To A.R. Cane:
Thanks for the question. You are right, there is a lot of hype in the hearing aid industry. Keep in mind that the industry is separate from the individual selling the product. The industry supplies the product to the seller. More on this, and hype and scam, a little later, but there are a couple of things I want to tell you up front:
First, check with your local laws, as most states and provinces require a minimum of a 30-day trial for a hearing aid. Once the aid has been fitted, you will be able to wear the aid in your own daily situations to determine if it will be helpful or not. There will likely be some necessary follow-up visits to get the hearing aid ‘fine-tuned’, based on your observations and experiences. No hearing aid will be perfect and restore hearing to 100%, but most people find them to be very useful and are quite satisfied.
If you do not believe you are getting that satisfaction that you feel is worth the money you are paying, it is within your right to return the hearing aid and you should get at least most of your money back (within that 30-day trial period). Most sellers (hearing aid dispensers or audiologists) will likely charge a fee for their professional time and service, as well as the cost of an earmold ( if one was ordered). The terms and conditions should be printed on the bill of sale, so be sure to read the fine-print. In some states or provinces, the person selling the hearing aid is required to notify you of your rights. If you do not feel the person you are dealing with is being honest and you are not comfortable with the way your questions are handled, take your business elsewhere.
Sadly, there can be scams. I’ll illustrate with a comparison.
Hearing aids are sold like new cars. For example, Ford makes cars in Detroit. Ford gets an order from Joe Smith’s Ford dealership in, oh, say, Denver. Joe Smith is, like all car dealers, an independent business that has a contract with Ford to sell new Ford cars exclusively. Ford fills Smith’s order correctly and ships the cars from Detroit to Denver. Smith then makes all kinds of outrageous claims about his new shipment of Fords (say, “they get 100 mpg”), and consumers buy the cars. When the cars do not live up to Smith’s claims, who is at fault? Smith, of course, but some consumers will undoubtedly blame Ford.
This is the situation hearing aid manufacturers find themselves in. Once the hearing aid leaves our factory, we have no control over how it is marketed or hyped to consumers by sellers, but we do face some of the consumers’ misdirected ire. We know that no hearing aid can cure deafness or restore hearing to 100%, but we hear of some outrageous claims coming from sellers. In fact, any claims we manufacturers make about our aids must be backed up by lab research results and will be verified by the FDA (and similar authorities in other countries) before we can make our claims public. Sellers are not necessarily subject to these restrictions. We do what we can to stop sellers making outrageous claims, but we are not always successful. Towards this end, hearing aid manufacturers are starting to advertise and market to consumers (like car manufacturers do), so that consumers are informed when they visit a seller.
You’ll notice I’m using the term “seller” instead of “audiologist.” This is because in some states and provinces, audiologists are not allowed to advertise. But sellers can. Sometimes, an audiologist and seller will team up to open a clinic where the audiologist tests and prescribes and the seller fills the prescription. This is fine, but it allows the audiologist to tacitly advertise by piggybacking on the seller’s advertisement: “We have welcomed audiologist Sue Jones to our clinic,” for example.
You may well ask why we manufacturers continue to sell to shady and/or questionable sellers. In addition to the fact that we often do not know which sellers are shady or questionable, the answer is that we are not a governing body (for example, the state licensing board or professional college of audiology) nor can we police individual businesses in their communities, which may or may not have different consumer protection laws and regulations. It is the responsibility of the consumer to report these activities to the authorities in their jurisdiction, just as it would be the responsibility of Joe Smith’s Ford customers to report his false advertising to the authorities in Denver, Colorado, so they can investigate and take any necessary steps to resolve the problem. Sadly, most consumers will not take this step, so change doesn’t happen.
I’ll address the other questions that have arisen (from Philosphr, Boyo Jim, and racer72) in another post—I can combine answers to some of their individual questions, so I’ll try to be efficient in my response. And I’ve gotta remind myself that not every question requires a long essay-type answer!
Added on preview: Least Original User Name Ever, if I had a dollar for every time I ever got that, I could retire comfortably.