With so many hearing devices available online, it seems as though buying online is the best way to go considering the time and money being saved.
However, before making a purchase, be sure to read through this article because most devices you see online are actually not hearing aids.
Is It Even Possible to Buy Hearing Aids Online?
There are sites that boast incredibly cheap hearing aids with state-of-the-art features, but the truth is that - No, you cannot buy hearing aids online - you need a prescription from a hearing care specialist.
Hearing aids are classified as Medical Devices whereas hearing devices are classified as electronic consumer goods under the FDA. Although some websites may pose their devices as “hearing aids”, 99% these devices are cheap earbuds or actually sound amplifiers (PSAPs) that are not built to treat hearing loss.
Keep in mind that in some cases you will be able to purchase a hearing aid online with proper prescription and legal procedures, but those are exceptions.
Understanding that most websites are not selling hearing aids, what makes a hearing aid a hearing aid and what are the regulations?
What are Hearing Aids in the First Place?
As mentioned in the FDA code of regulations, hearing aids are “wearable instrument(s) or device(s) designed for, offered for the purpose of, or represented as aiding persons with or compensating for, impaired hearing.”
The important part to understand in this description is that hearing aids are for people with impaired hearing, meaning that the device is for medical purposes.
Beside the fact that medical grade devices are held to a higher standard than consumer electronic devices, any persons looking to purchase a hearing aid are required to have a medical evaluation and a prescription from a licensed physician.
This is why almost all hearing devices sold online are not actual hearing aids and why prospective buyers should be cautious when they see great “deals” online. For more information regarding risks to consider when buying hearing devices online, check out this article.
If Not Online, Where Can I Purchase Hearing Aids?
As of now, hearing aids can only be bought through licensed physicians, audiologists, and hearing aid specialists.
Although an in person evaluation and a prescription are necessary before purchasing hearing aids, patients can opt to purchase them through their doctors or at retail stores. Some stores such as Costco and Walgreens offer in-house evaluations by licensed physicians and offer hearing aids right at the store.
You CAN Purchase PSAPs Online
For some people, the thought of going through the process of buying a hearing aid may be a little daunting and are better off considering to purchase sound amplifiers.
Just remember that as mentioned above, PSAPs are not medical devices and are not meant to treat hearing loss.
PSAPs are, as FDA puts it, designed to “increase environmental sounds for non-hearing impaired consumers” which is why they are aptly named “sound amplifiers”.
With that in mind, there are numerous PSAPs sold at every price point (with an average of $250 -$350), online, at major retail stores, and at pharmacies.
While some PSAPs merely amplify all sounds including background noise within a given area, some devices like the Olive Smart Ear device target specific frequencies and are able to reduce noise while amplifying speech much like hearing aids.
Olive Smart Ear (Personalized Bluetooth Amplifier)
Let's look into the features that Olive Smart Ear provides, to enhance people's hearing experience.
1. Enhanced Listening
There are three onboard microphones that capture high-frequency sounds to enhance listening.
2. Multiple Sound Input Modes
You can easily switch between conversation mode and TV mode so you always have optimal feedback and noise cancellation.
3. Personalized Sound
Using the easy to use smartphone app, you can test your hearing and have the audio and equalizer frequency personalized to your unique hearing.
Please see our product page for more information.
Things to Look Out For When Purchasing PSAPs Online
Here are some things to look out for when making a PSAP purchase online.
1. ALWAYS be cautious of products that are marketed as “hearing aids”
Products sold online that vows to treat hearing loss or is marketed as hearing aids can be considered as misinformation considering the fact that hearing tests and prescriptions are necessary to purchase hearing aids.
2. The features
PSAPs come in all sizes and shapes, as well as prices. Where some may amplify all of the sounds in a given radius equally, some will target certain range of frequencies to reduce noise and amplify speech. Remember that amplifying all sounds will leave you hearing sounds you want to hear and the sounds you don’t want to hear also.
3. User reviews
Great thing about shopping online is that at the comfort of your own home, you can compare and contrast items as well as read reviews from hundreds of past customers. While hearing aids are personalized to your own state of health, most PSAPs are one size fits all that may or may not cater to your benefits. Make sure to read through the reviews to get good grasp of what the pros and cons are from the words of past customers.
4. A trial period or a risk-free return policy
Purchasing and finding the right PSAP will take some trial and error considering the one-size-fits-all to a problem that unique to everyone. While most reliable retailer for hearing devices will offer some kind of trial period or a risk-free return policy, some cheap PSAPs may not. As Nicholas Reed, an audiologist from John Hopkins University puts it, “If you buy something for $19.99 out of the back of a magazine, it’s probably too good to be true.”
5. Advice from professionals
While physicians and audiologists will not be able to sell you PSAPs, they will be able to specifically address your hearing problem through tests and consultations. If you have any doubts concerning your health or hearing devices, be sure to seek professional advice before making a purchase.
Over-The-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids
Remember the part where we said you can’t buy hearing aids online?
That may actually soon change with OTC hearing aids becoming available soon where you will be able to buy hearing aids over the counter or online.
OTC hearing aids are a new category of hearing aids that you will soon be able to buy directly, without visiting a hearing health professional. These devices being intended for treatment of adults who have mild to moderate hearing loss will be regulated by the FDA. The new regulation for OTC hearing aids are in the works so be sure to check us or the FDA website out periodically for the most up-to-date information.
So, Should I Look Into Buying Hearing Devices Online?
The answer to this is, to be frank, it depends!
After looking out for the things we talked about, if you feel like PSAPs are what you are looking for, then by all means do your research online and try them out!
Need more information? Read through these articles:
The information in this guide has been written using the following reliable sources: