Why cheap hearing aids are never a good idea

Googling “cheap hearing aids” turns up dozens of hearing assistant devices for as little as $20 and it’s easy to see how a customer might be tempted into purchasing one.  Several “big box” stores have also entered the hearing aid industry by providing name brands for discount prices.

As audiologists who have been in the hearing healthcare field for years, we’d like to discuss why purchasing a cheap hearing aid is never a good idea!

One very important word: Service

Hearing aid vendors who sell at discount prices have fewer resources left over for service and as hearing aids become more high-tech, getting the right fit and adjustments is often the difference between success and failure for the hearing aid wearer.

No two individuals’ hearing losses are exactly the same and a trained audiologist has access to a wide variety of models and can help the user select the best one for the user’s specific hearing loss. Along with patient-specific hearing aids, trained audiologists will also know about special products for tinnitus or single-sided deafness as well as how to make products work together to make talking on the phone or hearing the TV easier.

Don’t cut corners on hearing aid fit and adjustment

Once the correct hearing aid has been chosen, a dedicated audiologist makes sure the device fits properly and shows the wearer how to put it on, clean and maintain it for longevity. The trained audiologist also helps adjust the hearing aid’s programs to provide the best fit for the user and their personal preferences and/or lifestyle. These adjustments require a trained hand since the advances in hearing aids in recent years have made them high-tech devices.

Cutting corners on hearing aid fit and adjustments can mean that the user won’t be able to utilize the hearing device to its full potential. It can also mean the hearing aid will be uncomfortable, and in turn, worn less often.

Disadvantages of buying cheap hearing aids

Cheaper hearing aids bought online are often less sophisticated. Many provide only sound amplification, which doesn’t distinguish between the different types of sounds: conversations versus music versus background noise. Even the higher-quality hearing aids you can purchase online don’t come with the hands-on, custom fitting of a trained expert and definitely don’t offer any in-person support and ongoing professional relationship the way a dedicated audiologist can.

Having a friendly, familiar face who knows the wearer’s medical history that answers questions and provides support is particularly important for older users of hearing aids. Some online vendors do provide an online “chat” function for questions, and can adjust hearing aids that are sent back to them, but this can involve a lot of unnecessary runs back and forth to the post office.

What you get from an audiologist

Dedicated and trained audiologists are experts at hearing device selection, fitting, and precise adjustment that maximizes the hearing aids’ high-tech features. Patients who visit an audiologist enjoy the benefits of a trained professional’s training, time, and personal attention.  Those who try to get a deal on hearing aids may find themselves with low-quality, ill-fitting hearing aids they wear infrequently and have to replace regularly – and ultimately not saving much money at all.