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

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.

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SOURCE Consumer Reports
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