We’ve noticed a disturbing trend in hearing aid sales in our area. We’re seeing vendors use terms like “the latest available technology”. We can only assume they are referencing “available” as what they carry, since many of these vendors are not selling the manufacturers’ latest technology. Often their technology is one or more generations old in order to sell at a reduced cost. In one case, the hearing aids being sold were literally obsolete!
This distinction is important because hearing aids are medical devices. (Note that term when you see various listening devices advertised without the “hearing aid” reference. They don’t have to meet the rigorous safety requirements of a true hearing aid.) Hearing Aids are pieces of technology not unlike your cell phone. If you buy an older generation of hearing aid you can purchase the technology at a reduced price, but…
- It’s not the latest technology. It may not have the bug fixes and enhanced features you can get with the current technology.
- It will be obsolete sooner. That doesn’t mean that it will fail, but manufacturers will only support technology for a limited length of time. That length of time is determined by the age of the tech, not when you bought it.
- Newer hearing aids use WiFi, Bluetooth and other proprietary methods of connecting to your cell phone and other devices. When you buy older generations of hearing aids, they may cease to work when you upgrade to a newer phone or sometimes, when your phone stays the same, but does an automatic software update.
- The cell phone applications you use to communicate with your hearing aid may be updated to run on a new operating system, while at the same time removing some support for older hearing aids.
Buying older technology can reduce your costs. In some cases, we can also sell you an older device, though we discourage it for the reasons listed above. That doesn’t mean we aren’t conscious of your budget concerns. We will help you weigh the cost differences. Even with new technology, there are various levels and cost points supported. As with anything, saving money today sometimes costs you more money down the road.
And remember, technology is not just important in the hearing aid itself, but also in the equipment used to determine whether you have a hearing loss and the appropriate treatment of that loss. The Sound Booth which we previously discussed here is just one of the pieces of tech we have to make sure your fitting is the best possible.
The other disturbing trend we’ve seen is the lack of up front and forthright discussion of the education that Audiologist have vs. hearing aid dispensers and the regulations they must follow. We’ve discussed the differences here before. (See previous post.) Wearing a lab coat does not make you a Doctor. Look for diplomas and other displays of your dispenser’s education. A Doctor of Audiology will have their degrees prominently displayed where you can see them. A Doctor of Audiology is not a medical doctor, but they are a doctorate level specialist in the field of Audiology. They have studied and worked hard to earn the right to put AuD after their name. If they are a Doctor of Audiologist, they will be proud of their doctorate and will be happy to discuss the differences in care and privacy you will receive from them. Don’t let that important difference be downplayed.
Be an informed consumer and ask the right questions.