Here is a reposting of a good article I saw today on selecting hearing aids published by the Jackson Sun. Good advice all around as you select a hearing aid provider. The original posting can be seen here: http://www.jacksonsun.com/article/20120727/BUSINESS/307270008?gcheck=1&nclick_check=1
The Better Business Bureau doesn’t get a lot of complaints about hearing aids, but the ones we do get tend to be difficult. One fellow said that his kept falling out because it wasn’t properly fitted and that the provider blamed it on the movement of his jaw when he ate and spoke.
According to AARP, nearly two-thirds of people 70 or older have experienced mild to severe hearing loss, but only one-fifth use hearing aids. It cites a study by Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging that found people with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Reasons for not getting hearing aids range from vanity to not knowing how to do it.
A medical examination can determine if a loss of hearing is caused by an underlying illness or other medical condition. The law requires that patients planning to buy hearing aids get a medical exam or sign a waiver saying they don’t want one. The Food and Drug Administration strongly recommends that you get the exam and you should be wary of advertisements that dismiss the need for one.
You should consult one or more hearing health professionals when considering the purchase of a hearing aid. They may include:
• An otolaryngologist, a physician who specializes in treating diseases of the head and neck.
• An audiologist, a trained professional who measures hearing loss and can fit hearing aids.
• A hearing aid dispenser, a person authorized and trained to measure hearing and to fit and sell hearing aids.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends asking the following questions before buying a hearing aid:
• Which type and style of hearing aids would most meet my needs?
• What special features do my hearing aids need to have to fit my lifestyle?
• Will I need one or two hearing aids?
• What is the total cost of the hearing aids?
• Do the benefits of newer technologies outweigh the higher costs?
• Is there a trial or adjustment period for me to try out the hearing aids? (Most manufacturers allow a trial/adjustment period during which aids can be returned for a refund.)
• What fees are nonrefundable if I return the hearing aids after the trial/adjustment period?
• How long is the warranty? Can it be extended?
• What is covered during the period of warranty? Does the warranty cover future maintenance and repairs? Will loaner aids be provided when repairs are needed?
• How should I care for my hearing aids?
You also should understand the difference between a hearing aid and a personal sound amplification device. The latter is a device that’s used to amplify hard-to-hear sounds by people with normal hearing. The Federal Trade Commission says it might be helpful if you’re sitting in the back of a lecture hall or eating in a crowded restaurant — or bird-watching — but should not be a substitute for a hearing aid if your hearing is impaired.
The FTC also says that buying a hearing aid online or through the mail is risky. It needs to be custom fitted and tested to be sure it works properly. Check out any provider with the BBB.
Randy Hutchinson is president and chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South.