We’ve all seen them. You can get a FREE HEARING TEST and get the BEST HEARING AIDS on the market that are SO SMALL YOU CAN’T EVEN SEE THEM for the LOW LOW PRICE of $600 as long as you ACT FAST and we’ll also give you FREE BATTERIES FOR A YEAR and we’ll give you a $20 GIFT CARD to Joe’s Pizza Palace to boot!
Here’s the dirty little secret of the hearing aid world: all of these ads are just enticements to get you to visit a hearing aid dealer whose only job is to sell you hearing aids. I’m about to take a deep dive into these practices so that you can recognize them for what they are, and make a more informed decision about who you’d like to see for your hearing healthcare. And that’s literally what we as audiologists are supposed to be doing – providing hearing healthcare. Not all of us are doing a great job, and some of us unfortunately act just like a hearing aid dealer with an advanced degree, but there are providers out there who are looking out for you and your hearing health.
So here we go!
Beware the “free hearing exam”. A provider offering a free hearing test is often a provider that can’t bill insurance. It’s also a sign that they are not performing a diagnostic hearing evaluation. A free hearing test is designed simply to get enough information to be able to fit a hearing aid. If your hearing test is being billed to your medical insurance, you are having a diagnostic evaluation that should be able to differentiate what type of hearing loss you have, and rule out medical complications that would indicate you need further intervention with a medical doctor.
Every single hearing aid that is advertised is advertised as the best hearing aid ever! Don’t fall for this marketing scheme. All hearing aids are not created equal, and there is no one manufacturer of hearing aids that is perfect for all hearing losses and patient lifestyles. A licensed professional should be helping you discover the hearing aid that will work best FOR YOU – not just for your hearing loss, but your lifestyle, and your bank account, too. In addition to this, most hearing aid dealers can only work with ONE SINGLE manufacturer, and many of those hearing aids are locked into that particular provider or chain of providers, so that if you’re unhappy with their service you can’t take your hearing aid elsewhere. Make sure when you are making your decision that the hearing aids you’re considering are not locked to other providers.
You know those teeny tiny hearing aids that disappear inside your ear? Everyone thinks they want these, but what they don’t realize is that those teeny tiny things can’t fit in everyone’s ear canal, they notoriously need continuing repair, they only fit hearing losses of a mild to moderate level, and in most cases they’ll make your ears feel clogged up. Advertisers are just dangling this pie in the sky image at you to get you in the door. It’s a classic “bait and switch” scheme. Don’t fall for it!
That low, low price is for one hearing aid. It’s for a hearing aid that only fits a mild hearing loss, and it has no noise management or other bells and whistles to help you hear in difficult listening environments. If you go into any of the retail chains that advertise this way, they will ALWAYS tell you that your hearing loss is more significant than these aids can handle, and then they’ll show you the $8000 model and tell you that’s what you need. It’s just a marketing gimmick to get you in their door.
How much are these hearing aids marked up that the provider can afford to trim $2000 of the price and still cover their costs? We see this all the time – a patient comes in and says, “But they said they’d give me 40% off!” and we ask what the price will be after the discount, and it’s STILL more expensive than what we offer. Do the math, and make sure you’re really getting a great deal. 40% off sounds like an amazing deal , but it’s 40% off of WHAT EXACTLY? That’s the real question!
This is the worst. We don’t know why anyone falls for this. Do you think for one instant that if this provider got a 34th person interested in trying their hearing aids that they would turn them away and tell them their study is full? Of course not! And they’re not running any kind of study – they’re really just trying to give their ad a sense of urgency, so that you call RIGHT AWAY so that you DON’T MISS THE CHANCE TO TRY HEARING AIDS. HURRY! IT HAS TO BE RIGHT NOW. Give me a break.
Free batteries sound like such a great idea. But here’s the thing: fewer and fewer hearing aids these days need batteries. Also, if you decide to purchase hearing aids that run on disposable batteries, batteries are CHEAP. Depending on the battery size, which dictates how long the battery will last, you could spend maybe $85 per year on batteries. Do you think those providers offering “free batteries” are giving you batteries out of the goodness of their heart? No – they know “free batteries!” sounds great to the average consumer, and they include the cost of those batteries in the price of their product. Are those batteries actually free? No – you’re just paying a premium for these batteries up front!
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! This is a great indication that the profit margin on these aids is so high, this provider can afford to throw $15 at anybody who comes in to try hearing aids. Again, is this a free $15 for you? No – if you buy these hearing aids, you’re paying for that $15 in the price of the aid, and also the $15 for several other people who came in, tried the aids, and didn’t purchase them. Come on!
This all seems really shady, right? That’s because it is. However, there are providers out there who will listen to your needs, make appropriate recommendations, and not try to trick you into their door using any of these tactics. These providers rely on referrals from physicians, and word of mouth from their happy, cared-for patients. Ask your doctor to recommend an audiologist, and talk to trusted friends and family. Ask them if their provider uses Best Practices (don’t know what this is? Stay tuned for the next blog post!). Ask them if their audiologist is transparent about pricing. Ask them if they feel listened to. Ask them if they felt pressured into a hearing aid sale. The answers to these questions should be yes, yes, yes, and NO. If not, maybe they should be looking for a new provider.
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