When a patient purchases a set of hearing aids, they are not only getting a product, they are getting a well trained specialist to help with these new devices. Many people feel that they can go on line and purchase the same product for less, sometimes even thousands of dollars less. The truth is, you CAN find hearing aids for less than what you were quoted at your local audiologist’s or hearing aid specialist’s office. Are you getting the same “product” for that lower price?
When we buy other products, shopping for the best price makes sense. Why shouldn’t we do the same with hearing instruments? First of all, we need to compare apples to apples. When we buy cars, do we get the service for free? Do we get the supplies for free? Does a technician ask us to come back a few times each month for the first few months and then twice a year after that, for free? Does someone clean our car for free when it is not performing well? NO, they don’t. We pay tens of thousands of dollars for a car that we drive about two hours a day and we don’t expect anything from the dealership, unless there is a warranty problem. We pay thousands for a computer and don’t expect someone to program it for us, past the initial set up, or replace the battery and clean it for free. Why do we expect someone to set up our hearing devices and then check on us regularly for months and even years for free? Because this is a medical device.
When a patient is fit with a prosthetic limb, they want to be seen regularly for fit and therapy so that they can get used to that device. When fit with contact lenses for the first time, the patient has to be seen regularly for training on how to care for them, to make sure the fit is correct and they are correcting the vision deficit. It is the same with hearing aids. Although they are tiny computers that are worn on or in the ears, they are medical devices. We need trained and licensed professionals to program them to our prescription, make sure the fit is comfortable and at a level that we can accept while they adjust to help us hear better. This service is not really free. It is included in the price the hearing professional quotes for hearing devices.
When we buy hearing aids from a professional, we are not only paying for a product, the hearing aids, we are paying for a service package. Professionals feel that this package is essential to a patient’s adaptation to their new medical devices. There is a quandary among hearing professionals about whether to bundle or un-bundle services with the actual cost of hearing instruments. Un- bundling will expose the lower cost of aids that can be competitive with online pricing, yet there is a fear that patients will not come back for follow-up visits and eventually, the aids will end up in a drawer helping no one’s hearing.
Whether we find lower priced hearing aids with no service package or ones that include all the service required, when devices are uncomfortable physically or audibly, we need to seek out a licensed expert. After all, we would never have paid, even a lower on line price, if we didn’t need hearing help.