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Consumer Reports: Hearing Aid Shoppers Pay High Prices, Get Mediocre Fittings
Date:6/1/2009

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.
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SOURCE Consumer Reports
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