Researchers warning against cheap hearing aids

Cheap over-the-counter hearing aids are inadequate and may actually directly harm people's hearing, according to scientists.

If you need a hearing aid, and money is in short supply, you may be tempted by cheap over-the-counter hearing aids. But having tested a number of over-the-counter hearing aids, two researchers warn against this temptation. Cheap hearing aids may have the opposite effect than the one intended and further damage your hearing.

Damaging and inadequate

Eleven hearing aids were subjected to the same tests performed on regular hearing aids. The test considered three common forms of hearing impairment.

The tested devices included low cost models priced below USD100 and moderate priced aids costing USD100-500.

The lowest price group aids were found to emit loud noises into the ear, risking hearing damage. In addition, they amplified only lower frequency sounds and failed to help the users hear the higher frequencies most commonly affected by hearing loss and particularly important when hearing speech.

”Talk to your audiologist”

The moderately priced hearing aids fared somewhat better than those in the cheapest group. But as they are sold over-the-counter, no professional guidance or assistance in fine-tuning the aids is included. The researchers recommend that people who buy these devices consult an audiologist.

”Based on the research, the best advice for consumers is to talk to an audiologist. Because hearing aids have complex technical features, they need to be fitted and customized to the individual,” they stated.

The tests were conducted by Jerry Punch, a professor in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at Michigan State University and Susanna Løve Callaway, a Danish student. The results were published in the American Journal of Audiology.

Source: American Journal of Audiology;
Published on hear-it on December 8, 2008.

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