Posted by - For Consumers, Hearing Aids, Hearing Providers.

The results of a Hearing Review study, entitled “A Comparison of Consumer Satisfaction, Subjective Benefit, and Quality of Life Changes Associated with Traditional and Direct-mail Hearing Aid Use”, were promoted in a recent MDHearingAid press release.

The Better Hearing Institute* [Hearing Review] reports that direct-to-consumer (mail order) hearing aids are just as beneficial as traditional, expensive hearing aids…Overall, these [mail-order hearing aid] users achieve higher overall satisfaction rates…”

I think it is important to look at this claim, and consider the context of the Hearing Review article.  The author, Sergei Kochkin, PhD, summarizes the results as follows:

The direct-mail hearing aids in this survey delivered ‘about average’ real-world benefit, but significantly less real-world benefit than hearing aids dispensed by those professionals who adhere to the highest levels of best practices.”

There is an important distinction between Kochkin’s summary and the claim made in the MDHearingAid press release; the press release does not highlight the potential advantage of professionally-fitted devices.  In his concluding statements, Kochkin reiterates:

Consumers can be … significantly more satisfied if all best practices are employed by the hearing professional in the clinic or office.”

We can, however, give MDHearingAid partial credit for their claim. Kochkin also writes:

Satisfaction from direct-mail purchases exceeds that from offices where best practices are not followed.”

The bottom line: MDHearingAid has oversimplified the Hearing Review article in claiming that mail-order hearing aids are just as beneficial as professionally-fitted hearing aids. Mail-order hearing aids have the potential to provide the same benefit as a marginally-fitted hearing aid, but fail to provide the same level of benefit as a well-fitted hearing aid, fitted by a professional who follows best practice guidelines. Consumers are more likely to achieve good results with high-quality hearing providers than they are with mail-order hearing aids.

Message to hearing providers:

Let this be a warning. The time to prove your value is now.

*The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) was incorrectly referenced as the publisher in the MDHearingAid press release.

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