How to Get Hearing Aids
- Where do I get hearing aids?
- Do I need a medical examination before buying hearing aids?
- What information should I consider before buying hearing aids?
- Should I consult a hearing health care professional before I get hearing aids?
- How do I choose hearing aids?
- How do I know if hearing aids work for me?
- How do I care for my hearing aids?
- Hearing aids in a nutshell
Where do I get hearing aids?
You can now buy hearing aids over the counter if you are 18 years or older. The FDA recently established a new category of over the counter (OTC) hearing aids so people 18 years of age and older with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss can buy one in the store or online without seeing an ear-nose-throat (ENT) doctor, or a licensed hearing health care professional (an audiologist).
You can also obtain hearing aids from a hearing health care professional (audiologist or hearing aid dispenser) if you prefer. These professionals can perform a hearing assessment and hearing aid evaluation. To find out if an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser is licensed, check with your local Better Business Bureau, consumer protection agency, State Attorney General's office, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Academy of Audiology, or Academy of Doctors of Audiology.
You can also request your hearing evaluation records from your hearing health care professional and may purchase your hearing aid elsewhere.
Do I need a medical examination before buying hearing aids?
In some cases, you should see a doctor, preferably an ENT doctor, before buying hearing aids to look for causes of hearing loss that need medical treatment besides hearing aids. However, an examination or doctor’s appointment is not required for people aged 18 or older with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss to buy OTC hearing aids. For people younger than 18 years of age, or with a more severe hearing loss, you will need to obtain a prescription (or other order) from a person licensed in your State. The FDA does not require a medical examination or hearing test for prescription hearing aids, but your State may require you to visit an audiologist or other licensed professional first. If you are younger than 18 years of age, you will need to purchase your hearing aid by prescription and should have a medical evaluation from a licensed doctor, such as an ENT doctor, before buying. The information in and on the hearing aid package can help you determine whether to see a doctor first.
What information should I consider before buying hearing aids?
- The type and style of hearing aids that will most meet your needs.
- The special features (connectivity to wireless systems) your hearing aids may need to fit your lifestyle.
- If you will need one or two hearing aids.
- The total cost of the hearing aids.
- If there is a trial or adjustment period to try out the hearing aids. Many manufacturers allow a trial or adjustment period, so if needed, the hearing aids may be returned for a refund within that trial period.
- If any fees are nonrefundable if you return the hearing aids after a trial or adjustment period.
- If there is a warranty and it can be extended.
- What is covered during the period of warranty, and the warranty also covers maintenance and repairs.
- How to care for your hearing aids.
Should I consult a hearing health care professional before I get hearing aids?
Consumers 18 years of age and older with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss have the option to purchase hearing aids OTC without a medical examination or an audiological examination. Even though a medical or audiological evaluation is not required for people 18 years or older with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, you may consider having your hearing evaluated to determine the type and amount of your hearing loss before getting a hearing aid. In the audiological examination, the hearing health care professional will assess your ability to hear sounds and understand others with and without hearing aids, and to select and fit the hearing aids to your communication needs. If you have medical concerns about your hearing loss, you should have a medical evaluation by a licensed doctor, such as an ENT doctor, before purchasing a hearing aid.
- Medical examinations may be performed by any licensed doctor. An examination of your ear, nose, and throat and possibly other testing can be done to rule out any medical reason for your hearing loss, such as infection, injury or deformity, ear wax in the ear canal, and, in rare cases, tumors.
- Audiological examinations or audiograms, involve a hearing evaluation by a hearing health care professional (an audiologist) who specializes in non-medical treatment and rehabilitation of hearing loss. They identify the type and amount of your hearing loss, determine the need for medical or surgical treatment, and may refer you to a licensed doctor.
How do I choose hearing aids?
Select hearing aids that are convenient and easy to use and provide the best results for your hearing loss. OTC hearing aids will say “OTC” and “hearing aid” on the package. Other features to consider include:
- Parts or services covered by the warranty
- Estimated schedule and costs for maintenance and repair
- Options and upgrade opportunities
- The hearing aid company's reputation for quality and customer service
How do I know if hearing aids work for me?
It takes time and patience to get used to hearing aids. You should:
- Wear your aids regularly to help maximize the benefits.
- Become familiar with your hearing aids and their features.
- Practice putting the hearing aids in and taking them out.
- Learn to adjust the volume in different listening environments.
- Test your hearing aids in various listening environments and determine where you have problems hearing.
- Talk to the manufacturer or a hearing health care professional about any problems hearing with your aids. You may make changes to your hearing aid settings if necessary.
- If you continue to struggle with your hearing aids, and you have not already, seek a consultation with a hearing health care professional.
How do I care for my hearing aids?
- Maintain proper care to extend the life of your hearing aids.
- Avoid using solvents, alcohol, or water on hearing aids because they can cause damage to the internal electronics of the hearing aid.
- Avoid exposing hearing aids to heat because this can damage them. For example, leaving them in the sun or in the car, placing them in or near a microwave or conventional oven, or using a hair dryer on them.
- Clean hearing aids as instructed. Earwax and ear drainage can damage your hearing aids.
- Avoid using hairspray and other hair care products while wearing your hearing aids.
- Turn off your hearing aids when not in use.
- Replace dead batteries immediately.
- Keep batteries and hearing aids away from children and pets.
- Inspect your hearing aids on a regular basis.
Hearing aids in a nutshell
- Adults 18 years of age and older can buy hearing aids for themselves OTC. For consumers 18 years of age and older with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, you have the option to purchase hearing aids OTC without a medical examination. For consumers younger than 18 years of age, you need to purchase your hearing aids by prescription, and you should have a medical evaluation from a doctor, preferably an ENT doctor, before purchasing.
- Select your hearing aids carefully. Select ones that are convenient and easy to use and provides the best results for your hearing loss. Buy hearing aids with features that meet your needs in daily listening activities.
- When to consider going to a doctor. An ENT doctor can give you a medical exam. The exam will rule out any medical reason for your hearing loss that could require medical or surgical treatment. Your doctor can also give you a referral to an audiologist or a hearing aid dispenser if your health plan requires a doctor’s referral for services.
- When to consider going to an audiologist. An audiologist will perform an audiological exam to determine the type and amount of your hearing loss and will talk with you about non-medical options to improve your hearing loss.
- Know how to care for your hearing aid. Ask a hearing health care professional to show you how to clean it and replace the batteries at the time of purchase. If purchasing OTC, read the instructions for use carefully. Consider contacting the manufacturer if you have questions about how to care for your hearing aid.
- Know the details of any trial or adjustment period provided. Many manufacturers allow a trial or adjustment period, so if needed, the hearing aids can be returned for a refund within the trial period. A trial or adjustment period allows you to test your hearing aids to see if they work well for you.
- Check out the warranty. Find out what is covered during the period of warranty, if the warranty covers maintenance and repairs, and if it can be extended. Ask your hearing healthcare professional or check with the manufacturer for warranty information.
- Report injuries, malfunctions, or other adverse events to the FDA. Healthcare professionals and consumers may report problems online at MedWatch or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088. Adverse events can include ear canal or outer ear skin irritation, injury from the device (cuts, scratches, or burns from an overheated battery), pieces of the device lodged in your ear canal, or sudden increased severity in hearing loss with device use.