The hearing aid industry is deep, with lots of companies involved. Many different styles, technologies, and brands of hearing aids exist to meet the ever-increasing demand. Nearly 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, with that sure to increase with time.
Recently, many hearing aid users have begun to find locked hearing devices. This may or may not come as a surprise to some users, but hearing aids have technology that can be locked.
What is a Locked Hearing Aid?
Just like cell phone companies sell various phones that are locked, hearing aid manufacturers do the same. Sometimes, when you purchase a cell phone from a company, that phone can only be used on that company’s networks. Holders of a locked cell phone cannot take it to someone else to use it there.
Hearing aid manufacturers utilize a similar habit. Locked hearing aids are hearing devices that use proprietary technology. Thus, the seller decides they only want to sell locked hearing aids. These locked devices cannot be serviced by other companies, private repair services, or even audiologists.
A locked hearing aid must be returned to the provider for adjustments and repairs. These providers are typically large warehouses or retail stores like Sam’s Club, Walmart, Costco, and others like them.
What is a Hearing Aid Lock?
A lock placed on a hearing aid is a sort of barrier to the hearing aid’s software. The lock acts as a blockade to individuals who wish to get into the devices’ settings. With a lock on a hearing aid, nobody can reprogram the hearing aid.
Inside the hearing aid, a digital chip holds the software that controls the signal processing and sound amplification. This software, depending on the company, may be completely unique to the company. Many companies do share and use similar algorithms for signal processing, sound filtering, and amplification.
However, it is unknown what sort of software and technology is used in a locked hearing device. This software is also programmable to give the users different listening experiences based on their environment.
When users purchase these locked hearing aids, they will typically get a fitting done and get the settings customized by a specialist at the store. Ideally, the hearing aid wearers will not need such adjustments again. If they do, they can come back into the store where they purchased them.
Locked Hearing Aids Pitfalls
Hearing aids proprietary locking is done to keep their hearing aids serviced in their store. Furthermore, the manufacturer of the hearing aid, or the owner of the hearing aids, do not want their software to be spread around. They believe the technology in the hearing aids is valuable, and thus they do not want it in others’ hands.
Hearing aid locks create a struggle for more than just the user. Audiologists and other health care providers who wish to give service to someone with a pair of locked hearing aids are also out of luck. They will be unable to offer care to their patients with locked hearing aids.
Purchasing a hearing aid locked right out of the box is unfortunate for virtually all individuals. If for some reason, you no longer live in the area where the hearing aid was purchased, you will no longer be able to obtain service for your aids.
Imagine a scenario where the settings go awry, your listening preferences change, or even your hearing capabilities change, the settings or programming needs to be adjusted. With locked hearing aids, and the seller far away, you’re out of luck— you’d be forced to live with the current programming, or you’d have to buy new hearing aids. Neither of which are ideal situations.
What to Do If I Have Locked Hearing Aids?
Unfortunately, there is nothing saying companies cannot lock their hearing aids. If you currently own a pair of locked hearing aids, continue using them until they no longer offer any benefit. If you’re near the store where you purchased them, you can still go back and get them serviced. If not, you’ll need to invest in a new pair.
Although buying from a big box store is often cheaper, it may be better to shell out a bit more cash to purchase quality, non-locked hearing aids. Consider purchasing online or directly from a hearing aid manufacturer. Doing so will give you a pair of hearing aids that are unlocked, and therefore, they can be serviced anywhere.