Hearing Aids: Health Information for Older People

I often ask people around me to repeat what they say, and I need to turn up the volume on my TV. I think I might need a hearing aid. I've seen ads for hearing aid dealers who guarantee satisfaction. What else do I need to know?

Almost 40 million Americans deal with hearing loss. But not all of them can be helped by a hearing aid. That’s why it’s a good idea to visit an otolaryngologist, a physician who specializes in the ear, nose, and throat, before you buy. It’s possible your hearing loss is caused by a medical condition, and treating the condition would improve your hearing. Or, you might find that you have a type of hearing loss that an aid won’t help. A medical evaluation is so important that the FDA requires hearing aid sellers to tell you about your need for one before you buy. If you decide not to have a medical evaluation, you must sign a waiver.

If your doctor thinks a hearing aid could help you, you’ll need to get a hearing test and fitting by a licensed hearing health professional, like a qualified audiologist. Look for someone who offers products from several manufacturers so you can find the best aid for your needs. Then check out the sellers with your local Better Business Bureau (BBB), consumer protection agency, or state Attorney General (AG). Find out whether dispensers and audiologists need to be licensed or certified by your state, and what other protections you have under state law.

When you shop for an aid, ask if there’s a trial period so you can test it. Most states require one, and even in states that don’t, most audiologists will offer it. Be sure to find out what fees are refundable if you return the aid during the trial period, and get the details about guarantees and warranties. It’s important to get this information in writing. Check whether the price quoted includes testing and other services, as well as the aid. If you buy an aid, but believe the seller isn’t living up to a guarantee, file a complaint with your state AG, BBB, or the FTC.

Buying a hearing aid online can be risky. An aid needs to be custom fitted and tested to be sure it’s working properly.  

Who Cares About Hearing Aids?

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
1-800-241-1044
(TTY: 1-800-241-1055)

American Academy of Audiology
1-800-222-2336

Academy of Doctors of Audiology
1-866-493-5544

American Academy of Otolaryngology

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Better Hearing Institute
1-800-327-9355

AARP
1-888-687-2277