May 2, 2011
Purchasing a hearing aid sometimes requires a significant financial investment, so it’s important to choose a hearing aid dispenser with the patient’s best interests in mind. A hearing aid dispenser, also called a hearing aid specialist, will provide a hearing test and help select the proper device, but most importantly, she will also be available to offer support and instruction.
Unfortunately, there are just as many opportunities for fraud in healthcare as there are in other industries. Choosing a licensed hearing aid professional is the first essential step in avoiding a negative outcome. A hearing aid dispenser is qualified to perform a hearing test and recommend a hearing device. A dispensing audiologist is licensed both as an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser. To be licensed, these professionals should have passed written and practical examinations to prove their knowledge and competence, according to the standards mandated by the State of Wisconsin. Look for the initials “CCC” in their title, which stands for Certified Clinically Competent.
“Hearing aid prices vary, but a good hearing aid dispenser will work with the patient to find a solution that fits his medical and financial situation,” says Fort HealthCare Audiologist Lori Fish, M.A., CCC-A. She cautions patients to be weary of internet purchases and “drop-in” service providers. “A dispenser who sets up temporary shop to sell devices and leaves town the next day will not be available to service your purchase, should something not work,” she warns.
Individuals who purchase a hearing aid through the mail or over the internet, even from a legitimate hearing aid dispenser, should understand that there is no fitting, selection or adaptation of the hearing aid by a licensed dispenser. If the hearing device does not fit correctly, the patient has no way of scheduling a follow-up evaluation where adjustments can be made. In addition, it may be difficult to get a refund from an out-of-state seller.
Fish recommends that patients verify whether a dispenser has a current and valid license, and check with the Better Business Bureau on any complaints that may have been filed. Be cautious about any signs of high sales pressure techniques and, if the advertising sounds too good to be true, Fish says, it usually is. “Be especially wary if a hearing aid dispenser tries to discourage you from seeing a physician, and wants you to sign a contract right away. That’s a red flag.”
This spring, through the end of May, Fort HealthCare Audiology is running a battery special, offering 40 Duracell hearing aid batteries for $20. Lori Fish, M.S., CCC-A also offers free hearing screenings to adults 18 and over at Fort HealthCare’s Ear, Nose & Throat Clinics in Fort Atkinson, Whitewater and Edgerton. Call 920-563-6667 to make an appointment, or visit FortHealthCare.com/Audiology for more information.