If you are one of the many people who incur a loss of hearing, you may find the assistance you need from a hearing aid. However, choosing the right hearing aid is not a simple process. To help consumers seeking the best hearing aid for their needs, the Better Business Bureau has compiled this outline of relevant consumer laws and tips.
How New York State Legislation Protects You
- All hearing aid dealers (those in the business of fitting and selling or renting hearing aids) must be registered with the New York Secretary of State.
- a) No one may sell you a hearing aid unless you have been examined by an otorhinolaryngologist (a physician licensed in the state whose practice is limited to problems of the ears, pharynx, larynx); or, where an otorhinolaryngologist is not available, recommends, in writing, a hearing aid for you.
b) No dealer may sell or rent you a different type (for example, in the ear, behind the ear or eyeglasses, or a hearing aid which has a particular characteristic such as power, modulation or intensity) of hearing aid than that recommended by the otorhinolaryngologist, licensed audiologist or licensed physician without first consulting the latter and securing his/her change in the recommendation.
- No hearing aid dealer, fitter or agent may solicit you door-to-door for the purpose of selling or renting a hearing aid without your prior request or consent.
- When you purchase or rent a hearing aid, your itemized receipt or contract must include the following information: the cost of the hearing aid along with any accessory; the make and model; the terms of the warranty; the name, business address and registration number of the seller; the cost of services; and a statement regarding whether the hearing aid is new, used or reconditioned.
- When you purchase a hearing aid, it must be accompanied by a written 30 day money-back guarantee which states that if you return the hearing aid within that period, you are entitled to your money back, except $30 or 10% of the purchase price, whichever is less (these numbers are adjusted annually for inflation) as long as wear and tear on the hearing aid is reasonable. You may be charged the full purchase price of the ear mold if you return the hearing aid. You do retain the right to recover any damages sustained for breach of warranty of fitness for use.
- a) No hearing aid dealer (or employee or agent) may represent to you that any hearing aid or device is a new invention or involves a new mechanical or scientific principle when such is not the case.
b) The package containing the hearing aid and your receipt must state that "This hearing aid will not restore normal hearing nor will it prevent further hearing loss."
c) Further, no hearing aid dealer may assert that any hearing aid will restore or preserve your hearing, or regard to the progression of a hearing impairment.
- In New York, otorhinolaryngologists, licensed audiologists or licensed physicians may not sell or rent you a hearing aid for profit or refer you to a specific association of hearing aid dealers. They may, however, sell or rent a hearing aid to you provided that the rental or sales price includes only the cost of the hearing aid plus such other costs and expenses which are reasonable and necessary.
- The hearing aid dealer from whom you have purchased a hearing aid must accept your hearing aid for repair and necessary service. The dealer may then refer the repair or service to the manufacturer, supplier or another.
How You Can Protect Yourself
- Remember that a hearing aid that appears effective in the dealer's office may not work well in your home or office. For these reasons, you may wish to arrange a trial or rental period with the dealer, which can range from two weeks to several months. In addition, you have 30 days to return a hearing aid you have purchased if you are dissatisfied it.
- Check to see if the controls (tone and volume, and the telephone switch) are easy to operate by the person who will be wearing the hearing aid. Be sure to ask if the price includes the ear mold, or the hearing aid will stretch your ear canal and possibly cause a whistling in the ear. Also find out what maintenance costs will be involved with each hearing aid you are considering.
- If you require financial assistance to obtain a hearing aid, you may wish to contact one of the social service organizations, the State vocational, rehabilitation or public health departments, your local welfare office (ask about Medicaid) or the Veterans Administration.
- You can obtain a Better Business Bureau reliability report or file a complaint about a hearing aid dealer by calling the Bureau at 900-CALL-BBB. Calls to this line are $1.50 per minute, with the average call costing $6.00. Consumers can also charge the price of the call to a credit card by calling (212) 533-6200. The BBB's services are also available at no cost by writing to the Bureau at 257 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010, and on the Bureau's site on World Wide Web at: www.newyork.bbb.org. The Better Business Bureau is a private not-for-profit organization that receives all of its financial support from responsible businesses and consumers.