American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Heard About a New Product or Treatment?

Ask These Questions Before Deciding What To Do

You may hear about new products or treatments for people who have problems with:

  • Hearing
  • Balance
  • Speech, including voice and stuttering
  • Language
  • Feeding and swallowing

It can be hard to know what's right for you or your loved one. It's a good idea to ask questions. Don't just rely on what you hear or see in a newspaper ad or commercial.

You can learn about products and treatments in a number of ways:

  • The best way is to talk with an ASHA-certified audiologist or speech-language pathologist (also called an SLP).
  • You can look at the website of the company selling the product or treatment.
  • Other information may also be available on the web. This may include research articles and stories from other people who have tried the product or treatment.
  • You can talk to others who have tried the product or treatment.

Here are some questions you should ask:

Is a qualified audiologist or SLP providing the product or treatment?

A qualified audiologist or SLP has:

  • A master's or doctoral degree
  • The certificate of clinical competence (CCC) from ASHA
  • State licensure, where required

If your audiologist is ASHA-certified you will see "CCC-A" after their signature. An ASHA-certified SLP will have "CCC-SLP" after their name.

How is the product or treatment supposed to work? What is it supposed to do?

The information you find should tell you what to expect if you use the product or get the treatment. You should have an idea about how this product or treatment will help you or your loved one.

Who is this product or treatment supposed to help?

The information should tell you who the product or treatment will help. It may say it is for children or for adults. It may say it is for people who have a certain type of hearing loss or speech problem. Try to find out if the product or treatment has been tested on other groups. If your problem is not listed, you should ask more questions about whether this product or treatment is right for you.

How should the product or treatment be used?

Does the information clearly describe how the product or treatment works? Does it explain why it works? Some products, like hearing aids, need to be fit to your specific needs. You can't put a hearing aid on out of a box and expect that it will work for you. This is true for other products and treatments, too.

How do I know the product or treatment works? What can I expect if I use the product or get the treatment?

Is there information about how many people have been helped? Beware of "miracle cures" or claims of 100% success. Very few things work for everybody.

Has research about this product or treatment been published in journals?

Research can be made public in a number of ways. Some researchers publish their own studies on their Web sites or in their ads. They may have articles published in the local paper or get on TV. This is a good way to tell a lot of people about the study. But, this is not how good, strong research is first published. You should use this information carefully. Check to see if there is good research behind the stories.

Most researchers try to get their studies published in a journal. But not every journal is the same. Some journals accept studies without looking at them too carefully. Other journals have a peer review process. This means that other researchers read the study and decide if it is strong enough to publish. Research published in these journals is the most believable.

Learn more about evaluating medical research.

Can I believe what the people who developed the product or treatment say?

How long has the company been in business? Has anyone complained to the Better Business Bureau or another consumer protection agency? Did an SLP or audiologist develop the product or treatment? Find out if anyone has complained to the state licensure board.

Are there other products or treatments available? How do well do they work? How much do they cost?

The most important thing should be how well the product or treatment works. You may also consider how much it costs. This will be especially important if there are options that cost less but still work as well.

Is there any chance this product or treatment can hurt me or my loved one?

There should be information about any side effects or possible problems from using the product or getting the treatment. As with medicines, you have to weigh the good against the bad. Think about how much it may help. Compare that to the possible problems that may come up.

Will I need special training to use this product? Will I have to do something else as a part of the treatment?

Will you or your loved one need special training to use the product? Is training provided? Are there other things that you'll have to do to make the treatment work? Is this a commitment that you or your loved one can make?

Is this product or treatment still being tested?

Some products and treatments are still being tested. You may hear them called experimental. Many times you can only get these from a researcher who has special permission to test it with you. This permission comes from an Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the Protection of Human Subjects. You will have to fill out paperwork and agree to join the experiment before you can get the product or treatment.

Has the product been approved by a government agency?

Some products must be approved by a government agency. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) checks most products that we use every day. You can check with the FDA to see if the product has been cleared by them. Treatments are not checked by the FDA. There is no one agency that checks all health care treatments.

Is there a guarantee, return policy, or trial period?

Check the product information for warranty, repair, and return policy. A trial period is required in many states. There are also "lemon laws" to protect you if you buy something that doesn't work. Make sure you know the time limit and any other rules about the trial period. You may be charged a fee for returning the product or cancelling treatment. Make sure you know all the rules before you sign up or pay any money.

Will my insurance company pay for this? If not, are there other treatments my insurance company will pay for?

Call your insurance company. Ask them if they will pay for the product or treatment. If they will not, ask if there is a different product or treatment that they will pay for. Make sure that you understand how much money will come out of your pocket first.

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