I need new hearing aids.
Is my hearing care provider trying to rip me off?
Maybe I will call the number on this mailer-$375 for a hearing aid!
I feel like I have been to a used car salesman. (“Sorry,” to all of you professionals that do sell used cars.)
Does this sound like you? If it does, you are not alone. Perhaps you even went online and did a search for hearing aids. If you did, you were probably bombarded with pop-up advertising from many angles. Some companies sell to you through a local professional, I will not mention their names since I am contracted with a few of them as a local professional. That works well. You get a test, the professional orders the correct aid for you. It is shipped to her/him and they insure that you have a proper fit physically and audiometrically. They will also be your go to for a certain amount of follow up visits and adjustments. These companies usually have competitive prices, but they are the sales end of hearing healthcare. They provide you with no service except that which is contracted with the local hearing care professional who is paid a fitting fee for their limited services.
Another type of company which truthfully does their business illegally in most states is the online seller like HearStore.com and BuyHear.com. I am sure that there are more, but I haven’t found them yet. They will sell you a hearing aid at a ridiculously low price compared to your local provider. How can they do this? They work in bulk with little services provided, if any. When a company buys 50 hearing aids at one time, they can usually get price discounts. The truth is hearing aids are expensive. They are expensive directly from the manufacturer. Why? We will discuss that in later post.
These companies are not licensed to sell hearing devices in your state. Some of the manufacturers will not even honor their warranties and some will refuse to sell to them if they know about them. When they ship your aid, they will program it to your audiogram if you gave them one. Hopefully you didn’t take advantage of a FREE test and purchase online, because that test cost the professional at the very least one or two woman/man-hours. Some companies will give you a test online. Professionals are required to get their equipment calibrated yearly. Has the speaker system on your computer been calibrated? It is not legal to use this as a test for fitting hearing aids in most states.
Once they have a test, the software for that manufacturer will set the aids for you. This setting is an average and usually needs tweaking for comfort. It does not take into consideration any speech tests that you have done. (Hopefully you did some speech testing.) Most people, especially new users are not satisfied with a factory first fit. They need time to adjust and gradually get to their prescription. If you need more adjustments, you have to send the aid back to that company. This will take several days. They will not give you a loaner while yours are gone, remember, there is very little service.
Hopefully, you are one of the 5% that instantly takes to your new hearing style with no service visits and no counseling. If that is the case, you got a bargain. If not, hopefully your 45 days are not up and you can get a refund. Make sure they don’t have a restocking fee. Some states allow up to 15% for restocking. If your time is up and you feel stuck, all is not lost. Your local hearing care professional may be able to reprogram and take care of your service visits. This will usually cost you anywhere from a few hundred to one or two thousand, depending on the service package. Remember that their time and expertise has a value.
If you only take away one point from this article, know whether your professional has a goal to help you hear better or sell you a hearing aid. All online companies have the goal of selling you a hearing aid. If they pair you with a service professional, that will sweeten the deal. Better hearing is a process, not a onetime purchase.