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Hearing aids enable enhanced quality of life and make hearing better. Just as any healthcare product or service, you need to be careful of where you obtain the hearing aids and who is dispensing the devices to you. The Audiologist is more important than the type or style of the device. Here are the important issues to consider when deciding where to purchase the device.
• Service: Be aware of discount big box stores. These stores use hearing aid sales because you are in the store anyway buying multiple items for you home and use. Most often these stores do not employ an Audiologist who understands the hearing system and physiology behind hearing loss. Instead, they train a hearing aid specialist to fit the hearing aids according to manufacturer specifications. The hearing aids that are offered in these big box stores often have the same manufacturer as your local audiologist, but don’t be fooled, these are NOT the same hearing aids. Manufacturers build devices specifically for these big box stores, and typically they are watered down versions of the real thing.
- Retail Chains: Like big box stores, retail hearing aid chains, are in business solely to make a profit from hearing aid sales. Most stores, do not employ Audiologists, and most have a relationship with a specific manufacturer to sell as many as their devices as possible. If the advertisement seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be real.
• Fittings: Hearing aids typically require several professional adjustments before they are adjusted appropriately for each individual’s needs. Audiologists not only have specialized training, but also an understanding of the auditory system and brain function that makes adjustments more precise and individualized.
• Price: Though there is a difference in initial price, in the long run, an Audiologist may turn out to be the better deal. Most Audiologists will include several years of service, office visits and batteries in the cost of the devices. Many big box stores and retail hearing aids stores sell the hearing aid, but then require additional office visit fee for every return visit, if you can even get an appointment for a return visit. In order to keep costs at a minimum, big box stores and retail chains do not want to see hearing aid purchasers back for follow-up. Also, frustration, poorly fit devices and problems with service can end up costing the patient more in the long term.
• Hearing Health: Hearing loss is a health issue with potential serious health consequences. Big box stores and retail chains are not in the business of providing healthcare, but in the business to make money. Make it a point to see an Audiologist and be fit by a professional. In the long run it is more cost effective, more personal and healthier.
A research study out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggests that a simple walking regimen may help reduce the risk of age related hearing loss in women. See the link below for all the details.
Take a few minutes so that you are guided on how to properly purchase new hearing aids. Direct mail pieces are coming to your home on a daily or weekly basis. These direct mail pieces promise the latest and greatest technology at a very reduced price. As with any marketing, BEWARE.
Remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for”. Well, it is especially true when talking about technology and hearing aid devices. Technology is what we are all paying for, but not the technology of today, we are paying for the technology of tomorrow. Hearing aids that are advertised for rock bottom prices are using technology that is old and not nearly as sophisticated as the devices that cost more. All hearing aids are digital, so that claim is not unique or special in today’s market.
The other piece of the expense is the professional fee. There are two groups licensed to dispense hearing aids, Audiologists, highly educated professionals with doctoral degrees and thousands of hours of training. The other group is hearing aid dispensers. This group has very little education and training and are not formally trained and have no background in anatomy, physiology or auditory neurology. If possible, always be seen and fit by an Audiologist. These are the professionals who understand the entire auditory system and are trained to understand disease, pathology and other issues related to the entire auditory system. A hearing aid dispenser is just that someone trained to fit a hearing aid and nothing more.
There are many tricks and gimmicks that are advertised out there. Know who is paying for the advertising that you are looking at. If there are logos from a hearing aid manufacturer, be assured that company is paying for much of the advertising, so you will be fit with that brand whether or not it is the most appropriate for you hearing loss. Although all the major hearing aid manufacturers have great products, there are some that are more appropriate for certain types of hearing loss. This is where the skill of an audiologist is important.
Many times the marketing can be deceiving, so ask questions when getting ready to purchase. Many advertise 50% off the MSRP. First, there is no MSRP for hearing aids. Second, no one ever sells a hearing aid for what they are stating the MSRP to be. Chances are the cost of the hearing aids are always 50% off the MSRP and this advertising is no completely truthful. National franchise offices often have higher prices, because part of their cost is to pay the franchise a portion of the sale. Hearing aid dispensers also tend to charge more because these individuals only sell hearing aids and can’t make money on diagnostic exams, or insurance claims.
Always beware of what you are getting and what is being advertised. Make sure you see an audiologist and ask questions. Hearing aids are expensive, mostly because the actual cost of hearing aids to the audiologist can be upwards of $4000.00. Therefore, the cost to the patient has to be more, but with that cost you should receive great service, including follow-up visits. It is a law for a trial period to be given. You should receive a refund if you return the hearing aids within that trial period time.
Hearing aids are a great investment in your health and well-being. Satisfaction should be high and is directly related to the knowledge of the one fitting the devices. Technology has made hearing aids more acceptable, more reliable and easier to use. So go ahead and hear what you have been missing for all these years. Just be an educated consumer.
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