Online shopping is becoming more and more popular- but it is not appropriate for all purchases. There are some purchases, especially those in which service is necessary to make the purchase be a successful one, which should not be completed online. To be bold, and to the point: hearing aids should not be purchased online.
In order to be successful with amplification, it is important to work closely with a professional who has been educated on hearing loss and hearing aid fittings. Better hearing cannot be achieved with the simple purchase of hearing aids- that is just the tip of the iceberg. When considering amplification, a professional is needed to guide you through the options and help choose the instruments that are best for your hearing loss, lifestyle and communication needs. A professional is then needed to work closely with you for proper programming, fitting and counseling in order to ensure that the correct instruments have been chosen. Follow-up is not only important during the first few weeks of hearing aid use, but during the entire lifetime.
Typically, audiologists are not able to perform the necessary programming and follow-up services for hearing aids that have been purchased online. There are many reasons that this is not supported. For one, many hearing aids purchased online have been illegally sold there. They may have been reported as lost or stolen and been replaced by the manufacturer to the original user. They also may not be appropriate for the person that is intending to use them. In addition, manufacturers of hearing aids do not support online sales of their products.
Sure, for some purchases, buying online can save a person a lot of money. However, one must consider the overall value of the purchase and how well it meets the intended needs. If someone with hearing loss saves money by buying hearing aids online, but then does not actually see the benefits they were looking for, it ends up being a waste of money. Getting a “good deal” on hearing aids that do not meet the goal of better hearing is definitely not a “good deal.”
Perhaps the manufactures say it best and reiterate many of the points above. Many hearing aid manufacturers have published statements regarding why they are against online hearing aid sales. I leave you with statements from two of the leading hearing aid manufacturers:
Starkey Laboratories reports that they do not engage or support the distribution of their products to Internet retailers. They go on to state, “we are committed to partnering with hearing professionals to achieve the testing, fitting and follow-up services that are critical to successful patient outcomes.” In addition, they have a concern with “these Internet businesses because consumers may experience unethical bait-and-switch selling tactics.”
Siemens: “Our products and the support of our products require professional face-to-face in-person fitting and follow-up.” They go on to add, “hearing health care professionals are an integral part of the appropriate selection, of, delivery of, and satisfaction with Siemens hearing instruments because they can provide many benefits to hearing impaired consumers. For example, hearing health care professionals provide:
- Expert technical understanding of our products to the consumer
- Professional individualized fitting based upon consumer need
- Access to and use of our proprietary professional software fitting systems
- Professional knowledge of hearing loss and hearing rehabilitation.”