Buying Hearing Aids Online

Our experts share everything you need to know to find the perfect fit.

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Did you work around loud machines? Wear Walkman headphones while jogging? Grow up listening to Kiss and Led Zeppelin with the volume turned up to 11? Have you lived in a city all your life?

If you're one of the 76 million baby boomers retiring in the next 20 years, there's a good chance your ears have taken a beating. Our society is noisier than ever. Prolonged or loud noise causes people to lose their hearing.

The bad news: Over 31 million people in this country experience hearing loss. Over 30 million are exposed to harmful noises on a regular basis. And nearly 40% of Americans with hearing loss are under 65.

The good news: New advances in digital hearing aids help baby boomers. Improve your senior living. How? Let's find out.

Not Your Parents' Hearing Aid

Over six million Americans use hearing aids. Unfortunately, 24 million with hearing loss do not. Maybe they don't want to “feel” or “look” like a geezer. Maybe they think it's too big a hassle. Maybe they're still in denial. Whatever the reason, today's digital hearing aids are easy to buy, fit and adjust. They are comfortable and not as clunky as they once were. In addition, these hearing aids are nearly invisible.

Fitting is easy with an “open-fit” digital hearing aid. In the past, an audiologist would make a silicon mold of your ear for a custom fit. Today's open-fit and speaker-in-the-ear models require no molds and only minor tweaks for a custom fit.

Like fittings, hearing aid performance adjustments would take a visit to an audiologist's office. The adjustments would be made and you'd be on your way. But adjusting in an office for real world hearing was rarely prefect. Often times, you'd have to make another trip back for a re-adjustment.

Now, however, you can program (adjust) your hearing aid from home with computer software. With some software, you can type a query like “Conversations are muffled”. Then the software automatically adjusts the hearing aid for you. Easy. In other instances, the hearing aid vendor can make the adjustments, then email you the adjustment file to download. Simple.

Shopping for hearing aids is easy with the internet. You can do an apples to apples comparison of features, benefits, and brands from dozens of retailers. Plus, by shopping online you can save up to 15%, which can amount to $500 depending on the brand.

Why Get a Hearing Aid?

Okay. You know your hearing isn't what it used to be. The TV is cranked. You ask friends to repeat their words more often than not. Talking on the phone is a burden (at least for the receiver). So you get a hearing aid and turn the TV lower. You hear people in conversation. Is it really worth it?

A report by the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology said: “Hearing aid use greatly improves adults' health-related quality of life by reducing psychological, social and emotional effects of hearing loss — an insidious and potentially devastating chronic health condition.” A compelling reason, right?

National Institute on Aging study found that the greater the hearing loss, the higher the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's. People who experienced hearing loss were five times more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing.

One of the researchers, Frank Lin, M.D., explained it this way to the AARP: ‘If you are out to dinner with friends at a busy restaurant and it's very, very loud, by the time you get home you're exhausted, because you spend so much time trying to think about the words people are saying, to decipher everything.'

Buy Hearing Aids Online

Do you have trouble hearing the table conversation in a crowded restaurant? Do your phone conservations often have, “I'm sorry, can you repeat that?” When your kids come over do they say, “Your TV sure is loud?”

With a hearing aid, you can make senior living simpler for yourself and those around you. Consider buying hearing aids online. It's easier than you think and could save you hundreds dollars.

Before you start shopping, let's look at some things you should know.

First Steps

Before you can buy hearing aids online, you'll need a hearing test with a professional audiologist. The audiologist tests your hearing at different frequencies. You'll be tested to see what the softest sound you can hear at each frequency is.

Your audiologist can then make recommendations about size, brand, and comfort. For example, do you want a device that is small and discreet? While nice, they are harder to adjust and easier to lose. This information will be helpful when shopping online for hearing aids.

Audiogram

Your hearing test results will show up as an audiogram. This is a chart showing different frequencies (high and low pitches) and intensity (quiet and loud). Your hearing range will be graphed compared to “normal” hearing like the below example.

Buying Hearing Aides Online

This audiogram is needed before you can buy a hearing aid online. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says you must provide the hearing aid seller a doctor-signed statement that you had the hearing test within the last six months.

Shopping Online: What to Look for

Like any product on the web, there are hundreds of hearing aid sellers out there – some good, some not so good. First, check to see if the company is a member in good standing of the Better Business Bureau.

Here are some specific considerations when buying hearing aids online.

Trial Periods

  • Most states require a trial period of 30 to 60 days. During this period, wear the hearing aid to see if it's comfortable and effective.
  • Ask about their refund policy. Ask about return fees—some may charge a 10% restocking fee. Don't order hearing aids online until you know their trial period policy. Get it in writing (email) if it's not on their website.

Hearing Aid Warranty

  • Ask how long their warranty is and what's included such as repairs and loss. Ask what the common repairs are and how much they cost to fix.
  • Is this company authorized to sell this particular brand? If not, the hearing aid vendor may not honor the warranty.
  • If you need to send it back, how long will the repair take? Ideally, it shouldn't be longer than a week. Do they offer “loaner” hearing aids to use while yours is being repaired?
  • Get their warranty in writing.

Other Considerations

  • Ask about programming costs. Will they provide a set number of adjustments before charging you?
  • Can you program your hearing aid online? Or will you have to take it somewhere?

Hearing Aid Companies

The following are some of the best hearing aid brands on the market:

Fitting the Hearing Aid

If you buy a hearing aid that needs to be fitted, the company will either send you an ear impression kit that you can do at home. Or they will recommend you go to an audiologist for the impression. This costs about $75.

You'll then send the impression back to the company who will fit your hearing aid to your specs.

Summary

Be engaged in conversations again. Hear your grandkids' questions. Feel comfortable talking on the phone. Senior living can be all these things with a hearing aid. And buying a hearing aid online can save you 10% to 15%, translating into $300 to $500. If you know what to look for before you shop, the experience can be easy.

Make sure you're comfortable with the online company. Get all of your questions answered to your satisfaction. And be sure to get everything in writing.

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