don’t get when you buy online.”
The pros of buying hearing aids from a hearing professional
Yes, a hearing aid is a tangible product that you can ship in a box and, in theory, start using after “some assembly required”. But it’s also a high-tech medical device that works best when matched to an individual’s unique physical and lifestyle characteristics, programmed and fine-tuned to their specific hearing needs, and then followed up with and supported by an expert in hearing care.
Just as you wouldn’t be satisfied buying a suit or wedding dress without measurements, consultation and tailoring, nor would you prescribe yourself and know the right dosage of medication needed to treat your specific arthritis, high blood pressure, anxiety, or diabetes, getting a one-size-fits-all hearing aid without consultation from an expert is most likely going to disappoint or not work the way you need it to.
When you buy hearing aids from a hearing professional, you get much more than just a product that makes things louder.
You also get the expert consultation, treatment knowledge and experience, and personalized fitting, support and care that a sensory function as important as hearing deserves — before, during and after you buy your hearing aids.
Before: Testing & Consultation
- Thorough hearing tests — You’ll have an ear examination and clinical tests in a soundproof environment to diagnose and verify what your hearing needs are.
- Audiological evaluation — Your hearing thresholds will be charted on an audiogram, and you’ll be given specific tests to measure listening comfort and understanding in noise.
- Intake interview — You and your provider will discuss details about your day-to-day hearing needs (including the type of work you do, how active you are, what activities you enjoy doing, your style preferences, etc.). You’ll also go your unique hearing challenges, to help you understand how to optimize your overall communication, not just your hearing.
During: Products & Fitting
- Product selection — Based on your test results, interview, and even unique ear-specific characteristics, your provider will show you solution options that fit your needs in the best way possible.
- Product test drive — While in the office, you may be able to try out and test different styles and technology options so you can hear what impact hearing aids will make.
- Expert fitting — Once a product and style are selected, your provider will program and fine-tune your hearing aids to your specific needs and sound preferences. Each ear is like a fingerprint; every person is different and requires an exact fit to maximize success.
- Solution demonstration — Your provider will show you how to use and care for your hearing aids, and answer any questions you have, so you are comfortable with them and can keep them in tip-top shape.
- Treatment consultation — Your provider will walk you through expectations and next steps, and give you additional resources or tools, so that you feel comfortable as you regain your hearing senses.
After: Follow-Up & Support
- Trial period and follow-up visits — Wearing hearing aids takes some time getting used to and sometimes requires minor adjustments and fine tuning — all covered under your trial period to maximize comfort and ensure success.
- After-care needs — Your provider will be a one-stop shop for warranty and payment plans, tune-ups and maintenance, batteries and other accessories or part replacements. This is like having your mechanic close to you. If anything goes wrong, they can fix the problem quickly.
- Better hearing partner — Your hearing needs change over time, so count on your provider as a go-to resource for all things hearing, including answers to hearing loss questions, personalized treatment plan updates, new technology demos and more.
Hearing your best is proven to positively impact many areas of your life, from your physical health to your social, psychological and mental well-being. It deserves more than just finding a good deal. It deserves the attention, care and custom-fit solution that only a hearing professional is trained and experienced to provide.
This blog was originally published on Starkey.com.