Internet (do-it-yourself) healthcare

As we recover from the holidays, there is no doubt many good deals were found by shopping the Internet—all from the comfort of our homes. Few would deny that the Web has affected many aspects of our daily lives—for better or worse.

As the development and placement of consumer protections struggle to keep up with the rapid advancements of technology, communication and commerce, it is ever important that we obtain quality information and exercise good judgement prior to obtaining goods or services over the Internet. 

This is especially critical in the case of healthcare and related medical devices, including hearing aids. Internet retailers craft websites in clever fashion to convince buyers of pricing advantages and superior services while claiming to have the consumer’s best interests at heart. And while the Internet can indeed prove advantageous in finding great deals on commodities (such as TVs and home furnishings), it is an extremely questionable and risky place to obtain healthcare.

Hearing loss and other ear disorders are complex and unique to each person. Some include underlying (and potentially harmful) medical conditions identified through proper audiologic evaluation; many require functional communication and needs assessment; and most benefit from individualized education, counseling, and treatment planning before rehabilitative device option recommendations (e.g., hearing aids) are determined. Not to mention there are individual ear anatomy variations, practical aspects and personal preferences that should be considered. 

Once hearing aid candidacy is determined and appropriate device options are selected and ordered, a licensed audiology doctor will prescribe an amplification prescription (programmed in-office), often starting “low” and working up to a “full” test-verified prescription over the course of several weeks during the rehabilitative process, while addressing any additional needs which may arise and ensuring appropriate and maximal benefit is achieved.

Internet hearing aid sales put the consumer at physical and financial risk by overlooking this important process, potentially resulting in missed diagnoses, poor outcomes, negative experiences and money wasted. Some states have passed regulations making Internet sale of hearing aids illegal (with more surely to follow), but sellers will continue to profit off of the uninformed until consumer protection laws become more widespread and well-enforced.

The best advice is to always seek quality, comprehensive hearing care from a licensed doctor of audiology.

Dr. Clint Keifer is the owner of Great Lakes Audiology in Toledo. You can contact him at 419 327-2273; email at ckeifer@glaudiology.com; or visit http://www.GLAudiology.com.