Monday, December 19, 2011

Your Audiology Tutorial: $%!@*?^#

As I unfold the Palm Beach Post each day I am greeted by an ad for a local audiology group, exclaiming that they are ready to fit the hearing impaired with the latest technology, and for a competitive price. Every single day. My patients bring me these ads as well as the glossy mailers which promise very low costs for sophisticated devices. Never mind that sometimes the hearing aid pictured doesn't match the description.

Such advertising is irritating. I feel it cheapens and merely commoditizes the profession. Even worse is the ad above, from a Walmart in Texas. Hearing aids, off the rack. A commodity. When someone purchases amplification at a legitimite clinic, they are not only spending $$ on an electronic device but also a service. The fitter will/should spend ample time fitting and programming the hearing aid to help the patient with speech understanding and clarity. The fitter will ensure a proper physical fit and acoustic adjustment. One does not get this when merely buying an aid from a retail store.

It is also increasingly common to purchase these behind-the-ear and in-the-ear (not custom made, obviously) devices from Internet websites. Many audiology and dispensing organizations are fighting this. How can a patient adjust these aids on their own? What if they simply make everything (including air conditioners, ticking timepieces, flushing toilets) louder while still rendering a spouse inaudible? I suppose eventually that as tech savvy folks reach their "golden years" they may be more adept at self-programmming than the current elderly, who largely are not. Anyone who has programmed or worn hearing aids know how difficult it can be to get benefit from them when they are expertly programmed. Time will tell.....
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