Can I Buy Hearing Aids Online?
The Pros and Cons of buying hearing aids online
Remote care has been around for many years in different forms, buying hearing aids online is not new.
What is new is the technology that allows more accurate and robust testing and programming by an experienced Audiologist. The development of this technology has been sped up because of the pandemic.
Can I buy hearing aids without seeing my GP?
You can buy hearing aids without seeing your GP as a private Audiologist can examine you and conduct a test. It is important to bear in mind that a hearing aid is not just a tool to make sounds louder. It is a complex medical device that needs setting up to your hearing prescription which is only possible with a hearing test. This will then help an Audiologist to choose a hearing aid that meets your unique hearing needs, or future problems you may have while getting used to the hearing aids. It’s likely you will need the hearing aids reprogrammed either during the first few years of heaving your hearing aids and certainly if your hearing changes in that time or after.
Where to buy hearing aids online?
There are a variety of ways and places to buy hearing aids online. This ranges from places like Audacity and Lively who are a network of Drs of Audiology (USA only) and are highly qualified specialists; to online discount hearing aid sellers who provide the product without the aftercare; to hearing aid resellers on Ebay and Gumtree who can guarantee neither a high-spec product or support when something goes wrong. This article is NOT about buying hearing aids from eBay or Gumtree, and not about buying cheap hearing aids that don’t have the support of an experienced audiologist. While you might pay less, in the long run, it may not be worth it if the hearing aid is not programmed correctly for you – we would recommend that you avoid these forms of purchasing a hearing aid online. In this article, we are discussing the purchase of hearing aids with the aftercare you would normally receive, as you would if you were in a clinic, the only difference being you’re in your own comfortable environment completing care over an internet connection.
Fitting and adjusting at home
Adjusting hearing aids online through the manufacturer’s app is a form of care that is necessary now more than ever. The evidence shows that supporting patients in this alternative way has very good outcomes, comparable to the satisfaction and care a patient would receive in a clinic. A study in Australia by NAL, one of the first and leading research and developers in the Audiology world. The average age in the study was 73 years old. There were no significant differences between any clinical outcome between those receiving all care inside a clinic vs online.
There are, however, still some barriers to this method of care. One of the biggest effects on the outcome being your Audiologist’s attitudes towards the administering of this care. This has been proven to be a huge barrier to its application, since the beginning of remote care. And herein could lie the problem- an old fashioned view to a modern and quickly developing solution.
Many clinicians may discourage you from buying hearing aids online without consideration because their advice is based on their personal preference due to unfamiliarity, possible fear of and unresearched views on this approach. Furthermore, once a professional has participated in remote services their attitudes towards providing remote services improves – this is also the case amongst patients, again showing that their unwillingness could be based in lack of knowledge and confidence around this technology.
Most of our patients are professional women with busy lives but also older people who live in rural areas and have limited access to transportation. But what they all share is the view that having adjustments in a familiar environment has benefited them. We asked our patients why they chose this method and why it is better. Many said the obvious- local lockdowns, the need to maintain social distancing and the fear of being exposed to COVID meant that this option was necessary. Others mentioned that the reduction in cost passed on to patients, as overheads and travel costs are reduced, made the prices for hearing solutions more attractive. Others mentioned that they really like new technology and felt that they wanted to be ahead of others with accessing this new technology.
We asked what they thought were the downsides. People who were averse to purchasing hearing aids online felt that there was a lower risk to their health during covid, and had a preference for having their care face to face. From this survey, it appears that 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 patient.
- Improved control of hearing aids
- Improved access to your hearing professional on the app at any time for help.
- Fewer in-person visits are needed.
- Increase access to healthcare
- Reduce wait times
- Reduce medical travel
- Minimize caregiver stress/time off work
- Facilitate rapid response
- Reduce CO2 emissions
- Reduce costs of delivering healthcare
- Increase comfort when discussing stigmatizing issues
- Improve clinical outcomes
- Improve adherence to treatment
- Not all parts of the patient journey can be carried out remotely, and it is recommended that you attend a local clinic at least once.
- Less choice as the best outcomes are with high-spec hearing aids and not every hearing aid has remote capabilities.
- 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.
- Disadvantageous for diagnostic testing
- Disadvantageous with children
- Disadvantageous for building relationships with new patients
Overall, there are good things and bad things and not all online services are the same. It is essential you choose a company that has clinicians that actively want to provide this service, is experienced in diagnosing, and programming hearing aids in general, and confident with handling new hearing aid technology and general technology. Ongoing support from a clinician is also an essential part of buying hearing solutions, so never purchase hearing aids without aftercare.