Guide to Purchasing Hearing Instruments
Improving your ability to hear is easier today than anytime in human history. Technology has really allowed people to hear better than ever.
1. Choose a provider
This is probably the most important step. Most hearing instruments today are very high quality and have benefitted from advancements in technology as a result of the rapid advance in computing power- making many of the brand names a solid choice.
Choices in providers include
- The Otolaryngologist- a medical physician who specializes in treatment of the the Ears, Nose and Throat, often called an ENT. Almost without exception, an audiologist is employed by the ENT to do the testing for hearing. The ENT can be a convenient place to have your hearing tested, in the event that there is a tumor present, or a significant difference in the level of hearing between your left and right ear. Prepare for a medical setting and a waiting room with a lot of sneezing and coughing.
- Audiologist- These are the experts in Hearing loss and implementation of Hearing Instruments. They fall into 2 different flavors: Doctors of Audiology- these folks will have AuD or Phd behind their names. They have a minimum of 8 years of schooling specializing in testing and rehabilitation of hearing.
- Hearing Instrument Specialists- There is a license required in almost all states qualifying individuals who dispense hearing aids. This license in Virginia is the HIS/Hearing Instrument Specialist. The state requires 2 types of testing for this license- a practical exam, and a written exam. There is a requirement for the HIS to be sponsored and supervised by another license holder prior to taking eitherof the exams. Instrument specialists far outnumber both Audiologists and Otolaryngologists, which allows, in many cases, for ease of access.
2. The devices themselves
Since your hearing is important to you- you will have to make your own evaluation of which provider has the education, training, and accessability experience to fit hearing aids for you. You will be entering into a long term relationship with this person, so make sure that it is someone you feel comfortable dealing with, and someone who will do everything in their power to have you hearing as well as humanly possible. Things to watch out for: 1. offers of hearing testing in a hotel room, or something other than a sound proof booth 2. Any provider that supplies 1 or a limited number of hearing device manufacturers. This often means that there is some level of corporate ownership, or obligation to that manufacturer- and therefore- not always your best interests at heart. 3. Offers for $695 hearing aids ususally means $695 worth of hearing. Careful with this one. Getting good hearing doesnt always mean spending a lot of money, but getting what you pay for also applies. A good provider will work with the demands on your hearing needs, as well as your budgetary constraints.
3. Consumables, services and the related pot-pourri
So now you have the right provider and the right instruments- both will require regular visits. Seeing the provider for a check up at least once a year is mandatory. The devices will need regular service, where cleanings, updates, programming, and batteries will all be updated. If you can- try to get the fees for these services at the initial purchase of the devices themselves. The tab can add up quickly if every office visit will cost you $65, and the batteries are $1 a piece. What are the hours of operation? Will the office help you to process insurance claims? Do you have to walk through a warehouse or mall to get to the office? How convenient or inconvenient is the parking? The worst thing that can happen is that you have an aversion to going to the office (because of either expense or inconvenience) and this leads to the instruments being a hindrance instead of a help. In the industry this is called 'aids in the drawer'.
4. Your cell phone is newer than your hearing instruments.
Hearing instruments have a shelf life- not because they break or stop functioning- but because of the rapid advance of technology. Perhaps you have heard of Moore's law- the theory that a computer processor speed will double (approximately) every 18 months. Hearing instruments are no different than small computers. Their ability to help you hear increseases with their technical capabilities. The more calculations and the greater integration with such technologies as wireless and Blutooth capabilites, the greater they can emulate the human ear. Your provider should be up to date with the latest technologies and the ability to program and update these aids.