Well… it’s actually a silly question why you shouldn’t buy an amplifying device or PSAP over the counter…never did I ever think that such a question would be asked.
But the question was asked so here goes…
Audiologists are the professional that specializes in the clinical diagnosis and management of hearing loss – we hold a minimum qualification of 4 years (honors level qualification) with a fifth year working as a community service audiologist – in my case a further 3 years Master’s degree level.
If you could buy a hearing aid without consulting an audiologist, why do you think there would even be such a profession with such extensive training?
You need the audiologist to firstly clinically diagnose your hearing loss and rule out any underlying medical issues. In some cases your hearing loss can be treated with an operation or medication- but you need a proper diagnosis first. In the case that you do in fact need a hearing aid – your audiologist has in depth knowledge and training on a variety of hearing aid brands with their features, abilities and limitations on the market. With your input regarding your lifestyle needs we can recommend the most appropriate set for you! It is certainly not a decision to be taken lightly, and best be done in collaboration with a trained audiologist. The fitting of your hearing aid is an exact science – your hearing aid has to be programmed for your hearing loss specifically – and this is merely the first step…
The process and journey with the hearing aids shortly after they had been fitted is another factor to consider. This truly is a process and the role of the audiologist is to ensure the facilitation of realistic expectations and to manage this process in a way that is clinically proven. These aspects are inevitable in the successful long term outcomes for you as hearing aid user. The audiologist have expert knowledge on how the intricate features and parts of the hearing aid comes together and can do adjustments on your hearing aids that can address issues that you might be unhappy with. This is something that you would not be able to yourself necessarily – The adjustments I am referring to is much more than just turning the volume up and down!
If you were to buy an off the shelf hearing device or over the counter hearing device would this be programmed specifically to your audiogram? Or is this a simple amplification device that amplifies all frequencies equally? This is an important question, because very often – in most cases – hearing loss doesn’t affect all frequencies equally. Low frequencies might be normal and not need any amplification whilst high frequencies might have a severe difficulty. If the same amplification is given across the frequency range, you will have major over amplification in the low frequencies and major under amplified high frequency sounds. This would not only cause a horrible sound quality, you will also not hear well enough but it can also cause auditory deprivation due to under amplification and under effective stimulation of the auditory nerve in certain frequency areas. Most importantly – your hearing can also be damaged with these devices!
Something else to consider is the warranty and service plan and follow up appointments that you have access to when buying a new hearing aid. As mentioned previously, you might need to see your audiologist for expert fine tuning session after your initial fitting – supply models usually include a certain amount of these follow up sessions. Hearing aids also needs to have a major service every year (not just a quick clean and check by your audiologist or yourself)… in order for this to happen it needs to be sent to the manufacturer which is locally based. If you buy a brand that is not manufactured or at least represented locally you will have problems with it when fixing or servicing is needed. Not servicing it would lead to decreased life expectancy and definitely an unsatisfactory sound experience.
Hearing aids are very tiny electronic devices which is extremely sensitive to wax build up, moisture in the environment and in the ear. This highlights the fact that maintenance and servicing is such an important aspect of this process and is unavoidable.
To conclude – hearing loss and the treatment thereof is an exact science and it is not advisable to buy your hearing aids without proper audiological assessment and the expert opinion, and adjustments by your audiologist and a product that has been well-researched and well represented in our country.
If you have any specific questions regarding this topic – please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa) recent warning about the selling of illegal hearing aids at the following here.