Should I buy my hearing aids online?

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This is a question that I get several times a day.  Many people will go get a hearing test, see what their hearing healthcare professional recommends, and then come home to do some research online.  Upon researching the aids online, people come across advertisements and opportunities to purchase hearing aids online, whether it be from an online dealer or from a person who is selling aids (perhaps from a loved one who is deceased, or maybe for someone who had a change of hearing and is no longer a candidate for the aids they had).

Purchasing hearing aids online can be a difficult and frustrating task, but every once in a while a good deal can be found.  Please keep in mind that this is more of a rarity than it is the norm.

Buying Used Aids Online

People sell barely used hearing aids online all the time.  eBay and other similar venues will have hearing aids listed on there by manufacturer and model.  For someone who is looking to replace an older aid, or maybe one got lost or chewed up by the dog, this can be a viable option.  It would be important to make sure that the hearing aid is a BTE (behind-the-ear), Open Fit, or RIC (receiver-in-the-canal) style of instrument.  Avoid any custom products, as the likelihood that they will be a good fit for another person’s ears are slim to none.  Buying used aids online is always a risk…diseases can be passed from person to person through earwax and other bodily products, there’s no way to tell how well the person selling the aids took care of them, and it can be challenging to find a hearing healthcare professional who is willing and able to program the hearing aids if purchased online.  Please…before putting someone else’s used hearing aid in your own ear, take it to a hearing healthcare provider who can show you how to properly clean and sterilize the device.

Buying New Aids Online

Some hearing aid dealers and insurance groups do have the option of selling hearing aids online these days.  They will require the patient to send in an audiogram (and sometimes an ear impression) and then they program the aids based off of the test results and send them back to the patient.  The problem with this particular model is that the service component is a huge part of getting a hearing aid, so if one orders new aids online and they are uncomfortable or don’t work properly, are too loud or not loud enough…one must send them back to the place from whence they came and hope that when they get them back in a few weeks, things are better.  Once again, one of the major pitfalls of this particular model is finding a local provider who can help you with learning to use the aids.

A few points to consider:

  • Research the aids.  If it seems like it’s a deal that is too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Before purchasing anything, contact local hearing health providers.  Ask them “How much do you charge to program a hearing aid I didn’t buy from you/that I bought online/that I bought used?”  Ask them if they charge per device or if the quote is for two aids.  Ask them what they charge for each follow up visit.  Ask them if they have the necessary software to program your aid, and if not, ask them what they will charge you to get it.  Then, add all these costs to whatever the price is on the computer screen.  THAT is the new cost of your “great deal” hearing aid.
  • If buying a used aid, find out what area of the country or what climate it’s coming from.  Find out how old it is, who used it and how much.  Find out why they aren’t using it anymore.  Ask what battery size it takes, if there is a case included, if there are cleaning tools included, etc.

Buying aids online is definitely not for everyone, but it does come up and in certain situations it may be a viable option.  More often than not, though, it’s one of those deals that seems almost too good to be true

Mike