August 01, 2020

How do I go about finding a decent, affordable hearing aid?

Q: My husband has reached a point where his life will improve with hearing aids. How do we go about getting a decent product?

A: You're right to ask, since your husband's issue is shared by many. About one-third of Americans ages 65 to 74 have hearing loss, as do close to 50% of Americans age 75 and older. To deal with this surging demand, there are a variety of licensed professionals who dispense or fit hearing aids. Sorting the reputable from the rest is very important.

First, your husband should have a hearing evaluation. Ask your doctor for a referral to a hearing specialist (audiologist). An audiologist will check for correctable causes of hearing loss — such as earwax buildup — and assess your husband's hearing. The audiologist will help him choose the most appropriate hearing aid — and adjust the device to meet his needs. The audiologist may refer him to a doctor, if needed.

Second, watch out for misleading claims. While technology has improved, hearing aids can't restore normal hearing or eliminate all background noise. Avoid dispensers who claim otherwise.

Third, ask about a trial period with the device, which typically run for a month or two. Most states have a minimum trial period that is required. Ask for details in writing. These details include the cost of a trial, whether this amount is credited toward the final cost of the hearing aid, and how much is refundable if you return the hearing aid during the trial period.

Finally, make sure you ask about a warranty. How long is the warranty, and what does it cover? Is future maintenance included? Can the dispenser provide needed...