Should You Consider Buying Hearing Aids Online?
Hearing aids seem to be getting smaller in size but more expensive. Most hearing aids need replacing after six to seven years, so it’s a cost that is likely to be ongoing throughout your life. Thanks to the convenience of online shopping and the savviness of hearing aid manufacturers, the lowest prices on hearing aids are now found on the web.
Naturally, many people wonder whether purchasing hearing devices online is worth the savings. The truth is that the promise of significant savings might just be too good to be true. Buying affordable devices online instead of an accredited audiology clinic can come at a significant cost to the quality of service you receive. But there’s a way around this! Continue reading to find out more about the pros and cons of buying hearing aids online versus in-clinic.
Why are hearing aids so expensive anyway?
Let’s consider what hearing aids do – because it’s not as simple as making everything louder. In modern hearing aids, the sound is picked up by a microphone and then analysed by a tiny but highly effective computer. This sound is decoded into frequency bands, and the speech is separated from the background noise. The more expensive the hearing aid, the more frequency bands the sound is divided into and the higher quality the analysis is.
Once the sound is analysed, the hearing aid will attempt to retain speech sounds and reduce background noise. The accuracy in which the hearing aids do this is also highly dependent on the level of technology. Basic or entry-level hearing aids amplify everything. In contrast, high-tech hearing aids can reduce noise from different directions or noise sources.
After the sound is analysed and processed, it is then amplified according to your hearing loss. For best results, fine-tuning should be done face-to-face by your audiologist. They can also fit the hearing aids taking the shape of your ears into account. When purchasing your hearing aids at Attune Hearing audiology clinics, the price of your hearing test, fitting and adjustment is included in the cost of your hearing aids. Many online offers will not have these necessary services, resulting in a rude (and expensive) awakening.
- Hearing aids also amplify different sounds independently. So they should be optimised for speech volume sounds to make softer sounds more audible and dampen down louder sounds.
- Hearing aids eliminate feedback or “whistling”, which is a constant and evolving process while the hearing aids are turned on.
- Hearing aids are essentially little tiny computers – and the best bit is – all of this sound processing is done in a split-second for you to hear speech in real-time!
How do you choose the right hearing aid?
If you search online, you will find many hearing aids from different brands in various styles. It can be very overwhelming! This is where a face-to-face consultation with an audiologist is unbeatable. Your audiologist will undertake a comprehensive assessment to rule out any medical issues and explain reasonable rehabilitation outcomes based on the diagnosis.
Your audiologist will also discuss your lifestyle and needs to set some communication goals. Based on these, it may be evident you would be better suited to a certain brand or model with specific features, which you may not even consider yourself by purely looking online. It is also true that the physical shape of your ear has a bearing on the right device choice. If you have narrow or bendy ear canals, it can often take time and a few appointments for your Audiologist to work with you to find the most comfortable fitting.
Maybe you have already seen an audiologist and had a product recommended to you, and you have looked online to see if you can get a better price than what was offered in-clinic. What you will find is that most of the online retailers claim to be “transparent” in terms of pricing for hearing aids and aftercare packages, most saying “only pay for what you need”. While this sounds very sensible, it’s important to question that if you are having difficulties with your hearing aids, would you genuinely go back for an appointment knowing you needed to pay a fee (potentially $100+) each time?
How many people do you know who are dissatisfied with their hearing aids or worse – the hearing aids end up “in the drawer”? Aftercare package deals like they are offered by Attune Hearing cover these extra appointments with your audiologist. You won’t know how many follow-ups you will need until you have been fitted. It’s nearly impossible to judge this before you go into a hearing aid fitting, especially for the first time.
When to Purchase A Hearing Aid Online
If you are 100% sure of what you want, purchase hearing aids online
If you’ve had a hearing test and your audiologist has recommended a hearing aid to you, but you find the price too steep, you may choose to do some research online. Some retailers ask you to upload your audiogram and then send the pre-programmed devices directly to you with instructions and videos on using them.
Fine-tuning is often done remotely, so you never have to set foot in a clinic. Other retailers book you in for a face-to-face appointment with an audiologist near you to fit the hearing aids. You may then have a follow-up appointment, either face to face, over the phone or via video call with the audiologist.
Purchasing online is straightforward; hearing loss, however, is not
Rehabilitating hearing loss is complex, and achieving better hearing is not just a matter of wearing a hearing aid. Two people with the same hearing levels on paper can have completely different perceptions of speech and different hearing abilities in background noise, which means they will achieve very different outcomes with the same hearing aid. Just ask any experienced audiologist!
Having a good rapport with your audiologist and having a good aftercare package is worth it in the long run. The cost you pay isn’t just for a product; it’s for the service also, which is often more critical. Your audiologist should provide you with personalised rehabilitation advice, realistic expectations from the start based on your hearing, and communication advice and training.
A hearing aid is truly only as good as the fitting
While hearing aid software is designed to calculate a default amount of volume to give you based on your audiogram, nothing beats having your audiologist measure the hearing aid in your ear using speech. An in-clinic visit with an audiologist is essential for this step (called real ear measures or REM).
When this is performed, you may still not be satisfied with the sound quality and will rely on your audiologist’s expertise and feedback to adjust the hearing aids accordingly. This process can take a few appointments where changes are made, then you need to try hearing aids in the real world instead of your audiologist’s sound-proof office.
If you purchase hearing aids online and aren’t happy with them, sometimes it’s challenging to get a second opinion from a different audiologist. Many clinics will not service hearing aids purchased elsewhere or charge you a high fee to take you on as a client. In addition, if you are buying hearing aids from overseas, there is a good chance they won’t be programmed in Australia.
Wrapping it up
While you can certainly purchase cheap hearing aids online, it is essential to consider the big picture. Thoroughly check the hearing aid package’s inclusions and inquire about any future appointments or maintenance costs.
Make sure there is an option to see an audiologist face-to-face if you need to. The cost you pay shouldn’t just include the hearing aids. Having a good rapport with your local audiologist is priceless!
To book a comprehensive hearing test or inquire about hearing aids, don’t hesitate to contact the team at your local Attune Hearing clinic via 1300 736 702 or make your appointment online.