Great Title, True? No, Probably Not
It irritates me when I see talk about the rip off that hearing aids are, a conspiracy by a monopoly to keep prices high! But are they, is there any truth in the rip off claim? I want to talk about hearing aids, their prices, what goes into them and what you should expect for your money. By the end of this article, I hope you should be able to make up your own mind. Just to let you know in case you are a new reader, we are completely independent and I am infamous for saying what I believe to be true, not what suits others (has got me into a load of strife believe me). The second thing I would like you to consider is that I have no vested interests here, considering most of the readers of this site are from the States and the UK, I am unlikely to ever meet you, ever.
Hearing Aid Prices
The price of hearing aids tend to vary from place to place and country to country. However, more often than not the variation isn't huge when you compare on a like for like basis. At face value, hearing aids seem exceptionally expensive. However, to understand hearing aid prices, you first really need to understand what goes into delivering a hearing aid that you are happy with.
Features You Don't Need!!!!!!
This is complete balderdash, modern hearing aids come with set feature sets. those feature sets are particular to the hearing aid technology. Nobody and I mean nobody, sets their prices on additional features. It is complete rubbish. The prices vary on the technology level of the devices, do you need the highest technology available? Probably not, but I can't tell you because I don't know your lifestyle needs. The level of technology you need is based on what it needs to do for you in the sound situations you find yourself in. Read our Hearing Aid Technology Explanation for a deeper understanding of that.
The Price of A Hearing Aid Delivered
In essence there is a breakdown of costs that need to be considered within the price of a hearing aid. In fact the easiest way to understand it is to think of it as the cost of a hearing aid delivered. That is in fact the way hearing aids are priced. The price covers all of the expected visits it takes to ensure a hearing aid is correct and then the ongoing care of you and your hearing aids from that day forward.
Or, that is what most of the Profession offers. I have explained elsewhere on the site what I offer my customers and what is included in the price I charge in the article Buying Hearing Aids Online? Here is What You Need To Know. In essence it is several office visits during the first three months and then six monthly visits thereafter. That is a lot of my time and I base the price I charge on that time spent.
Do You Need That Time?
In my experience most people do, not just that, they actually appreciate the ongoing care. Firstly, hearing aids aren't like glasses, you can't just put them on and just get on with it. They simply don't work like that. On top of that fact your hearing changes over time and your hearing aids need care, attention and re-programming. In essence we bundle all the costs upfront.
Purchasing any item that can cost up to three grand is a big decision, firstly there is a big financial outlay involved. In particular when it comes to hearing aids there is also the psychology that seems to be inherent in the decision. People's response to hearing aids never fails to surprise me, but you aren't old, it isn't a sign of you losing it, it simply is. Hearing loss just happens, the best thing to do is deal with it. But I digress, a favourite rant, I apologise.
Other Factors To Consider
Most people focus on the price of the instruments, I can understand that because they are expensive. There are many other factors that you need to consider when you are thinking about buying hearing aids. But let's focus on the price for a minute, the price of a hearing aid includes a lot of service, in fact years of it.
For years I have spoken about un-bundling prices so it is clearer exactly what you are paying for, not many have done it unfortunately which means that everyone tends to focus on the hearing aid. I think this in itself has allowed the pricing involved to be misrepresented as a rip off.
Hearing aid price breakdown
So what are you paying for? Generally and certainly in the UK and Ireland you are paying for the instrument itself and all of the care and support that you are expected to be given for the lifetime of the instrument. In essence that means:
- The fitting of the hearing aid
- Follow up fine tuning visits to ensure the aid is customised for you
- Either six monthly or yearly follow up appointments to service the aid and ensure you are still doing fine.
The lifetime of a hearing aid can be up to about ten years, I know you have read four to five elsewhere, but that isn't strictly true. The life cycle of hearing aid technology is four to five years. By that I mean, something happens in the technology every four or five years that is an amazing leap forward. Such a technological advancement that hearing aids from then on are exponentially better.
Hearing aids however will last far longer than that, but after eight it can become difficult to get it repaired if it fails. So you are going to attend a lot of half hour to hour visits during that time. That is exactly what you are paying for, time and professional expertise. When you have paid for it, don't be embarrassed about taking it up. I think that my time is worth money, just like any other professional who offers service, when you have paid me for that time, I always make sure that you get it.
Again, the question for you might be do you need that much care and attention? I would say you probably will, but if you are an experienced user who feels that you might not, why don't you discuss it with the professional in front of you. In my experience pricing isn't some arbitrary thing, we set prices on the average journey, if you feel yours will not be average, discuss it with them.
Going For The Cheapest Price?
There can be a big difference in prices across different providers and it can be attractive to simply go for the cheapest option. However, before you do, you need to ask yourself "is it like for like?". The cheapest price is not always the best option, you need to know all the facts surrounding that price and the equipment and service offered before you can make an educated decision. These are the questions you need to ask
- What service will be offered?
- What exactly are the hearing aids (Brand and Model)?
- Are they the latest technology?
When you have answers to these questions, it is easier to make decisions.
White Label Hearing Aids
Some corporate providers across the world offer white label hearing aids, white label hearing aids are devices made by manufacturers with a special label. For instance, Specsavers in the UK has the Advance range, Hidden Hearing has their own range which is made by Oticon, in the US Costco has the Kirkland range which was made by Resound and is now made by Signia. Starkey does its own white label for its retailers.
I personally don't like white label ranges, I understand the commercial reason why they are used but it makes them hard to analyse for the consumer. That is exactly why a white label is used, to make it difficult to do like for like comparison. It is easy for a Dispenser to say oh they are the same as such and such, more often than not, they may actually be, but how will you know? They may be made by the same manufacturer but how are you to know exactly what they are?
By now I hope you are beginning to see that things aren't as simple as they may first seem. There is a lot of information you need to consider in the process. The info is both medical and technical in nature, medical when it comes to your hearing loss and technical when you are trying to understand any hearing aid technology that has been recommended.
There is a lot of choice in both types of hearing aid available, and the manufacturers who make them. It can be quite difficult for a consumer to understand it all and sort through what is important. A good Dispenser will help you on that journey, deciphering the gobbledygook. When they have done that, they will then ensure that you have the best experience possible with the hearing aids you have chosen.
In finishing and probably the most important thing I have to say is, make sure you know what you are buying and make sure it fits your needs. Make sure you completely understand the service delivered and do not be shy about demanding that service.