Why “FREE” when it comes to a hearing test isn’t always a good deal
If you suspect you have hearing loss or wear hearing aids, I am sure you have seen the myriad of ads in the paper touting “FREE HEARING TESTS” or “FREE HEARING AID CLEAN & CHECK” … at first glance, that can seem very appealing.
Free is good right? Well, not always…
Because of the advertising and messaging around hearing aids and hearing care in general, many people tend to think of hearing aids like a commodity, in which regardless of where or how you get one, the outcome is the same. When it comes to hearing care however, it is not that simple.
First, you must have a comprehensive hearing evaluation, preferably by a Doctor of Audiology, especially if you have never had a hearing exam before. Although for most patients the most appropriate treatment for their hearing loss is in fact amplification (hearing aids), for some patients there are other underlying conditions which can affect your diagnosis.
For example, if you have an anatomical abnormality behind the ear drum, or a history of recurrent ear infections; these types of problems are often not visible from looking in the ear or simple tone testing. Advanced testing and evaluation by a Doctor of Audiology will reveal this type of issue and he or she will be able to make the referral for surgical correction if appropriate.
In my 15 years of clinical practice, I have identified many patients who inadvertently purchased hearing aids when what they needed was a simple surgical procedure to correct their hearing loss. They ended up in my office unsatisfied with their devices when the problem had nothing to do with the hearing aids, and unfortunately at that point the surgical option was no longer appropriate.
In addition, a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation provides the basis for the recommendation as to the right hearing aids and the data for the prescription and fitting of the hearing aids, if that is in fact the appropriate solution to the hearing loss. If the exam is not complete, then some of this crucial information is not available and therefore not considered during the hearing aid selection and fitting. This can result in choosing the wrong hearing aid, and or fitting the devices incorrectly since the prescription is derived from the hearing test results. Hearing evaluations require precisely calibrated equipment, a sound treated booth, and an experienced and qualified professional to administer the test.
As with all other medical specialties, like podiatry or optometry, qualified competent audiologists must be compensated for their expertise and the cost for the equipment and facilities required to provide those services. In actuality, most insurances cover a comprehensive exam with an audiologist, with either no out-of-pocket cost to you or a small co-pay, depending on your plan.
So, if you see “FREE HEARING TESTS”, make sure you are asking about the qualifications and details about what you are actually getting for “FREE”. It may not be as good a deal as it seems. Your hearing health and quality of life are too important! At our hearing centers, our mission is to not only provide the best quality hearing care possible, but also to educate the community and help all patients make informed decisions so they can get the care they need and deserve.