Does It Take a Village to Buy a Hearing Aid?

by Ed Schickel

villageIf we wanted to buy a new house, we would most likely talk to a real estate agent, right?   But, we wouldn’t stop there.  We would have the home inspected by a neutral professional.  We would try to talk to neighbors, check out crime, schools, churches, community activities, restaurants, transportation, distance to family and fun and probably much more.  If we wanted to buy a new car, we would probably do something similar.  We would check out consumer reports, various buying guides and price resources.  We would talk to other owners.  We would do a lot of research beforehand to ensure what we are about to buy will completely fit our needs.

Another approach is to buy the house or the car on a whim.  We saw it; we liked it; we bought it.  Even on TV there are people who would buy a $300,000 house sight unseen.

Most of us, however, would do at least some homework.Basically, we wouldn’t rely solely on the agent or salesperson.

Why then, when considering purchasing hearing aids, do we go to an Audiologist or Instrument Specialist, hand them our wallet and say “don’t hurt me?”  We often assume that they know what is best for us, despite the fact that they have known us for less than one hour.  In that hour, they maybe have allowed fifteen minutes of their time to have a personal conversation with us. Yes, next to a house or a car, hearing aids might be one of the most expensive purchases we might ever make.  Do we really know all that we should know about what we are about to buy, such as the number of programs that are available in our hearing aids and what they can do?  Do we understand what a T’Coil is or does?

Secretary Clinton wrote a book entitled It Takes a Village.  It might take a village to buy a hearing aid or to get a cochlear implant.  Most national speakers on cochlear implants talk about using a medical doctor, a surgeon, an audiologist and a social worker/counselor/psychologist in the process of vetting a CI candidate.  In reality, while this is most ideal, it is rarely done.  Time and money are the issues.  In reality, it becomes OUR job to do the work they would do.  We have to become the expert.

There are many things that we can learn at a Hearing Loss Association Meeting, Hands and Voices or similar support group meetings and programs.  We learn that we need to do a strong self-evaluation before we purchase a hearing aid or receive an implant.  Questions such as: Why do I need one?  How does it work?  Will it fit my needs?  Do I have the mental awareness to make best use of it?  Do I have the physical dexterity to use it?  Will I use it alone or in conjunction with assistive devices?   What are the environmental situations where I will use it?

While hearing professionals purport to obtain this information, they simply don’t have the time or inclination to gather this information well.  Understand, they have an hour maybe an hour and a half to evaluate us.  They have an additional hour to fit us with the aid.  Is it reasonable to expect them to learn about our lifestyle and needs in that time frame?  Can they talk about hearing aids and assistive devices in that same time frame?  Do they have time to do therapeutic conditioning?  Can they train us in detail in what we need, what was prescribed and what we have purchased?  Some Hearing Professionals truly make an effort.  However, more and more large companies are buying out the small offices and making dollars a bottom line that the professionals have to meet.

Our personal bottom line is to have the knowledge, information, the self-awareness that is needed when going into a specialist’s office that will provide us with the best Hearing Aid fit and allow us to be the best consumer possible.  We do need a “Village of Resources” to accomplish this!

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