The Bottom Line on Hearing Aids

Stop! Don’t buy that new set of hearing aids just yet!

Did I get your attention? Good. Take 5 minutes out of your day and read this article so I can help you purchase hearing aids properly. If you are over the age of 60, you are probably getting several pieces of direct mail that advertise the latest and greatest in hearing aid technology. You probably also noticed that there are plenty of advertisements in your local newspaper for hearing aids. Let me tell you why.

I have been an audiologist for 23 years in the Milwaukee area where I was born and raised. I hear comments from my patients on a weekly basis about how they are being overwhelmed by hearing aid advertising.

Who dispenses hearing aids?

Hearing aids are sold/dispensed by two groups of professionals: audiologists and hearing aid dispensers. There is a significant difference in the training of these two groups of professionals.

Audiologists are the most highly-trained professionals to diagnose and treat hearing loss. Audiologists are required to have at least a master’s degree in audiology, and many have doctoral level credentials. This means they have extensive graduate level college training on ear anatomy and physiology, diagnostics, and hearing aids.

The second group of people who dispense hearing aids are called hearing aid dealers/dispensers. They must pass a state exam to earn their license to dispense hearing aids. There is no formal training, college courses, or degree required to be a hearing aid dealer. You will often pay the same price for your hearing aids whether you see an audiologist or a hearing aid dispenser.

One would be wise to find the most qualified person to obtain hearing aids from, especially if you are being charged the same price!

Who makes hearing aids?

Hearing aids are manufactured by six major worldwide manufacturers and several subsidiaries. There are plenty of brand names and models, but in general, most hearing aids that are sold are manufactured by one of these six companies: Widex, ReSound, Oticon, Siemens, Starkey, and Phonak. However, you won’t buy hearing aids directly from these companies. Hearing aids are dispensed by local audiologists, hearing aid dispensers, and large hearing aid franchises.

When you have made the decision to investigate purchasing new hearing aids, many folks take advantage of advertised offers. My intent in writing this article is to educate the public on what to look for and how to save you significant time and money.

There are many tricks and gimmicks that I have seen in my years as an audiologist. Please ask yourself who you think is paying for the expensive advertising you are seeing. Is this company in the paper every day? Do they send you direct mail on a weekly basis? You can bet you will be paying a premium price for their hearing aids.

Remember, only six companies make the overwhelming majority of hearing aids. The top level hearing aids from each company are all high quality products that can be fit successfully on most patients. There is not one hearing aid company that stands out and has “the best” hearing aids in my opinion. However, there are hearing aid companies that do have technology that is “the best” for certain hearing losses. This is where the skill of an independent audiologist who works with several of the top hearing aid manufacturers is most advantageous. Some companies have hearing aid features that other companies do not offer. It is in your best interest to find an audiologist who has experience with several hearing aid companies so they can select which product is most appropriate for your hearing loss and lifestyle.

Hearing Aid Advertising

I oftentimes look at advertising for hearing aids. The truth is that the national franchise that is selling the “latest and greatest” is selling the same level of hearing aid technology others are, just under a different name and at a far higher price. I’m disappointed when I hear some of the folks come in and tell me what they paid for technology that I routinely sell for $1,000.00 less. My advice is for you to get an estimate of what it would cost for the hearing aids that are recommended for you and then compare that cost with others. Get the hearing aid manufacturer name and model number. Forget about the $1000.00 coupons, 50% discounts, buy one get one free offers, phony research studies, and fake evaluation periods for “new technology.” You need the final cost and the level of technology that is being recommended to make an accurate comparison.

Many audiologists concentrate on diagnostic skills, hearing aid dispensing, and patient care. Unfortunately, they do not spend as much time as large hearing aid franchises and hearing aid dealers that market heavily and aggressively. Let me ask you this question: are you really going to spend thousands of dollars on a set of hearing aids when you can get the same technology fit by an audiologist for a lot less money than what you would have to spend at a large franchise?

Here is a set of questions you can ask when purchasing new hearing aids:

  1. What level of technology is being recommended for you? Why is this level being recommended? Who manufactures the hearing aid? What model is it?
  2. How many channels do the hearing aids have? Channels allow for greater programming and fine-tuning ability. The more channels you have, the greater the technology and ability to adjust to your needs. For example, a 16 channel hearing aid is generally more technologically advanced than a 6 channel hearing aid BUT, the prices can be the same. You would want the 16 channel hearing aid, not the 6 channel.
  3. How long is the warranty? Does it include loss and damage? How much are office visits?
  4. Who pays for batteries? Are the hearing aids rechargeable? What accessories are available?
  5. How long is the trial period? If I return my hearing aids during the trial period, how much will it cost me? Some establishments do not offer any refunds or charge large return fees. If you don’t like your $6000.00 set of new hearing aids, you can get stuck with them.

Feel free to contact me and ask these questions. I’d be happy to evaluate your hearing and provide a free consultation to give you my opinion of your hearing loss.