Buying Hearing Aids Online vs In a Clinic
Remote care audiology has been around for many years in different forms. Buying hearing aids online is not a new concept in countries like the United States and Australia, although it is a relatively new development in Canada.
What is new, is the technological advances that allow Audiologists to provide comprehensive care that is equal to the care that a client would expect to receive in a traditional hearing clinic. The development and implementation of this technology has been accelerated because of the pandemic.
Can I buy hearing aids without seeing my family doctor?
Yes, you can buy hearing aids without seeing your GP. Audiologists are the true experts when it comes to hearing health and can examine you to determine if you have hearing loss and if that hearing loss is treatable with hearing aids. It is important to keep in mind that a hearing aid is not just a tool to make sounds louder. It is a complex medical device that needs to be custom programmed to your own unique hearing needs. This is only possible with a hearing test performed by an audiologist. This test will then help an Audiologist to determine if hearing aids will help you and to choose a hearing aid for you that meets your unique hearing needs.
Where to buy hearing aids online?
There are many ways and places to buy hearing aids online. This ranges from places like Lively who are a network of Audiologists (USA only) and are highly qualified specialists; to online discount hearing aid sellers who provide product of varying quality and effectiveness without the aftercare; to hearing aid resellers on Ebay and Amazon who sell devices better described as hearing amplifiers and who may or may not provide support when something goes wrong. This article is NOT about buying hearing aids from eBay or Amazon, and not about buying cheap hearing aids that don’t have the support of an experienced audiologist. While these options may seem less expensive, in the long run, it may not be worth it if the hearing aid is not a genuine product, or not programmed correctly for you. We would recommend that you avoid these forms of purchasing a hearing aid online. In this article, we will discuss the purchasing hearing aids with the after purchase care and support you would normally receive, as you would if you were in a clinic, the only difference being you’re in the comfort of your own home or office, completing care over an internet connection.
Fitting and adjusting at home
Adjusting hearing aids online through the manufacturer’s app is now a very common form of care even for traditional hearing clinics. Overwhelming evidence shows that clients using remote care achieve excellent outcomes, comparable to the satisfaction and care a client would receive in a clinic. In a recent study in Australia by NAL, one of the first and leading research organizations in the Audiology world, users surveyed reported no significant differences between any clinical outcome between those receiving all care inside a clinic vs online.
We understand that many audiologists may discourage you from buying hearing aids online. However, these audiologists are doing this without truly understanding the remote care hearing model. Their advice is based on outdated personal preference and their own unfamiliarity with the latest technologies. It may also be the fear of what they don’t know and fear of the impact of different business models on the profitability of their own practice.
Our clients come to us from different parts of society. Many of our clients are people with busy lives who find it difficult to visit a clinic during work hours. Some are people who find the traditional hearing care model to be simply too expensive. Others are people who live in rural areas and have limited access to hearing care. Seniors with limited access to transportation and people who prefer to limit physical contacts due to concerns about their personal health form other significant groups within our client base.
What all these people share is the view that having adjustments in a familiar environment has benefited them. We asked our clients why they chose this method and why it is better. Many said the obvious – local covid-19 lockdowns, the need to maintain social distancing and the fear of being exposed to covid-19 meant that this option was necessary. Others mentioned that the lower prices were the primary draw. Some clients cited the convenience of being able to receive care at home or work, or even while travelling for business or leisure. Others mentioned that they really like new technology and felt that they wanted to be ahead of others with accessing this new technology.
During the time we have offered this form of service delivery, we have achieved a 97% success rate. That means that 97 out of 100 clients of Zoom Hearing will keep their hearing aids and report their hearing aids are delivering the expected results. This success rate is higher than that achieved in most traditional hearing clinics.
Based upon the evidence from our own clients and independent studies, it appears that buying hearing aids online is a good option, especially if you have good reasons to avoid attending the clinic, or if you prioritise accessing efficient care sooner and require more flexibility with appointment times.
Pros and Cons of Buying Hearing Aids Online
- Adjustments can be made in the environment you listen in and therefore you can give real-time feedback to the Audiologist about the adjustments which leads to better satisfaction.
- More appointment choice and availability at a time to suit you.
- Hearing aid cost savings are passed onto the client.
- Reduced wait times for appointments.
- Reduce medical travel and CO2 emissions.
- Minimize caregiver stress/time off work.
- Receive care anywhere in the world while travelling.
- Improved access to your hearing professional.
- Reduce costs of delivering healthcare.
- Increase privacy and comfort when discussing personal issues.
- Improved clinical outcomes.
- Improved adherence to treatment
- Not all parts of the client journey can be carried out remotely, and it is necessary that you attend a local clinic at least once for your hearing test.
- Must have a good internet connection and ability to download an app.
- Must be confident using hearing aids to troubleshoot any issues with the hearing aids.
- May not be suitable for people with complex hearing or health issues that impact on handling hearing aids.
- Not a viable option for children under the age of 18
Overall, there are positives and negatives and not all online hearing aids providers are the same. It is vital that you choose a hearing care provider that has clinicians that actively want to provide this service, are experienced in diagnosing, and programming hearing aids in general, and confident with handling new remote care hearing aid technology. Ongoing support from a clinician is also an essential part of buying hearing solutions, so never purchase hearing aids without the guidance and ongoing support of a certified audiologist.