What are locked hearing aids? 

Locked hearing aids are essentially store-brand versions of name-brand hearing aids.

While that may not sound like a bad thing, as store brands are often the same thing at a less expensive price, in this situation, it’s a bit more complicated and deceptive. First and foremost, locked hearing aids are a marketing ploy by hearing aid stores to make it seem like you’re getting something special.

In reality, it ensures that you’re unable to compare prices and limits what you can be provided. Locked hearing aids also mean only the original provider or seller can reprogram the devices or change how they sound.

When is the last time you heard of someone going to a heart surgeon and the surgeon fitting a special pacemaker that only they can work on? Never, right?

How is this allowed and ethical in the hearing industry? 

The following information will ensure you are making the best-informed decision about your or your loved one’s hearing health. 

Locked Hearing Aid

Why are locked hearing aids a bad thing?

The only people that benefit from locked hearing aids are the hearing aid store owners and the manufacturers. There are two big reasons why locked hearing aids never benefit the patient:

Geographic issues: what if you move away from that hearing aid store, they close down, or making the 45-minute drive gets to be too much for you? In almost every instance, unless you live greater than 100 miles from the closest locked hearing aid store, the hearing aid manufacturer will not allow us to send the hearing aid in and “unlock” the computer chip. If your local store shuts down and the next closest one is 90 miles away, you’re out of luck. You either drive that 3 hour round trip for every appointment, or you’re stuck buying new hearing aids. 

In instances of fully proprietary brands, even if the closest store is hours away, you won’t be able to find local support; the companies won’t allow non-affiliated providers to access the software or supplies to support their patients.

No hearing aid brand can support 100% of patients: While hearing aids are only as good as they’re programmed to be, every hearing aid company has strengths and weaknesses. Some companies don’t have an offering for single-sided deafness or for severe to profound hearing losses, while others are better at making custom hearing aids. Also, since technology is always changing, there are always one or two companies that are slow to adopt new technology. At best, you will be limiting yourself; at worst, they could be fitting you with something that you end up dissatisfied with because that locked brand doesn’t have what you actually need. 

Hearing aids help banner

What brands of hearing aids are locked? 

While this list isn’t exhaustive (as any practice can choose to lock their hearing aids), the following brands are almost always locked: Beltone, Audibel, Miracle Ear, NuEar, Zounds, Audigy (AGX), older Avada aids, most Kirkland Signature (Costco) aids, Sam’s Club, and Walmart.  

Some of these brands are fully proprietary and cannot be modified at all from outside sellers (Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Zounds), while others are the exact same brands and models under different names.

For example: Beltone aids are Resound, Audibel and NuEar are Starkey, Miracle Ear are Signia (formerly known as Siemens), Avada aids are Oticon, and Audigy and Kirkland Signature can be various manufacturers.   

How can I avoid locked hearing aids? 

The best way to avoid locked hearing aids is to avoid hearing aid stores that advertise the above-mentioned brands.

The other way to avoid locked aids is to be upfront about your concerns about locked hearing aids and ask your hearing healthcare provider “are these locked?” If they say yes, weigh your options and consider looking elsewhere.  

What do I do if I have locked hearing aids? 

If you have locked hearing aids and you’re unhappy with their performance, I would strongly recommend scheduling a Connect 365 Functional Hearing Assessment in our office.

As part of the evaluation, we will compare your hearing ability with your current devices vs. hearing aids that are selected and programmed to your unique hearing needs. 

If you are unsure if your current hearing aids are locked, or you’d like to schedule a Connect 365 Functional Hearing Assessment, please call us at 256-319-4327 or submit a contact request, and one of our helpful team members will call you back shortly. 

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Dr. Sarah Kate Fisher

Dr. Sarah Kate Fisher was born and raised in Huntsville and received her bachelor’s from the University of Alabama and her doctorate from Auburn University.
    Basic Hearing Test

    A basic hearing test begins with an air conduction test. You will be seated in a soundproof booth and single-use, foam earphones will be inserted into your ear canals. The Audiologist will ask you to push a button or raise your hand when you barely hear a series of beeps (tones) presented at various frequencies (pitches) to obtain your air conduction thresholds.

    To determine whether your hearing loss is a conductive (mechanical) loss, sensorineural (permanent) loss or combination of the two, we perform a bone conduction test.  

    For this test, a head band is place on the bone behind one of the ears to obtain your bone conduction thresholds. This process provides a different form of sound transmission using vibration, which bypasses the eardrum and the middle ear bones and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. When you hear the beeps/tones, you will push a button or raise your hand.

    If bone conduction thresholds are better than air conduction thresholds (through the foam inserts), you have a conductive hearing loss. This suggests a problem with the mechanical structures (moving parts) of the ears.

    Conductive hearing loss is often a medically treatable condition for which we will provide you with a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician. However, if bone and air conduction thresholds match, it indicates a sensorineural hearing loss (permanent), and the treatment will likely involve hearing aids.

    ALL INCLUSIVE PLAN

    $6,790

    Comprehensive 5-Year treatment plan with premium technology

    If you want premium “out of this world” technology and the highest level of service and expert support, our All-Inclusive treatment plan is the right investment for you.

    The All-Inclusive treatment plan offers long-term value for your on-the-go lifestyle, providing everything you need to connect with family and friends for years to come.

    Includes:

    • Stellar hearing devices from top manufacturer (rechargeable option available)

    • Wireless accessory included at no charge

    • Comprehensive Annual Visit including hearing assessment, hearing device adjustment, and 19-Point preventative maintenance valutaion

    • Bi-annual hearing aid software update and reprogramming

    • Same day diagnosis and in-office repair during weekdays for devices dropped off before 3:00 p.m.

    • 5-Year full-service repair warranty

    • Unlimited remote hearing aid adjustments

    • 100% moisture removal by Redux and cleaning

    • Hearing aid supplies (stock receivers, batteries, domes and filters)

    • $1000 contribution towards purchase of upgraded technology within 48 months

    • 3-Year replacement warranty for loss or damage (no deductible)

    • Dedicated team of hearing care experts at your service

    • Unlimited teleaudiology appointments

    • Access to our “speed of light” repair specialists

    Schedule Appointment

    Choose Your Level of Technology

    A Comprehensive12-Step Functional Hearing Assessment

    If you struggle to understand conversations in social situations, restaurants, or other noisy environments, you do not need to schedule a basic hearing test. You certainly don’t need to schedule a “free” hearing screening or online hearing test.

    You need to schedule a “Connect 365” Functional Hearing Assessment at Alabama Hearing Associates!

    Hearing Technology with a Methodical Plan

    Our community understands better than most what can be achieved when you combine technology with human intelligence and persistence. It is much the same with hearing technology.

    The latest hearing aid technology is incredibly powerful, offering stellar sound quality and performance. Wireless connections allow phone calls, music and television to stream directly to your hearing aids for exceptional clarity.

    But hearing aids do not fit and program themselves! For best outcomes, you also need the human touch and expertise provided by our Doctors of Audiology.

    How do I know my new hearing aids are working properly?

    Without verifying that the hearing aid is working correctly from the start, all of the other steps in the hearing aid fitting process are useless. The most sensitive quality control measure is something called Electroacoustic Analysis. We complete EAA on every new set of hearing aids, before delivery of repaired devices, and on an annual basis.

    What Is Real-Ear Measurement?

    Real-ear measurement (REM) is how an audiologist knows that hearing aids are working the way they should in each patient’s ears.

    Ears are as unique as a fingerprint. Because of this, every ear will collect sounds differently.

    Even if I had two patients with the exact same hearing loss and hearing aids, there’s almost no chance the hearing aids would be programmed the same way.

    Orientation, Counseling, and Follow-up

    Dr. Cliff (the creator of the Best Practice Pro Network) said it best:

    “Having a detailed orientation can dramatically improve how much success you have with hearing treatment.  Counseling & Follow-up care can also ensure that you have success for years to come.  Regular visits to a hearing care provider who spends the time to discuss treatment related information and who will maintain your devices is extremely important.”

    During the orientation, your provider will give you the tools you need to be a successful hearing aid user. Everyone has different learning styles and we want to make sure whatever works best for you is what’s used. After the 75 day adjustment period, routine checkups are necessary to maintain the hearing aids and to ensure optimal hearing healthcare. 

    Real World Adjustments

    Your hearing loss didn't occur overnight, so it will take some time to adjust to the hearing aids. Your patience and persistence will be well worth it.

    Wireless Connections

    Most hearing aids automatically come with wireless streaming from smartphones and it has been a lifesaver for those that are working remotely and spending hours on teleconferences. As for other wireless accessories, the two most popular solutions are a small microphone used in less-than-ideal listening environments and a TV streamer that streams the TV’s sound directly into your ears—which can be a lifesaver when watching British TV shows or during football season. If your audiologist believes they would be beneficial for you, they will discuss your options and demonstrate the device in the office.

    Assessing Outcomes

    To ensure the most success with your hearing devices, we measure the benefits of amplification at the end of your adjustment period—some of the surveys and tests included in the “Connect 365” Functional Hearing Assessment will be repeated to evaluate progress, quality of life, and patient satisfaction with the hearing aids.