Never mind the difference, what's the process?
We got a great question recently from one of our readers in the United Kingdom. The reader asked about the difference between free trials and money back offers and what she could expect in relation to the process.
The questions were excellent and it was obvious I hadn't explained the difference clearly enough or answered all the questions that a consumer might have. So here are the questions:
Your article states that a trial period is different from a Money Back guarantee; can you explain how? Is it that no money is paid upfront for a trial period and that one is only trialling a pair of "in stock" aids, not brand new aids which you have chosen? If so, can these be programmed for your individual loss? Are there any other differences? Is the Money Back Guarantee period for trialling the exact pair of aids which have been purchased so that you can be sure that you get along with the exact pair selected?
Be clear about what is on offer
Many companies in the hearing aid space talk about a trial period, however you need to be clear from the start what that actually is. While many talk about a trial they are actually talking about a period of time where you can get your money back. They aren't necessarily talking about a free trial of hearing aids where no money is involved. This isn't as widespread as it once was, most companies are now very clear about what they offer.
When companies do talk about an actual free trial, they are usually talking about you trying a set of hearing aids for a specific period. Those hearing aids will normally be a set of non custom hearing aids either BTEs or RICs. They may not necessarily be stock hearing devices, for instance, if you were really interested in a specific set of non custom hearing aids from a particular manufacturer they would be ordered in for you to try.
Even if the devices were stock, they will be completely programmed to your hearing loss so the settings are customised to you. This should give you the peace of mind to make a decision on your experience. If you have selected a particular set of aids and trialled them, the devices you use during the trial are the hearing instruments you will purchase.
Very few people offer a free trial on custom in the ear hearing aids. Usually they are purchased under a money back process. The main reason for this is worries on the part of the Practitioner about committment. There is more work and internal expense to have a set of custom hearing aids produced. So Practitioners want to be sure you are committed to the process by seeing the colour of your money.
In fairness I think that is only fair, however there is an easy way around this. Just trial a BTE or RIC version of the custom hearing aids you are interested in. For instance, say you were interested in the Widex Unique 330 CIC. You could ask for a trial of the the Widex Unique 330 Passion, Fusion or Fashion M. Those aids are in essence just different shapes of exactly the same technology. So if you were happy with them, you would be happy with the performance of the CIC.
Money back periods
Money back periods are exactly as they sound, you purchase a pair of hearing aids and you have a period of time where you can get your money. In essence, money back periods are really about giving you the confidence to buy a set of hearing aids. It allows you to know that if you don't get on with them, you can give them back and get your money back. However, always be clear how much money you are getting back because there is often an administration fee.
From a personal point of view, if I go through the process with you, organise a set of hearing aids and see you twice during the first month, I would be looking to retain a service charge. And in fact many companies do. Always check if there is a service charge and how much it is on any money back offer. I hope I have made it clearer and thank you for the inspiration.