Thinking of buying a hearing aid? Wondering what you need to know first and if you have any rights to protect yourself from getting a bum deal?

We turned to both the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to gather this tips to use when shopping for a hearing aid.

We know: 5 Rules for Buying a Hearing Aid

Rule 1: Find out the cause of your hearing loss.

If youíre having trouble hearing, go see a doctor and find out what the source of your hearing loss is. Some hearing loss is helped by surgery, and other types of hearing loss can be helped by a hearing aid.

Rule 2: Check out the folks selling you the hearing aid.

Hearing aids are generally sold by audiologists or merchants (also called dispensers). Some states require licensing and certification, others donít. Ask friends or family about sellers they trust, or call the Better Business Bureau to ask if anybodyís complained about the person youíre thinking of doing business with.

Rule 3: Find out what kind of hearing aid help you need.

Have the audiologist or dispenser of the hearing aid give you an evaluation to determine what kind of hearing aid suits you best. You want the right type and the right fit. Itís not a good idea to buy hearing aids through the mail or from a door-to-door salesperson because itís harder to get a good fit.

Rule 4: Ask for a trial period.

You want to see if the hearing aid works before you actually buy it. Many states recommend or require you get at least a 30-day trial period. And many manufacturers will make adjustments to the hearing aid during that period. You may have to pay a service fee of 5-20 % if you return the hearing aid during the trial period, but thatís better than paying full price for something that doesnít work.

Rule 5: Know your rights when shopping for a hearing aid.

Federal regulations require that audiologist or merchant (dispenser) who sells the hearing aid take the following steps:

  • The dispenser must get a written statement from you, signed by a physician within the last six months, saying your ears have been evaluated and you are cleared for fitting with a hearing aid. You can waive this requirement if youíre over 18, but the dispenser cannot encourage you to waive it, and must tell you it is not in your best interest to waive the medical evaluation.
  • If youíre having hearing problems, the dispenser must advise you to consult with a physician.
  • You must be given a brochure that illustrates and describes the operation, use, and care of your hearing aid, and tells you where to get it repaired and maintained.

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