For Your Information: 10/15/2010
FTC Offers Sound Advice for People Considering Buying a Hearing Aid
More than 35 million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, offers these tips for people who are thinking about buying a hearing aid:
- It’s important to see a doctor before buying a hearing aid. People with conductive hearing loss – damage to the outer ear, middle ear, or both, resulting from a blockage from earwax, fluid, or a punctured eardrum – often can have the problem corrected surgically. On the other hand, people with hearing loss caused by damage to the nerves in the inner ear – caused by disease, illness, age, injury from exposure to noise or certain medicines, or a genetic disorder – are less likely to benefit from surgery, and are more likely to need a hearing aid.
- People with hearing problems should not rely on a personal sound amplification product. These devices are used to amplify hard-to-hear sounds – like bird songs or a speaker in a large lecture hall – for people with normal hearing.
- Hearing exams and evaluations may be performed by an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the head and neck; an audiologist, who has specialized training and an advanced degree in hearing loss; or a hearing aid dispenser.
- When the time comes to buy a hearing aid, people should look for a hearing health professional who offers products from several manufacturers. It’s sound advice to check out sellers through the Better Business Bureau, state or local consumer protection agencies, state attorney general offices, state licensing or certification boards, or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
- The purchase agreement for a hearing aid should include details about the trial period, the warranty, the total price, and whether a loaner hearing aid will be available during servicing or repair. People who can’t afford a hearing aid should contact the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ Information Clearinghouse to find out about organizations that offer financial assistance.
- The FTC enforces regulations that prohibit the use of misleading sales and advertising practices, including giving inaccurate information about hearing loss, hearing aid performance, refund policies, or warranty coverage. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforces regulations that deal with the manufacture and sale of hearing aids. Many states also have laws governing hearing aid sales.
- For more information on hearing aids, or to learn where to file a complaint, see Sound Advice on Hearing Aids.
The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a new video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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