2006-04-21 / Community

A Quiet Word About Buying Hearing Aids

by Dr. Carol Letzter

Are you considering the purchase of a hearing aid? If you have made the decision to improve your hearing ability with the assistance of a hearing aid, then there are several important points you should consider prior to making a decision as to which type of hearing aid you should be fitted with.

First point- remember that the fitting of a hearing aid should be carried out by a licensed Audiologist who has specialized training in the diagnosis and measurement of hearing loss. The Audiologist will be able to determine your candidacy for amplification as well, as to which style hearing aid will be most beneficial for your particular needs. Following your consultation with your Audiologist, you will have to consider several key points about the hearing aid before a final decision is made. To begin with, you must decide if you would like to be fitted with a hearing aid in both ears. Not every patient is a candidate for wearing two hearing aids. You will next have to consider the style of the hearing aid or aids that are best suited for your individual needs. Remember, hearing aids come in a variety of sizes. Some fit directly into your ear canal and some sit behind your ear. Even though it is very appealing to try the smallest size hearing aid, the smallest may not always be best for you. For instance, some patients have arthritic hands, making it very difficult to manipulate the tiny controls in the hearing aid.

After you have thought about the size of the hearing aid it is important to consider the type of amplification. Hearing aids have a variable price range and there is a hearing aid available that will suit anyone's budget. You must remember that the smaller the hearing aid the higher the price and also the more complex the hearing aid the higher the price. Digital hearing aids, which are considered computer programmable, will be the most expensive versus hearing aids, which are non-programmable and can be offered at a less expensive price.

Finally, you must know your rights prior to purchasing a hearing aid. There are both federal laws as well as state laws, which have been enforced to protect your rights as well as your safety. Federal laws state that you must be seen by both a medical doctor as well as the audiologist prior to the purchase of a hearing aid. You as the patient have the right to waive these requirements but it is not advised. New York State law requires that each new hearing aid wearer be provided with a 45-day trial period, which begins after the actual purchase.

As an audiologist in the field for more than 20 years, I commend an individual for taking into consideration how a hearing aid will enhance their lives. I also feel an obligation to protect a potential user to the possible drawbacks as well as the advantages of purchasing a new hearing aid. Therefore, please consider all of the above factors. In addition, do not hesitate to include family members in the final decision process.

The key point to remember is that every individual has unique needs and no two individual's needs are the same. A hearing aid is fitted on the basis of the individual's needs specific to him/ her and the fitting is not based on cosmetic features alone.

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