Can I buy hearing aids on the internet?

The simple answer to this is yes you can. There are however 3 completely different  types of companies advertising hearing aids on the internet and it is important that you distinguish between the pair of them.

Mail Order Companies.

These companies can sell you hearing aids directly without any medical or professional intervention. The only benefit I can see in buying these hearing aids is that they’re cheap. Typically between £50 and £250 each. The main drawback is that the hearing aids are not programmed to match the individual’s specific hearing loss. Certain websites allow you to test your hearing but this is only a vague indication as to whether or not you have a hearing loss – not a complete audiological profile.

Dispenser Networks

There are a handful of “networks” of UK hearing aid audiologists on the internet such as www.HearingAid.org.UK . They put you in touch with a local independent hearing aid audiologist who can provide you with a free hearing test. If you need hearing aids then they can offer the choice of any product on the market with an unbiased opinion. They usually publish their prices on their website and these prices are typically 30% – 50% cheaper than high street companies or national chains. You should expect to pay £500 to £1500 per hearing aid – no more. National companies can charge as much as £3000 per hearing aid so there are good savings to be made.

Your hearing loss is as individual as you are. It is of primary importance that a hearing impairment is checked out by a fully qualified professional. If you buy hearing aids then you will probably wear them for at least 12 hours per day, 7 days a week.

Other companies

These could be independents, chains or national companies. Use the guidance below to select whether they are worth dealing with.

 Guidance

Every hearing aid company advertises on the internet. Here are some tips to find the right hearing aids and the right company for you.

1)      Avoid any company that doesn’t display their full price list as there is undoubtedly a reason for this – they overcharge.

2)      Avoid any company that isn’t specific about products and their prices. Some companies appear to publish price lists but they disguise them by using names like “better range”, “best range”, “ultimate listening range”.

3)      Avoid companies that rebrand their hearing aids. Some national companies have their hearing aids identities obscured by rebranding them. This clandestine practice is intended to prevent the consumer from comparing prices. The main manufacturers of hearing aids are as follows: Phonak, Oticon, Widex, Siemens, Starkey, Unitron, Bernafon and Resound. Unless they publish these brands and are specific about the costs of the models then steer well clear.

4)      Avoid companies that don’t offer all makes of hearing aids. Most national companies are owned wholly or partially by a manufacturer so their advice is less than independent. Even if the company in question is not owned by a manufacturer, they may actually only sell 2 or 3 makes of hearing aids. Looking at the list above, there are at least 8 manufacturers.

5)      Avoid the “fake local independent”. Many local independents have actually been bought out by a national company. They usually try to hide this by keeping their original name. As explained earlier, most national companies are less than independent. Check their website for a head office or maybe just ask them.

The internet is really like a big interactive newspaper. More and more people are using it as resource to compare companies, products and prices. I personally believe that the internet has heralded the beginning of the end for people overcharging in virtually any field.