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Offered by: John Wilson, B.S., BC-HIS – Blue Ribbon Hearing & Tinnitus Center

Last week I received another unsolicited message from a representative of an overseas hearing device manufacturer. The message is one of many I have been sent since opening Blue Ribbon Hearing & Tinnitus Center. Their purpose is to try to get me to sell my own privately branded “cheap” hearing device.

Currently, the hearing industry is being flooded with cheap devices made of inferior materials using direct marketing via online advertising on numerous websites and Facebook. Most of these ads portray the same or similar products, describing miraculous benefits. However, the name of the company and devices constantly change. Though the devices are marketed as hearing aids or alternatives to hearing aids, most are PSAPs or Personal Sound Amplification Products that are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. True hearing aids are regulated by the FDA and must be distributed by a licensed professional only after having a complete audiometric evaluation using professionally calibrated equipment.

Recently, I have had numerous people come in and tell me of the experiences they or their loved ones have had after purchasing these cheap hearing devices. After hearing their complaints, I decided to check out the devices myself and do some research. I checked the BBB (Better Business Bureau) website for complaints and found that each one I was told about had an “F” rating. The complaints on the site mirrored what my patients told me. The complaints included devices not working, pieces getting stuck in the ear, being unable to reach anyone at the company, devices not arriving and not being able to get a refund.

One patient brought devices to me that were advertised as “Break-through Technology.” The devices resembled outdated hearing aids from the 1980s, and came with an assortment of different size buds and a small screwdriver used to change the volume. With only a volume control adjusted with a small screwdriver, the devices are not programmable to a particular patient’s hearing loss and are just an amplifier. Without programmable devices, most people will hear more loudly, but not necessarily more clearly. In some cases, improper amplification can cause inner ear damage and increased hearing loss.

While these cheap devices are readily available, their ineffectiveness often discourages individuals from getting help with their hearing loss. At Blue Ribbon Hearing & Tinnitus Center, we are an independent company and only work with hearing aid manufacturers who have a track record in making quality products and provide great customer service. These manufacturers continually research and develop innovative technologies that make hearing aids much more than just amplifiers. In fact, the Livio AI manufactured by Starkey Hearing Technologies was named one of the top 100 inventions of 2019 by Time magazine. Using these technologies instead of inferior products is one of the ways we ensure we are truly “dedicated to your best hearing.”

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