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A better way to trial hearing aids

Whenever someone buys a hearing aid they have a trial period in which they can decide whether they want to keep the hearing aid or not. If you are buying a hearing aid and aren’t offered a trial period then shop somewhere else.

Normally the way the trial works is that you pay up-front in full for your hearing aid and you take it away. You get an amount of time for the trial and at the end of that you can give it back or keep it. During the trial period you would go back to the audiologist and make any tweaks to the aid’s programme to get it just right for you.

This is good in that the hearing aid is trialed in the buyer’s normal environment – at home, at work, etc, etc.

One thing I don’t like about this is that the money has to be paid in full up front. Of course, the vendor cannot allow you to walk out with an expensive piece of equipment – they’d probably never see you again. So the vendor has to protect their interest, but what about the buyer? It’s scary to have to part with that amount of money and not be sure that you even want the product. Will the vendor definitely give you your money back? It’s scary.

For first time hearing aid wearers it may take them a long time to build up the courage to actually wear their new aid outside. If they don’t start wearing it straight away they are losing trial time.

What I think happens a lot is that someone gets pressure to go and visit an audiologist, buys a hearing aid, never really wears it during the trial and then because it is not configured properly for them never wears it again. Waste of money. Waste of hearing aid.

I think the trial process could be broken up into separate stages to help, in particular, first time wearers.

The software demo

A hearing aid is really about the software inside it. The quality of sound it produces, the noise it limits, etc. It would be great if audiologists could fit people during visits with a basic ear mould that would run the hearing aid software they are thinking of buying.

The audiologist has all the programming software for each aid – why not have the actual aid software too? When someone visits and wants to try a particular aid they can simply pop a generic throw-away hearing aid into their ear, select the hearing aid of choice and then play some common sounds. The buyer can then experience, possibly for the first time, what a hearing aid sounds like.

Are some vendors already doing this?

Time-limited hardware

Once a hearing aid has been selected does someone have to pay up-front for it there and then? I don’t think so. How about the audiologist fitting the buyer with a basic hearing aid mould in which the software is time limited? I.e. the hearing would work perfectly but after say 3 weeks it simply shuts off. It would be a less scary option for the buyer, given them a real world trial and costing the vendor nothing.

What do you think? Are current trials OK? When you buy a hearing aid are you happy to lay out a lot of money up front?

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