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Buying a hearing aid can be difficult

July 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Do you find it hard to hear conversations in restaurants? Or are you always asking people to repeat themselves? You may very well need hearing aids. But Consumer Specialist Ric Romero found out, that might be easier said than done. We teamed up with Consumer Reports to test out 48 hearing aids and it turns out getting hearing aids is tougher than buying a used car.

Ken Franklin finally got a hearing aid about three years ago.

"My family kept after me time after time. They got tired of repeating everything," said Franklin.

He's one of a dozen volunteers Consumer Reports had purchase pairs of hearing aids to assess the shopping experience. They can be expensive, one pair cost more than $6,000. And it turns out getting the right hearing aid for your needs is no easy matter.

"Two-thirds of the 48 hearing aids were not adjusted properly for their wearers. In addition, a lot of shoppers didn't get information on features that could have helped their hearing aids' performance," said Tobie Stanger, Consumer Reports.

There are all sorts of hearing aids to choose from. And Consumer Reports says no one hearing aid is good for everyone.

"Your first step is to find a person and place to prescribe and fit your hearing aids. Ideally, that's an ear doctor's office, which usually will employ audiologists," said Stanger.

Consumer Reports says when shopping for a hearing aid, discuss your lifestyle. Ask about a Telecoil if you talk a lot on the telephone. Consider a directional microphone, which helps people hear in noisy environments. And find out about digital noise reduction, which helps reduce annoying background noise.

"When you pick up your hearing aids, it's critical that they're fitting properly. You need to have several tests done. And one's that crucial is called the real-ear test," said Stanger.

That test measures the match between your hearing loss and the response of your hearing aid.

Consumer Reports says whenever buying a hearing aid, always be sure to get a money-back guarantee. And don't forget to practice using a new hearing aid before you take it home. For instance, you want to try using the controls and changing the batteries.

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