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News: Free hearing tests? You’d be dreaming!

Free hearing tests? You’d be dreaming!

Free hearing tests? You’d be dreaming!

06/04/2018 - Ethics, Treatment

When it comes to hearing tests, the old saying “No such thing as a free lunch” rings true.

You might have seen some companies advertise free hearing tests or screens and wonder what the benefit of these might be. It all comes down to the difference between a screen and a test.

What’s the difference between a hearing test and a hearing screen?

A screen is a simple assessment of hearing that may indicate if there’s a loss present, but not how that hearing loss manifests itself. A screen takes 5-15 minutes and you may even be able to download a free app on your smartphone that does very similar screens free of charge.

Free screens are problematic in that they are usually conducted in environments that are noisier than a clinical consult room and with equipment that may or may not be accurately calibrated or suitable for the screening. This means you can get a highly inaccurate result that may:

  • Alarm you unnecessarily
  • Not accurately detect any presence of hearing loss
  • Lead you to seek rehabilitation that you may not actually need

A proper comprehensive hearing test for rehabilitation purposes takes up to an hour to complete by a qualified audiologist.

These rehabilitation assessments should test, not just for hearing loss, but also for auditory processing issues and for how well you hear speech in noise. This allows the audiologist to determine the styles of hearing aids and the features within devices that are going to be beneficial for your hearing loss.

The hearing test should also include a case history discussion with you to help accurately establish your communication needs, which also helps identify what style and features are best suited to you and your lifestyle.

Finally, the assessment should then take it one step further by testing your hearing again with hearing aids to determine what benefit you personally get from hearing aids. Some people don’t get any benefit at all due to the nature of their hearing loss.

But it’s free, so what’s the harm?

That’s where the saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” comes in. All those free screens, the time spent by staff, the cost to set up screening stations etc. It all has to be paid by someone and that someone is usually the patient needing hearing aids.

If the screen indicates a hearing loss, you will be asked to undergo a full assessment, sometimes for a fee.

If you do need hearing aids then the cost of those hearing aids will most likely be inflated.  Or the clinician will attempt to upsell you to a technology level you don’t need at a greater price. You may even be pushed into buying hearing aids even though you’ll get little or no benefit from them. All to cover the time and expense of all those free hearing screens given away… not just yours.

If you do decide to undertake a free screen, ensure you compare any quote for hearing aids they give you (and sometimes you have to ask for it) before you buy. Remember, even if you undertake an assessment with one provider, it doesn’t obligate you to purchase your hearing aids from them. With thousands of dollars difference in hearing aid prices between some clinics, when it comes to hearing aids, it pays to compare.

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