State audiology group warns patients about purchasing hearing aids over InternetThe Minnesota Academy of Audiology (MAA), an organization representing audiologists within the state, is actively warning hearing healthcare consumers that the purchase of hearing aids over the Internet may have serious consequences to their health.
The Minnesota Academy of Audiology (MAA), an organization representing audiologists within the state, is actively warning hearing healthcare consumers that the purchase of hearing aids over the Internet may have serious consequences to their health.
The sale of any hearing device, whether a personal sound amplifier or hearing aid, without the diagnostic and rehabilitative services of a qualified, licensed professional puts the consumer at risk, according to the MAA.
Consumers require instruction on the use and care of their new instruments as well as rehabilitative counseling to ensure a successful hearing aid fitting, the MAA said. Independent research conducted by the Better Hearing Institute has shown that patient satisfaction with hearing aids increases with the amount of time spent in counseling. This is best achieved through face-to-face interaction between the professional and consumer and is not offered by most online or mail-order retailers.
According to Shilpi Banerjee, PhD, President of MAA, “Research supports the fact that the knowledge and expertise of audiologists adds significant value to the rehabilitative process, which includes hearing aids.” A recent Consumer Reports article on hearing devices cited the professional as the single most important factor in successful hearing aid fitting. To remove the professional is to harm the consumer.
Only licensed audiologists or certified hearing instrument dispensers are permitted to conduct hearing evaluations and to dispense hearing aids in the state of Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health recently released a statement warning that purchasing hearing aids online is not in the consumers’ best interest, “because not all persons are assumed to be good candidates for a hearing aid.”
This is because audiologists must ensure a patient’s hearing loss is not due to medical or surgical conditions. Unfortunately for the consumer, a simple online hearing test does not successfully identify hearing loss that can be treated medically. The online hearing test is subject to the variability of equipment, environment and methods that consumers have or use in their home and also fails to achieve a thorough patient history and physical examination of the ears, as recommended by both MDH and the FDA.
MAA joins a number of professional, consumer and governmental organizations – including the American Academy of Audiology, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the Better Hearing Institute, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration – in warning patients about the dangers of bypassing a hearing healthcare provider. Even hearing aid manufacturers, such as Minnesota-based Starkey and Resound have spoken out against the practice of direct to consumer hearing aid sales, citing concerns about improper fittings and difficulty obtaining support, adjustments, and repairs.
“Ultimately,” says Dr. Banerjee, “We encourage consumers to do the research using reputable sources such as the FDA, Minnesota Department of Health, National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and consult an audiologist before making a final decision.”