Hearing Devices On Line
This time of year, it's easy to join the millions of people shopping online to save time and money.
However, there's at least one thing you should never purchase on line: hearing devices.
“To get a hearing device that is customized for your particular hearing needs, you should visit a hearing specialist with an audiologist on staff,” said Dr. Frieda Toback, Director of Audiology at McGuire's Hearing Aids and Audiological Services.
“Purchasing a device without the guidance of a trained, licensed professional means the hearing device you purchase may be ineffective, and it's possible it can even damage your hearing even further,” she warned.
Dr. Toback added that hearing devices require programming from a professional. “Programming involves two-way communication: hearing professionals adjust devices based on what a patient indicates they hear,” she explained. “If a patient buys a hearing device on line, who programs it, and how is this accomplished without patient feedback? And if there's a problem that occurs, who resolves that problem, or services the device?”
Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules, an online hearing aid retailer must receive a statement signed by an audiologist indicating that a prospective buyer has had a medical evaluation for hearing loss within the past six months. Hearing aid retailers may sell hearing aids directly to adults with a medical evaluation waiver. Legal requirements for a medical evaluation waiver are explained in FDA regulations. The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Section 801.421 requires that these three conditions must be satisfied:
- The potential customer must be informed that doing a waiver is NOT in the customer's best interest
- The retailer does NOT encourage the customer to submit a medical evaluation waiver
- The retailer provides the customer a statement to sign indicating that that they are aware that a medical evaluation is in their best health interest and they waive the requirement to have a medical evaluation.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association cautions consumers that they should not buy hearing aids by mail order or online because doing so may mean bypassing crucial parts of the audiological evaluation process such as testing and fitting that is needed in order to maximize the benefit from the hearing aid.
“Reputable hearing device manufacturers work closely with distributors to ensure that the devices are programmed and maintained correctly,” Dr. Toback stated. “Hearing devices are classified as medical products in the U.S., not as 'off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all' solutions for people with hearing loss.”
Lastly, Dr. Toback cautioned that she has some patients who had purchased devices online prior to coming to McGuire's.
“One of my best source for referrals is online hearing aid retailers. I have several patients who have come to me for help because the online hearing providers haven't been effective,” she concluded.