Hearing aids that can be purchased online or through retailors, also known as direct to consumer hearing aids, have become more common over the past couple of years. These hearing aids are marketed as “ready to be used upon purchase”, “can be self fitted at home”, or “does not require a visit to a clinician for a fitting”.

Online buyer beware!

Hearing aids are medical devices that should be fitted using evidence-based guidelines for optimal success. These fittings should be carried out by a hearing health professional based on an accurate hearing evaluation and consultation. There is some appeal for “virtual” appointments however they are only appropriate in certain situations. Completing a hearing evaluation and initially fitting hearing aids are not one of these situations. If this is offered, it should raise a red flag.

I was recently made aware of a situation that was a cause of great concern. An online company sent a tablet, among some other equipment, with a pair of hearing aids to a potential client. The hearing aids were fit improperly, and the patient had an extremely poor hearing outcome. This online company was asking $5000.00 for the hearing aids. Talk about more cost for less service and expertise.

There are certain aspects of a hearing evaluation and fitting that can only be done in person. Omitting these aspects could not only affect the way your hearing aids sound but could also affect your health. Without a proper hearing evaluation, crucial information requiring a referral to the ENT (ears, nose, and throat) specialist could be missed. Hearing aids that are fit poorly also have the potential to negatively affect your hearing health long term. Remember, when you are purchasing hearing aids you are not only purchasing the devices but the service and expertise that comes with those devices.

Your hearing health is not something you should cut corners on. At the very least, you have the right to be made aware of the potential negative outcomes of purchasing your hearing aids online. Only then can you make an informed decision.