By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
Hearing loss affects thousands of Kansans, and properly fitting, custom-made hearing aids can be expensive. Unfortunately, many disreputable sellers may try to sell discount devices claiming to assist with hearing loss, so it’s important for Kansans shopping for hearing aids to know their rights.
It starts with receiving a proper diagnosis from a qualified hearing specialist who can determine if hearing loss can be improved through the use of aids, or if there is a more serious medical condition that needs to be addressed by your physician. Each person’s hearing loss is different. Receiving a hearing test from a qualified hearing specialist can ensure you are getting a device that fits your particular hearing loss needs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration relaxed its restrictions on the sale of hearing aids in 2017. Since that time, dozens of companies have begun selling so-called over-the-counter hearing aids on the market, some of which can be purchased online from overseas sellers for as little as $2.50. Sadly, many of these low-cost products are poor sound amplifiers, not FDA-approved medical devices.
Purveyors of these products frequently use the traditional sales pitch tactics of luring customers by offering deals for devices that are much less than what a consumer would pay for traditional FDA-approved devices. These transactions often misrepresent FDA approvals for the products, and promises of money-back guarantees have, instead, left consumers unable to return and receive refunds for the useless or inoperable “hearing aids.”
To avoid being duped by such offers to restore your hearing at less cost or inconvenience, we offer the following tips before buying over-the-counter hearing aids:
- Over-the-counter hearing aids are not regulated and may simply be sound amplifiers, which may be of poor quality and will not work with individuals with significant hearing loss.
- Be skeptical of testimonials or good reviews from the company’s website. Check out the Better Business Bureau at http://www.bbb.org and other objective consumer review sites before purchasing. If a company has an F rating, something is wrong, and the buyers should beware.
- Be a diligent shopper. Frequently you will find the same product at varying prices. Scrutinize the return/refund policy before you make your purchase. Be aware of the timeframes and conditions for refunds.
- Consider getting a hearing screening and opinion from a hearing specialists who can tell you whether an over-the-counter device will work for you.
Make sure that the person you purchase your hearing aid from is reputable. In Kansas, the Board of Examiners in the Fitting and Dispensing of Hearing Instruments was established in 1968 to ensure that the people of Kansas receive competent and ethical hearing aid care. Information can be found at kbhae.com.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam related to the purchase of an over-the-counter hearing aid, please contact our office at 1-800-432-2310 or online at www.InYourCornerKansas.org.