One word: Service
The fact is, hearing aid vendors who sell at cut rates have fewer resources left over for service.
And as hearing aids become more high-tech and more complex, getting the right fitting and adjustments is often the difference between success and failure for the wearer.
A trained audiologist or dispenser usually has access to a wide variety of models and can help the user select the best one for his or her hearing loss. As with vision loss, no two individuals’ hearing losses are exactly the same.
Trained audiologists will also know about special products for tinnitus or single-sided deafness, and how to make products work together to make talking on the phone or hearing the television easier.
Don't cut corners on fitting and adjustment
Once the correct hearing aid has been chosen and arrives, a dedicated audiologist or dispenser can make sure the device fits properly, and show the wearer how to put it on, clean and maintain it.
The audiologist or dispenser will also help adjust the hearing aid’s multiple programs to provide the best fit for the user and his or her personal preferences or lifestyle.
These types of adjustments require a trained hand, since the advances in hearing aids in recent years have essentially made them wearable, micro-sized computers.
Cutting corners on fitting and adjustment can mean that a user won’t be taking advantage of all the benefits the hearing aid can offer.
It can also mean the hearing aid will be uncomfortable, and worn less often.
Disadvantages of cheap hearing aids
Cheaper hearing aids bought online are often less sophisticated: many provide only amplification, which doesn’t distinguish between the conversations and music most people want to hear and the background noise they would rather ignore. One of the drawbacks to cheap hearing aids is inability to distinguish between different types of sound.
Even higher-quality hearing aids bought online don’t come with the hands-on, custom fitting of a trained expert. They also can’t offer in-person support and an ongoing professional relationship the way a dedicated audiologist or dispenser can.
Having a friendly, familiar face who knows the wearer’s medical history who can answer questions and provide support may be particularly important for older users of hearing aids.
Some online vendors do provide an online “chat” function for questions, and will adjust hearing aids that are sent back to them. But this can involve a lot of back and forth through the post office.
Emphasise service, expertise versus drawbacks of cheap hearing aids
Dedicated audiologists and vendors can make a clear distinction between their businesses and discount hearing aid providers by emphasising the services they provide.
By emphasising that they are experts at device selection, fitting, and the precise adjustment that maximises the hearing aids’ many features, they can draw a clear line between themselves and cheaper hearing aid providers.
Customers who visit a dedicated audiologist or dispenser get the benefits of a trained professional’s training, time and attention.
Those who try to get a bargain may find themselves with low-quality, ill-fitting devices they wear infrequently and have to replace regularly – and not saving much money at all.