In many instances these days we have the option of do-it-yourself versus hiring a professional. From doing our taxes, straightening our teeth, or fixing that leaky faucet, we must consider the costs and benefits of each course of action. When it comes to hearing devices, there are increasingly more over-the-counter devices available. While it may seem tempting to order devices online, there are many good reasons to seek professional hearing care.
The Advantages of OTC Devices
Price: Online hearing aid deals or devices shipped to you in the mail may be less than you would pay when you purchase high quality devices and service from an audiologist.
Convenience: You can place an order without ever having to leave your home. Often you only need to take an online hearing screening.
There are potential risks of OTC devices including unsatisfactory results, discomfort, and under or overamplification. These hearing aids, while less expensive, still cost a substantial amount of money. Be aware of the return and refund policy.
The Benefits of Seeing an Audiologist
Highly Trained and Experienced: Audiologists are trained to identify and treat auditory disorders from simple to complex. A complete audiological evaluation should include a thorough case history, an otoscopic exam (looking in your ear for signs of disease or impacted wax) as well as tone and speech tests. Other tests may be administered if warranted. An audiologist will explain your hearing test and discuss your hearing concerns. Based on all of the information, the audiologist will make a personalized recommendation. Ideally the audiologist will work with a variety of manufacturers so that she can choose the hearing aids that best suit your needs. Once devices are chosen, audiologists are trained in programming your hearing aids and verifying the fitting to ensure they are set properly. You may also consider that hearing aids alone are often not a complete solution. Your audiologist can counsel you about strategies or assistive devices that offer additional benefit.
Customization: Often an optimal hearing aid fitting requires a custom earmold to get the proper amount of amplification. A custom product requires an earmold impression that must be taken by a licensed professional (check out our YouTube video for more information on earmold impressions).
Human Touch: The audiologist-patient relationship can be extremely important especially during the initial adaptation period with hearing aids. Your audiologist will discuss what to expect and help establish realistic expectations. She will also assist with any difficulties you encounter such as discomfort or difficulty adjusting to the new sounds you are hearing. She is there to answer any questions you may have.
Follow up care: It is important to have regular maintenance appointments for your hearing aids. Much like routine maintenance on your car or regularly getting your teeth cleaned, follow up care can help prevent future problems like hearing aid malfunction.
The Bottom Line
Even if you are contemplating an OTC option, it is best to have your hearing evaluated by an audiologist prior to making any decision. An audiologist can rule out any medical issues or impacted wax and ensure an accurate assessment of your hearing ability. Your comfort and familiarity with hearing devices may factor into your choice but the complexity of your situation should be a major deciding factor (medical concerns, wax production, difficult to fit hearing loss or ear canals).
An investment in quality hearing aids fit by a professional using best practices will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run. You will also get the peace of mind that comes from having a professional to turn to when your hearing changes or your devices are not functioning properly. Your sense of hearing is complex and wonderful and precious. An audiologist will help you make the most of this amazing sense that allows you immerse yourself in a Beethoven symphony or catch the giggles of your grandchildren!