Are you looking to buy hearing aids online? Here is what you need to know:
With the growing popularity of online shopping websites such as Lazada or Shopee, consumers are choosing to purchase health products online. This includes supplements, medicines and even hearing aids.
If you are considering purchasing hearing aids online, here are some quick tips to guide you into making a safe and effective purchase:
1) Hearing aids are Class B medical devices regulated by HSA (Health Science Authority)
Hearing aids are regulated medical devices (see table above). This means that all hearing aids must be approved by HSA before they can be legally sold in Singapore. Purchasing a hearing aid that has been approved by HSA assures that:
- It is a hearing aid (see point 2)
- It works properly as intended.
- It meets the minimum safety guidelines.
To find out if a hearing aid is HSA approved, you can look up the product model on the Singapore Medical Device Register. We recommend against buying any hearing aid that is not on the register.
2) Those “hearing aids” may actually be PSAPs (Personal Sound Amplifier Product)
If you see a “hearing aid” priced below $300, it is probably a PSAP.
PSAPs look like hearing aids but are amplifiers designed for people with normal hearing. They increase all sounds in the environment for the user – on the other hand, hearing aids take sounds and divide them into different pitches and volume. Hearing aids only amplify sounds in pitches where the hearing loss is.
Hearing loss individuals rarely benefit from PSAPs as every hearing loss is different. Some individuals lose hearing in the high pitches, some in the low pitches. PSAPs do not take the hearing loss into consideration and may amplify sounds that the individual does not actually need. This can cause further hearing damage in the long run.
3) Online hearing aid vendors may not be medical professionals
It is difficult to ascertain if online hearing aid vendors are medical professionals and hence, they are unlikely able to provide consultation. Any hearing aid that is sold without a medical consultation is unlikely to have been assessed by HSA. Consumers also may have no way of knowing where the hearing aids come from or how safe these hearing aids are.
Licensed hearing aid dispensers in Singapore have an obligation to sell only HSA approved hearing aids. If you choose to purchase your hearing aids online, it is always recommended to choose a vendor linked to an audiology centre in Singapore.
4) Hearing aids need to be programmed by a trained professional
Programming hearing aids is a complex process. It requires a hearing test and programming by a trained professional to accommodate the user’s hearing loss. As the individual ages, his or her hearing loss will change. The hearing aids have to be programmed according to the latest hearing test.
If you decide to purchase a hearing aid online, check with your local audiology centre the following before making your purchase:
- Does the centre carry the require hearing aid software for programming your hearing aid?
- What are the service charges for programming?
- Does the centre have the required spare parts for maintenance and cleaning?
4) Hearing aids have to be registered with the manufacturer in order to claim warranty
Hearing aids are susceptible to wear and tear and will require occasional repairs and maintenance. Most manufacturers give consumers a warranty period of 2-4 years where they cover all repair and servicing costs.
Purchasing hearing aids online puts the consumer at risk of not getting any warranty. As many hearing aids sold online may not be authentic, they won’t be registered with the manufacturer. If your hearing aid is found unregistered or lacking a serial number, the manufacturer is not obliged to honor the warranty terms promised by the online vendor.
5) Not everyone who has a hearing loss is suited for hearing aids
Hearing loss is a medical condition and should be treated like one.
If you suspect someone has hearing loss, please seek a diagnosis from a medical doctor or audiologist first. There may be underlying causes which need immediate treatment.
Hearing aids are not always the solution for hearing loss. It is important to consult a registered audiologist. You can find out if your local vendor is a registered audiologist at the Singapore Audiology Professional Society.