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Buyer beware when it comes to online hearing aids

Today, consumers can turn to the internet to buy everything from artwork to zoology books. But it wasn't until recently they could buy hearing aids -- and this is a change that Paulette McDonald, owner of Miracle-Ear of Superior, believes comprom...

Today, consumers can turn to the internet to buy everything from artwork to zoology books.

But it wasn't until recently they could buy hearing aids -- and this is a change that Paulette McDonald, owner of Miracle-Ear of Superior, believes compromises consumer hearing health.

"Contrary to the way an internet vendor positioned hearing aids in an Aug. 21 story airing on CNBC, hearing aids are neither fashion accessories nor 'consumer electronic devices,'" said McDonald. "Hearing aids are medical devices, and require professional evaluation, fit and adjustments to deliver the life-changing benefits they offer."

The International Hearing Society is a membership association that represents hearing healthcare professionals worldwide, including those at more than 1,200 Miracle-Ear locations nationwide. As a corporate sponsor, Miracle-Ear supports the organization's ground-breaking efforts to ban what it considers to be illegal internet and over-the-counter hearing aid sales -- also being marketed and sold as personal sound amplifiers. According to the society, because hearing loss can be related to an

underlying medical disorder, by law the hearing loss sufferer must be evaluated by a physician or another licensed hearing professional in the six-month period prior to purchasing a hearing aid to confirm all medically treatable conditions have been identified and addressed. And in many states, hearing aid sales are governed by licensing laws.

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However, adults do have the right to waive these protections based on religious or personal objections -- and this has opened the door to internet and over-the-counter marketers offering cut-rate products based on online, phone-based or written "hearing tests."

McDonald warns that an effective hearing loss screening requires a visual examination of the ear along with a comprehensive hearing evaluation by a properly licensed specialist. Without this professional evaluation, consumers run the risk of not understanding the pathology behind their hearing loss -- thereby missing the opportunity to treat the loss effectively and appropriately.

"While hearing aids are similar in design and intent, and the initial cost of a hearing aid purchased online may be very attractive, the key to success in wearing and benefiting from the device is in the follow-up counseling, support and fittings offered by certified hearing specialists like Miracle-Ear of Superior," said McDonald. "Those devices that arrive in the mail will most likely end up in a drawer, unused. More importantly, the individual who ordered that device online will continue to suffer unnecessarily from untreated hearing loss."

For information, contact McDonald at Miracle-Ear in Superior or visit www.miracle-ear.com .

Related Topics: HEALTH
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