Hearing Aids: A Legal Scam that Targets Seniors

 FreeIt works like this:

1) A company places an aid in the newspaper, on television, or via a mailing flyer advertising a “Free” hearing aid test. It’s a well known marketing fact, that the word, “Free,” will usually draw a significant response.

2) Seniors can be especially susceptible to this tactic, because they are often concerned about hearing loss due to aging. They are also quite frequently on a fixed budget, and the word, “Free,” can carry greater impact and enticement.

3) When they go for the free test, they naively offer their personal data filling out forms that appear to be for standard registration. From these forms, it may be rather simple to detect their financial status.

4) Then someone who appears to be a certified audiologist, that is a medical professional trained in ear disorders, administers what seems to be a legitimate hearing test. But this person is not an audiologist, although they might have some training, still they may be more of a high-pressure salesman disguised in a white lab coat.

5) Then this seemingly sympathetic specialist might relay the distressing news the individual being tested has already experienced some type of hearing loss. However, this astute salesman excitedly stresses the hopefulness of the situation by suggesting it can by rectified by purchasing hearing aids from their company which will restore an individual’s hearing insuring the senior’s continued quality of life. In reality, these devices which often cost thousands of dollars are of little value if not properly prescribed and wind up in a junk door.

photo (10)This very scenario happened to someone I love recently. I went with this relative for a free hearing test and heard the tragic verdict of hearing loss. I witnessed firsthand the distress and worry the patient immediately felt. But being an “old” investigative reporter by profession, I didn’t buy it. I began researching that specific company on the Internet and found several complaints lodged against them. I also investigated the background of the “gentleman” masquerading as a hearing doctor (although he never said that he was) and found that he was more of a trained salesman.

Better known as a hearing aid dispenser, past Ohio Revised Code only demanded that these individuals be: “18 years old, [of] good moral character [which I question in this case], free of contagious disease, [possess] a high school diploma, or equivalent education (GED) and pass [a] qualifying examination…’shall be a thorough testing of knowledge required for the proper selecting, fitting and sale of hearing aids, but shall not be such that a medical or surgical education is required…’”

Until recent years, an audiologist was an educated clinician dealing with a myriad of ear disorders who possessed a Master’s or Doctoral degree in Audiology and passed an examination for licensure. Two decades ago, realizing even this was not enough, the American Academy of Audiology “developed a four-year, post-bachelors curriculum for the professional doctorate in audiology.” In 2012, a doctoral degree became a requirement to become a nationally certified audiologist.ear

So, I called a real audiologist, one highly respected in her field, who is known for only prescribing hearing aids, when they are absolutely necessary. When she tested my relative, the credible audiologist found that his hearing was exceptional for an individual in his 60s. There was no hearing loss, and no need for hearing aids of any kind.

Of course, there are many individuals who do experience hearing loss as they age, and there are reputable professionals who try to help them. That’s why it’s critical, if you feel that you or someone you love might need help, please do some research. Check with your local hospital, Better Business Bureau, or individuals who have had success with their hearing aids. Also, use the Internet to Google and find out about the background of individuals who are treating you. Find a certified audiologist or a professional with extensive training in the field, who is accredited and recommended by others. After all, most of the complaints logged online represent people who have spent thousands of dollars on hearing aids that don’t work for them.

Don’t fall for the word, “Free,” when it comes to hearing, or anything else that pertains to your health.There are wolves in sheep’s clothing or white lab coats who will take advantage of you or the seniors you love, if you let them.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an AP and Amy award-winning journalist and Christian speaker. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com

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