Bloomington, Minn — The Minnesota Academy of Audiology (MAA) is the latest hearing health organization to be warning consumers that purchasing hearing aids over the Internet may have serious consequences to their health. The statement comes in the wake of health insurer UnitedHealth announcing that it would be selling online hearing aids to consumers.

“The sale of any hearing device, whether a personal sound amplifier or hearing aid, without the diagnostic and rehabilitative services of a qualified, licensed professional puts the consumer at risk,” said the MAA press statement.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recently released a statement warning that purchasing hearing aids online is not in the consumers’ best interest, “because not all persons are assumed to be good candidates for a hearing aid.” Only licensed audiologists or certified hearing instrument dispensers are permitted to conduct hearing evaluations and to dispense hearing aids in the state of Minnesota.

MAA explained in its consumer warning that an “online hearing test is subject to the variability of equipment, environment and methods that consumers have or use in their home and also fails to achieve a thorough patient history and physical examination of the ears, as recommended by both MDH and the FDA.”

Shilpi Banerjee, PhD, president of MAA, said, “Research supports the fact that the knowledge and expertise of audiologists adds significant value to the rehabilitative process, which includes hearing aids.”  He also cited independent studies from the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) that shows how consumers are more satisfied with hearing aids when they consult with an audiologist. 

MAA’s warning adds to a growing list of professional, consumer, and governmental organizations that are warning consumers about online hearing sales, including the American Academy of Audiology, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, as well as BHI, FDA, and MDH.

Moreover, IHS, ADA, and AAA recently sent letters to UnitedHealth and hi HealthInnovations warning the company about potential legal issues regarding the diagnosis and sale of online hearing aids. 

“Ultimately,” said Dr Banerjee, “we encourage consumers to do the research using reputable sources such as the FDA, Minnesota Department of Health, National Institutes of Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and consult an audiologist before making a final decision.”

SOURCE: The Minnesota Academy of Audiology (MAA)