Those ebay retailers I spoke about earlier have in fact launched an e-commerce website selling hearing aids online at what they term wholesale prices. In fact, they are selling non custom hearing aids from all of the big hearing aid brands at probably the lowest price in the UK. The question is, should you buy them?
Online Hearing Aid Sales UK
For the first time there is now an online hearing aid sales website that sells devices from the big hearing aid brands in a true e-commerce way. Apparently, the original ebay sales were a market research exercise to test the Public's appetite for this type of purchase. The second phase is to offer the products direct on their own website to the public at the same knock down prices.
A New Hearing Aid Business Model
In essence, the company is trying to introduce a new hearing aid business model where hearing aids as a product are sold separately from service. Some hearing aid advocates have lobbied for just this type of business model, but generally they wanted their local professional to provide it to them. Their question has always been why should I pay for service that I don't want or need? Wholesale Hearing Aids is using this same sentiment as a unique selling point. It will be interesting to see if the buying public accept it. It will be more interesting to see if the hearing healthcare professionals accept it.
At the time of publishing this article they are offering top of the range hearing aids from Phonak, GN Resound, Widex and Starkey for under a thousand pounds sterling each. The owners of the site advise you that they can pre-programme your hearing aids from an audiogram before they are shipped. They say that they prefer an audiogram that is under three months old. In fact it is illegal in the UK to sell hearing aids from an audiogram that is six months or older.
They also advise you that it is a good idea to actually visit a hearing professional before you purchase in order that you can get a full hearing test and recommendations on which hearing aids are most suitable for you. They further advise that -
We believe that the best success comes from getting the best devices and working well with a professional who is competent and that you trust. So many times we have been told that patients stopped going to their existing audiologists because of poor service or feeling that they were just a number. We are building a global network of trusted audiologists that you can be linked up with who will charge you per visit often saving you thousands of pounds in aftercare costs. It's like a pay as you go mobile phone!
A Global Network of Trusted Audiologists
It is obvious from looking through the site that the owners have big ambitions. They hope to sell their hearing aids beyond the UK and Ireland going global with their offering. Although they speak about a Global network, there is no mention of who or where these professionals are other than vague references. I honestly think that is because there probably isn't many of them and they probably are not as widespread as the owners hope.
In our last article ebay sales which you can read here. We said that our worry about this business model was that people may buy the hearing aids online and then find it difficult to get a professional to help them. We are unsure about how the bulk of hearing aid professionals are going to feel about this. So there are several things you really need to consider so you can make an educated choice here.
Here are the things you need to consider.
- Will someone fit them for you?
- How much will the hearing test and fitting cost?
- How much will it cost for aftercare visits? (you are going to need them)
- How much will it cost for repairs to be handled?
- Will the extra costs mean a net saving or loss for you?
Simply Independent Hearing Aid Advice
Again, we aren't telling you this isn't a good deal and we most definitely aren't telling you not to do it. What we are telling you is that you need to carefully consider everything here. I really would urge you to discuss it with a health professional before you do it. You need to know that someone will actually take care of you, otherwise you will be left with some very expensive ornaments.
Right this minute, this concept of hearing aid sales is not getting a great reception within the hearing healthcare profession. That may change however. We will keep you updated on the reaction to all of this and we would welcome your comments at info@hearingaidknow.
Late update here, BSHAA (The British Society Of Hearing Aid Audiologists) has released a statement, it reads
BSHAA Chief Executive Prof David Welbourn said: “We are concerned at hearing aids being sold without the qualified care and advice of a professional audiologist. We need to look at any effect this may have on the trust between the public and those clinicians who do provide high quality hearing care. We are also considering whether this practice is consistent with the conduct we expect of clinical professionals who are members of our organisation. “We are in dialogue with the regulator to review whether the practice is contrary to the legally protected function of a hearing aid dispenser.”
Late Update 2. In a statement from Neill Pottinger (Starkey Management UK) made on Linkedin, Starkey Hearing Technologies have instructed the owners of this website to remove their brand from this site. It allows consumers to purchase hearing instruments without the intervention of a qualified hearing professional and is in contravention of our stated internet sales policy.
We think that this one might run and run.
You can see our definitive advice on buying hearing aids online here Buying Hearing Aids Online - Buying Hearing Aids Online? Here is What You Need To Know