More to hearing well than just a hearing aid

As part of my day to day work I look at online research on hearing and subsequent rehabilitation treatment. Consequently my browser analyses my search data and I am bombarded with a lot of hearing aid company ads popping up, and in a worrying trend some of these are for online sales. Here is my opinion as well as the Australian Association of Audiologists in Private Practice’s (AAAPP) position statement about online hearing aid purchases.

Firstly, any Australian distributing hearing aid manufacturer that has hearing aids approved for fitting through the Office of Hearing Services (OHS) will not provide their devices to be distributed online. There is no official regulatory body in the private hearing aid industry ensuring that devices have minimum specifications, feature requirements, warranty and servicing arrangements. However almost all reputable hearing aid manufacturers supply their product lines to pensioners/DVA recipients through the Office of Hearing Services scheme, and these devices have to meet a very strict criteria of minimum requirements. If any of these aids are purchased online then they will automatically lose all their warranty and product support from the manufacturer. So if you purchase a set of OHS accredited hearing aids online you will have no warranty or service options on the devices themselves.

Secondly the hearing aid is only a small portion of what is required to have a successful hearing treatment outcome. If you purchase hearing aids online then you are only gaining a small portion of the treatment plan. Much more important is the input provided by an Audiologist. Audiologists are trained to undertake hearing assessments, diagnose hearing disorders and prescribe treatment plans – just part of which may be the fitting of specifically selected devices, such as hearing aids.

When Audiologists fit hearing aids, they provide tailored counselling and communication training to ensure that you make the most of all listening situations. In order to gain benefit from hearing aids, it is important to have realistic expectations of what the instruments will do for you. This is because some hearing losses cause a simple loss of volume, whereas others cause processing disorders that result in sounds like speech never sounding clear, regardless of which hearing is fitted. Each individual should understand their hearing loss before purchasing hearing aids so that they know what to expect.

Hearing aids do not immediately change how an individual hears – they only change the sound that reaches the ear. It takes time and specialised training for the brain to learn to interpret the sounds delivered by a hearing aid. Some individuals receive more benefit than others, depending on the characteristics of the hearing loss. Audiologists carry out a number of different tests to understand the characteristics of the individual hearing loss you have, and the results are explained to you and reported to a medical doctor if further medical intervention is required. Those results guide any decisions the individual and his or her audiologist will make about if a hearing aid is needed, or which hearing aid is the best solution for your hearing needs.

Purchasing hearing aids without a professional consultation may be cheaper than acquiring them through the professional services of an audiologist, but the essential component that leads to successful rehabilitation will be missed. Some Internet-based companies recommend bypassing the audiologist and determine by themselves if a hearing aid is needed. If you decide to purchase hearing aids online then we suggest you consult an audiologist first and discuss all available treatment options before deciding which approach is best for you.

Remember, Queensland VestibularSolutions offer free, no obligation consultations, which you can book from this site.

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