Over the past twenty years that I have been in practice, I have seen numerous patients that did not obtain their hearing aids from me. They end up in my office for many different reasons. Sometimes they are new to the area or the office they went to is no longer open or maybe they just aren’t satisfied with how they are hearing and they want another opinion. Too often, they have been living with a fixable problem but, because they didn’t know where to go or were afraid that they would be told they needed to buy new hearing aids, they put off seeking help. Frequently, these patients leave my office with smiles on their faces and relief in their eyes because the problem was as simple as changing an earmold tube or a wax filter. Other times, the solution is reprogramming or making an adjustment to their hearing aids.
Often, a patient is surprised when I tell them that I want to try adjusting their hearing aids before assuming new hearing aids are the solution. Afterwards, they are amazed with the improvement in how they are hearing. “I thought you were going to tell me I had to get new hearing aids” is a phrase I commonly hear. I believe in trying to fix and/or work with a patient’s current hearing aids before recommending new ones. Not only does this guarantee that no stone has been left unturned but, if new hearing aids end up being the best solution, their current aids will be available as a functional back-up set.
There are hundreds of great hearing aid options available, but all of them are only as good as the person programming them. This is important to remember because there are an increasing number of people who are opting to bypass the audiologist and purchase hearing aids online or through some sort of mail order company and it is only a matter of time before hearing aids will be sold over the counter. This may seem like a better, cheaper solution than being fit through a professional, but consumers are going to quickly discover that is not the reality.
Any hearing aid, no matter the price, that isn’t fit properly, is not a deal. When hearing aids are purchased through an audiologist, he or she spends time finding out the patient’s listening and communication difficulties and looking for a solution that is most appropriate for their lifestyle. During the fitting process, the patient is counseled on expectations and shown how to care for and use their hearing aids. Measurements are performed to verify the fit is correct and modifications and adjustments are made to ensure the best possible outcome. Follow-up appointments are made to fine tune the settings and answer questions. If there is a difficulty, the audiologist is usually just a phone call or short drive away and can address the problem is a timely manner.
A budget conscious consumer may falsely assume that, once they buy a hearing aid online, that they can have it fit locally. Due to liability issues, I know of no audiologists that will service hearing aids that were not obtained through a professional hearing care office. I can usually tell just by looking at a hearing aid that it was bought commercially but, if in doubt, hearing aids have identifiers that will indicate where and when it was purchased. I have had patients schedule an appointment for a hearing aid evaluation after having tried a “cheaper” solution because they discovered firsthand that you get what you pay for.