Hearing loss can drastically affect your quality of life. Purchasing hearing aids is a major decision that requires careful considerations. Organizations that sell hearing aids follow either of two models in providing care: medical or retail (non-medical).  

What are the main differences between a medical-model hearing aid and a retail-model hearing aid?

Typically, there are no differences. A hearing aid purchased at a big-box store is pretty much the same instrument as one you’d get at a place that adheres to the medical model. Nevertheless, there are substantial differences between medical-model care and retail-model care.

How is care different? Where should I buy a hearing aid?

Even though hearing aids from a clinic aren’t necessarily better than retail devices, the care is more comprehensive. Patients who opt for the medical model receive treatment from audiologists, who have a clinical doctorate and are licensed. Retailers, on the other hand, may employ audiologists, but it’s not a requirement. More often they employ hearing instrument specialists, who do not have doctorates but are state-certified and frequently paid on commission.

Other reasons that the hearing impaired should visit a medical-model institution include the following:

  • Audiologists can diagnose an underlying medical issue, if any, that is causing the hearing loss, such as tumors on your auditory nerves (which is rare) or growths in the middle ear area
  • Because patients can see the same audiologist during each visit, they receive continuity of care; patients who go to a retailer, on the other hand, may be helped by an audiologist one time and a hearing instrument specialist the next. Retailers also have a lot of turnover
  • Audiologists use a more thorough measuring process to fit the hearing aid
  • Learn More