There has been much publicity around the state of the hearing industry over the past two years and the high prices some clinics charge for their hearing aids. While this is true in many cases, it is not a complete picture of the industry. It has also opened the door for a few unscrupulous predators to come into the market preying on people’s perception that hearing aids are generally overpriced in Australia.
Introducing low cost Hearing Aids with a major catch!
These things aren’t Hearing Aids at all!
Several online providers have started advertising hearing aids for as low as $119 each including shipping. These devices look like hearing aids to you, the consumer, and are advertised as hearing aids, but actually aren’t hearing aids at all. For instance, one online spa company, yes spa with water and jets etc., is actually selling “hearing aids” online which you can obtain retail for $13.95 online at $120. They even claim these devices work as well as hearing aids thousands of dollars dearer. They proudly give you a laughable 7 day money back guarantee, not even enough time to receive, try and return the devices!
These low priced “hearing aids” working as well as expensive models, would be fantastic if this was in fact true, but unfortunately we seem to have entered the domain of the snake oil salesman. What these retailers are in fact selling are Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs). These are devices that look like hearing aids, but are not regulated medical devices. They are generally built for one function: to make everything louder for people without hearing loss. But they aren’t set to a person’s specific hearing loss. If fitted without medical guidance, they have been known in some instances to cause immediate damage. They often don’t have the level lowering protection mechanisms that hearing aids have, and so may actually add to your hearing loss over time as well.
A major concern here is that a person with hearing loss, unaware of the performance differences between a hearing aid and PSAP, might try a PSAP, thinking it is a hearing aid. They might find the performance, fit and sound quality highly unsatisfactory. This experience may then result in them deciding that hearing aids do not work. This could lead them to miss out on the opportunity of benefiting from the quality of life improvements that properly selected and fitted TRUE hearing aids can bring.
As with everything else in life, there are different quality levels of PSAPS. Those costing less than $300 each are generally poorer quality, while those costing over $300 tend to have better sound quality and even some noise reduction built in. The key difference factor between a hearing aid and PSAP is that PSAPs cannot be adjusted to your hearing loss configuration. They do, however, often have volume controls, so don’t confuse this with suitability for hearing loss.
Some companies use higher quality PSAP advertised as hearing aids priced at $349 each to get you to visit their site. They then have higher cost models available with better features. Their highest cost model is actually an unknown brand basic hearing aid which is priced similarly to a quality brand name basic hearing aids that can be obtained locally at an audiologist. So you could end up paying the same price online for a no name brand hearing aid, without the 3 year warranty and professional care that goes with getting a true hearing aid from an audiologist.
So this is indeed a case of buyer beware!
Here are a few more articles relating to this issue: