In Australia, hearing loss is experienced by 10% of the population – over 2.4 million people. Hearing loss is one of the top five chronic health conditions experienced among older adults in Australia. We have seen a growing body of evidence and really understand the importance of how hearing aids can help the older population, not only to manage their hearing loss, but to maintain their overall health and independent lifestyle. Thus, the benefits of hearing aids go beyond just hearing better.
Yet despite the known benefits from using hearing aids, only 20% of people with hearing loss use hearing aids. There are many contributing factors for people not getting hearing aids, with the main cause being the high cost.
To save money, people are turning to the internet to look for less expensive options, which in more and more cases means bypassing qualified and experienced industry specialists – the Audiologists and Audiometrist. Remember, hearing aids are a medical device designed to treat a medical problem. So even though the internet can offer a range of cheaper alternatives, customers must be aware of the risks and disadvantages.
Are you buying an unsuitable product?
Quite often I have seen clients in my clinic who have purchased a hearing device from the internet that they would like me to prescribe to their hearing loss. Unfortunately, in many cases these people have wasted their money on the device they show me.
The most common risk appears to be eBay. On eBay there are a wide range of devices purporting to be hearing aids. Most are not. What these clients bring to me are often crude devices that cannot be prescribed to their hearing thresholds. Many are very old technology that have no service support within Australia.
In one recent case, I was shown a custom in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid that my client had purchased on eBay for over $700. He was devastated when I explained that custom hearing aids are like false teeth, they can only be used by the person they were uniquely made for. He had wasted his money on someone else’s old hearing aid with no chance of a refund.
Products from overseas may not be supported in Australia
The second most common disadvantage is buying a hearing device from overseas. eBay and other international audiology websites supply hearing device brands and models that is not available directly in Australia. Thus, there is no software available to Australian audiologists to be able to program and tune the hearing aids in a clinical setting.
Furthermore, there is typically no company office in Australia that can provide warranty repairs or servicing. Should anything need a repair then the hearing aids must be shipped to the country of purchase. This can not only be expensive, but the timeframe can be months before the hearing aid is repaired and returned.
What should you be looking for with online purchases?
All successful outcomes from using hearing aids begins with professional guidance online, on the phone and face-to-face. This holds true whether a hearing aid is sourced through an audiology clinic or via the internet. Ongoing care and support throughout the months and years of using your hearing aids is also very important.
Reputable, local online audiology sites should have in-house audiologists to offer professional advice and support. You should find one that can also provide you choice, so a hearing aid solution that best meets your needs is sourced.
Furthermore, they should be supported by established audiology clinics, where you are provided face-to-face professional support and service from an Audiologist/Audiometrist and their extended team.
If you’re unsure or have questions about purchasing a hearing aid online, feel free to contact us!