Washington, DC — In the wake of UnitedHeath offering hearing aids directly to consumers, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is warning consumers of the inherent risks associated with purchasing over-the-counter, one-size-fits-all hearing aids instead of consulting a hearing health professional.

BHI points out that devices that are purchased over-the-counter or through the Internet without the consultation of a hearing healthcare professional may result in the devices not being accurately customized to the specific hearing needs of the individual, since hearing loss may be the symptom of a serious underlying medical problem. In addition, all 50 states require consumers to use a credentialed hearing care professional to purchase hearing aids, according to BHI.

"Today’s state-of-the-art hearing aids should be programmed to the individual’s specific hearing loss requirements in order to provide good levels of benefit and customer satisfaction,” said Sergei Kochkin, BHI’s executive director and a frequent contributor to Hearing Review (picutired.)

Kochkin adds that today’s hearing aid fitting process requires a complete in-person hearing assessment in a sound booth, and the training and skills of a credentialed hearing health care professional in order to prescriptively fit the hearing aids using sophisticated computer programs. He also advises that an in-person follow-up and counseling is also necessary to a proper fitting.

“This is not possible when consumers purchase one-size-fits-all hearing aids over the Internet or elsewhere,” said Kochkin.

Extensive research shows that individualized hearing health assessments and fittings programmed specific to the needs of the hearing aid user provide the best chance for optimal hearing enhancement and customer satisfaction.

BHI has published a comprehensive consumer guide entitled, “Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids.” (See www.betterhearing.org under hearing loss treatment.) The guidelines give confidence to first-time hearing aid buyers by providing a detailed, step-by-step explanation of what to expect, ask, and look for when selecting and visiting a hearing health care professional and purchasing a hearing aid.

In addition, BHI has published, “Your Guide to Financial Assistance for Hearing Aids,” a comprehensive guide on how people can obtain financial assistance to purchase hearing aids.

SOURCE: The Better Hearing Institute (BHI)