If you are under the age of fifty, chances are you don’t receive many advertisements for hearing aids. However, once the AARP magazine shows up in your mailbox, expect the hearing aid solicitations to follow soon after. If you suspect you may have hearing loss or are being pressured by family to do something about your hearing, taking the first step to improve your hearing is often the most difficult, but where to start? These ten helpful hints should arm you with enough knowledge to navigate your way to a rewarding experience with hearing aids.

  1. Talk to your doctor.If you are having difficulty hearing and understanding people, speak up! Tell your doctor if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort, feeling dizzy, or experiencing a ringing or buzzing noise, called tinnitus.
  2. Ask around. If you notice someone who wears a hearing aid, ask them where they go for hearing care or ask your doctor who is available in the area. If you use the internet, go online to investigate a provider’s web presence by finding their website, client testimonials or their official Facebook page.
  3. Schedule a hearing test.In most states, a hearing evaluation can be conducted by an audiologist, a physician or a hearing instrument specialist. After the test, your results should be clearly explained to you in language you understand. Beware of any provider who pressures you to make a decision at this time. Bringing a trusted friend, relative, or spouse can be helpful at this appointment to ask questions or help in the decision making process.
  4. Ask why. At this point, your hearing care provider should have or should be inquiring about your lifestyle or physical limitations to determine which hearing instruments and accessories may best serve you. Your options regarding size, style, and price should be discussed. Feel free to ask, “Why do you recommend this brand/style/model?” Don’t be afraid. You are the customer and are making an important medical and financial decision for yourself. If your provider gets defensive or impatient, move on.
  5. Get the nitty-gritty. At this point, most people are so overwhelmed with choices that they forget to ask some very important questions, which may lead to some unexpected expenses or unpleasant surprises down the road. It is your job as the consumer to educate yourself before making a decision. If you fail to understand what your rights and choices are, who else can you blame? Remember, questions should be welcomed. Due diligence is a good thing.
  6. Ask about the warranty. All hearing aids come with a manufacturer warranty that covers loss, damages and repairs from one to four years. This warranty must be conveyed to you in writing and is reciprocal with other providers who sell the same brand. For ease of transferring providers, it is probably best to stick with the “big six” manufacturers: Phonak/Unitron, Oticon, Starkey, Widex, ReSound, and Siemens.
  7. Ask about the loss and damage deductible. This is a big one where many people have an experienced an unpleasant surprise. If you lose or damage your hearing aid beyond repair you may need to file a claim to get a replacement device for which there may be a charge. However, be careful of the fine print on your purchase contract because many unscrupulous providers may charge an exorbitant fee for the hearing aid replacement. It is common to see a deductible (per aid) of up to $300 per hearing aid, but beware of anything higher than that. If you feel your provider is charging you an unfair price, find another provider who may process your loss and damage claim.
  8. Ask what follow-up services are included. Some providers bundle their prices, which means they include part or all of their services into the price of the hearing aid, while others do not. It is important to know the difference. It is common for a provider to bundle their services for one to three years (or more) post purchase. These bundled services may include: Routine cleanings, fine-tuning adjustments, firmware updates and basic repairs.
  9. Find out how long the trial period is. In most states, you may cancel a hearing aid order within three days and any money paid must be refunded in full. After that, you generally have up to 30 days to return the hearing instruments for a partial refund. The amount refunded varies from provider. Keep in mind that your provider should be working closely with you during this trial period, so there should be an expectation that their time is valuable. However, many providers give longer trial periods or even offer loaner hearing aids to “try before you buy.”
  10. Get it in writing. This is perhaps the most important hint. Make sure you get the above in writing so that your rights and responsibilities are made clear. If you don’t like part of a contract, you can ask to amend it or choose not to sign it. Your provider should take the time to go over your purchase contract so that you understand your rights and benefits. If you have a question or don’t understand something, ask for clarification.
  11. Lastly, enjoy your new hearing aids! Although you should exercise caution when shopping for a hearing aid, a properly fitted device can offer years of improved quality of life. Choosing a caring provider who listens to your needs is just important as the hearing aid you decide to purchase. If you would like more information regarding hearing aids or to get a second opinion, please call The Hearing Aid Shop in Wolfeboro at 603-569-2799.

    Jessica Williams – Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist and Owner, The Hearing Aid Shop. www.lifesoundsamazing.com