Navigation Links
Consumer Reports: Hearing Aid Shoppers Pay High Prices, Get Mediocre Fittings

Comprehensive guide to purchasing and owning a hearing aid

YONKERS, N.Y., June 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new Consumer Reports investigation into hearing aids has found that consumers pay high prices and get mediocre fittings. The new report -- the first such report on hearing aids since 1992 -- offers a comprehensive guide to purchasing and owning a hearing aid.

The report, to be published in the July issue of Consumer Reports and online at, provides a step-by-step guide to purchasing and owning a hearing aid. For its report, Consumer Reports followed a dozen hearing-impaired patients for six months as they shopped for and used hearing aids; lab-tested the features of 44 hearing aids; and conducted a national survey of 1,100 people who had bought a hearing aid in the last three years. The survey was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Consumer Reports' shoppers purchased two pairs of hearing aids each, or 48 aids in all, ranging from $1,800 to $6,800 per pair, including professional fitting and follow-up services, in the New York City metropolitan area. The right fit did not come easily. Consumer Reports had audiologists check to see how well providers fit shoppers' hearing aids to their individual hearing loss. Two-thirds of the 48 aids purchased were misfit: They amplified too little or too much. And yet, according to the national survey, a resounding 73% of hearing aid users were highly satisfied with their aids, suggesting many individuals may be so pleased with improved hearing that they do not seek out fine tuning of their aids, potentially missing out on an even better fit.

The survey also underscored the lack of information that's reaching consumers about which features are valuable and which aren't. One-fourth of respondents to the Consumer Reports Survey said they didn't know whether their aids had feedback suppression, and a third didn't know whether they had directional microphones. Both features can be critical to performance.

"Buying a hearing aid is not for the faint of heart. And it's not like buying a piece of electronics and walking away. In addition to purchasing the hearing aids, you're purchasing a service that comes with a complicated contract and you're entering into a relationship with a provider, so you need to be comfortable with that person. And to get the best results, you have to take the time to adjust to the aids and let your provider know about any problems," said Tobie Stanger, senior editor, Consumer Reports.

A Step-by-Step Shopping Summary

Consumers need to decide which type of hearing aid is best for them, and which product features make sense, keeping in mind that many features can add a lot of cost but may be of little value to some people. Consumer Reports offers the following advice:

1. Where to go. Veterans should try the nearest Veterans Affairs (VA) facility, rated highly by survey respondents who went to the VA and where veterans may be able to get their hearing aids for virtually free. Others should first consider a medical practice headed by an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat physician) who employs an audiologist to fit and dispense hearing aids. About one in five survey respondents got their hearing aids from a doctor's office, which received higher marks than brand name stores and independent free standing stores by hearing aid users.

2. What to expect from a provider. Providers should offer a choice of several brands, styles, and features; convenient hours; walk-in repairs; a soundproof booth to test an individual's hearing; and several types of hearing tests. Rehab classes or therapy after fitting should be available, as well as a flexible trial period and a money-back guarantee. Make sure in advance that the provider will conduct a real-ear test, which measures the match between a person's hearing loss and the response of the person's hearing aid, during the fitting process.

3. At the first visit. Get a thorough evaluation. The provider should conduct several tests to establish a hearing-loss profile, including an audiometry test in a soundproof both. Consumers should discuss their needs and lifestyles.

When considering hearing aids, Consumer Reports advises shoppers to focus on product features, not brands. Although there are differences between brands, they're not significant enough to identify "best brands." Consumer Reports recommends asking about these features: a telecoil, which amplifies sound from phones without picking up background noise; a directional microphone, which helps hearing-aid wearers converse in noisy settings; and feedback suppression, which quells squeals when a hearing aid is too close to a phone or has a loose-fitting earmold.

4. Be a smart buyer. Consumer Reports verified the wholesale price of several of the hearing aids tested, finding on average a markup of 117 percent. "This means that there is room to bargain," Stanger says. Only 15 percent of survey participants tried that, but more than 40 percent of those who tried succeeded.

Before leaving with their new aids, consumers should practice inserting and removing the battery, cleaning and storing the aid, putting it in their ear, using the switches and controls, and talking on the phone. Most of Consumer Reports' shoppers received no telephone training or help with volume controls. In addition, be sure to review the product manual, warranty, trial period, and return and repair policies before leaving.

5. At home. Adjusting to a new pair of hearing aids can take quite a while. Consumer Reports notes that individuals can join a support group with other hearing-aid consumers during this period of adjustment and beyond. In addition, practice using the hearing aids in different environments. Consumers should return to their provider for at least one follow-up appointment. Twenty-six percent of survey respondents never had a follow-up appointment, even though most providers include that service in their fee. Dissatisfied consumers shouldn't just leave their aids in a drawer and forget about them.

Survey Methodology

In February 2009 members of an online respondent panel were invited to participate in a survey designed by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. The survey targeted individuals who purchased a newly fitted prescription hearing aid no more than 3 years ago and no less than 3 months ago. A total of 1,100 respondents, with 66 years old being the mean respondent age, completed the survey.

JULY 2009

(C) Consumers Union 2009. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

SOURCE Consumer Reports
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. Caldwell Consumer Health Becomes Revive Personal Products, Inc., with OPTIONS(TM) Line of Womens Sexual Health Products & Oral Health Brands; See Us at NACDS Booth 533 (The Emerson Group)
2. MyOutcomes Urges Government Leaders to Employ Consumer-Driven Outcomes Management in Reforming Behavioral Health System
3. Nurse Response Partners With Healthwise to Help Consumers Make Informed Decisions on Health
4. Nursing Home Consumer, Workforce Satisfaction Reaches New Highs
5. Joint Replacement Consumer Awareness Campaign Endorsed by Prominent Orthopaedic Scientist
6. Consumer Reports Poll: Thirty-One Percent of Americans Never Use Sunscreen
7. New Survey Shows Consumers Making Effort to Buy Healthy Foods But Buyer Beware: Zero Isnt Always Zero
8. Qforma Launches New Database to Help Consumers Find Top Community Medical Experts
9. New Consumer Fact Sheets on Medical Liability, Tort Reform and National Health Care
10. New Online Resource for Consumers, Athletes and Coaches Concerned About Athletic Banned Substances
11. President Obama, Sens. Kennedy & Baucus: Dont Buy Insurer Compromise for Bush-era Plan to Gut State Consumer Protection Laws
Post Your Comments:
(Date:1/22/2017)... Boca Raton, FL (PRWEB) , ... January 22, 2017 , ... ... products to customers across the world, recently met with big-name retail buyers at the ... strong scientific evidence of efficacy and uses the utmost safety standards in all of ...
(Date:1/21/2017)... Raton, FL (PRWEB) , ... January 21, 2017 , ... ... eRaiser, recently attended the January ECRM Trade Show in Hilton Head, SC, where it ... international reputation for the quality of its beauty and wellness products. At this trade ...
(Date:1/21/2017)... ... ... Seamild, the largest manufacturer of oats in China, is now aiming at global business ... recognized globally as one of the healthiest cereals, XieQingkui, the founder of Seamild, strongly ... to sow the seed of good karma. Buddhism spirit featuring benevolence and sacrifice are ...
(Date:1/21/2017)... , ... January 21, 2017 , ... ... Redwood Family Dermatology has recently joined their multi-specialty medical group. The dermatology ... of cosmetic services. , “We’re excited to add this excellent dermatology practice to ...
(Date:1/21/2017)... ... 21, 2017 , ... The Nobel Biocare™ dental implant company ... for its creos™ line of bone regenerative products. Specifically, the Nobel ... utilizes creos™ allo.gain™ bone graft for a variety of bone reconstruction procedures. In ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:1/23/2017)... Januar 2017  ResMed (NYSE: RMD ), ... Medical ( Winter Haven, Florida ) gaben ... die Beilegung aller globalen Rechtsstreitigkeiten zwischen den Parteien geeinigt ... ihrer bestehenden Produkte im Tausch gegen Lizenzgebühren an ResMed ... leisten, um das in Florida ...
(Date:1/22/2017)... DAVOS, Switzerland and ABU DHABI , ... leaders from the US ... , Hospital of the Future , at ... in the hospital of the future will be driven by big data and ... better," according to the panel of experts that discussed the ,Hospital of the ...
(Date:1/21/2017)... Mass. , Jan. 20, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... Keystone Symposia Conference, "PI3K Pathways in Immunology, ... Inc. (NASDAQ: INFI ) ... immuno-oncology development candidate that selectively inhibits phosphoinositide-3-kinase-gamma ... able to help overcome resistance to checkpoint ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: