I’m in in the process of purchasing hearing aids for the first time, and I’m shocked by the experience. I’m getting ready to spend $4-6K on a item (which I consider to be a major purchase), and they will be covered one time only by my insurance company. I want to be careful about my choices. Here are my experiences. Have you had similar experiences? Is there a better approach? Let me know your thoughts.
The expectation is that I’m supposed spend 15 minutes with the Audiologist, and blindly go with their recommendation, who will place an order for my items. They will recommend one or two brands, even though they have never seen or used the latest devices from other brands. I will buy the very best HA I can buy, they will love the commission. That’s how it works in the industry today.
I work in technology, I’m on the conference calls most of the day, using Skype or Zoom. My experience with HAs will not be limited to face to face conversions in a quiet location. I connect with technology, I’m active, etc.
I started this in January, then I stopped because I so uncomfortable with getting ripped off. I don’t mind paying top dollar for top of the line service and products, but I don’t like getting ripped off. It’s April now, and I have to get this completed, I’m tired of saying “what?”,.“can you repeat that?”, hopefully I’ll complete the purchase this week.
Here are my gripes from my shopping experience:
- Most people in the industry do not understand connectivity to devices. People selling the devices should be able to answer questions like: should I connect my hearing aids directly to my PC, or should I use a device that connects to my HA and my PC (that clips on my shirt), or should I use my existing headset over my hearing aids? These are basic questions for anyone who works in an office environment in 2019.
- How long will my batteries last if I’m on 6 hours of conference calls in a day and connected directly to my PC?
- Hey, you can’t answer my question about using HAs with my computer for conference calls, how about if I come down to your retail location, bring my laptop, and we can try out a couple of devices with it? “Oh, sorry, we don’t have any HAs in stock, you can’t really try them.” What?? Imagine going to the car dealer and saying, I’ve narrowed my search down to 2 models, they both meet my needs in terms of the specs, so it just comes down to which one feels more comfortable to drive, I’ll stop by for a test drive. What if they responded with “I’m sorry we have any inventory, but we can order one for you. If you don’t like it you can return it with a restocking fee.” Would you shop there?
- The first place I went, I made sure that I was seen by an Ear Nose and Throat specialist, who did not have a financial interest in saying that I needed HAs. Without a question, he determined that I do need them, and have needed them for years. Then I was sent to the Audiologist who did have a financial interest. After my test, he showed me few old HA samples that he had laying around, and a laminated sheet showing different options, ranging from $4-6K, with a limited number of brands. Very unprofessional.
- After going to the first place, I went to another local Audiologist. This place was a bit better. They understood a bit about technology. But again, nothing in stock, you can’t try it until you buy it. They were $2K less expensive than the other location for identical HAs. They also suggested that I submit a disability claim with the VA, which I did. I’m in the process of waiting for results, and I have to say the experience working with the VA so far has been great, they have been very professional.
- Unfortunately that Audiologist is not approved by my insurance, and the place that is, happens to be the place that wants to charge me $6k. I told the insurance company that I could save them $2K by going to the second place, and they didn’t care. In the future, I may be able to us a VA benefit to purchase from the second place I visited.
- So it looks like I’ll be back to unprofessional HA dealer number 1 to get HAs. I’m going to tell him what I want, and have him order it (I don’t care if he doesn’t get a kickback from that brand, I’m going to tell him what brand to order). If I don’t like it, I’m going to return it, without feeling any guilt.
- I think my biggest gripe is that none of the Audiologist I spoke with have used all the new devices. They will say don’t pay attention to online reviews. They represent a brand. They are not giving good advice. They give the impression that they can choose what to sell and they have your interest at heart. If I go to a BMW dealer, I know they only sell BMW, I expect them to be biased. When I go to the Audiologist, I expect them to be impartial.
What would l like to see?
- Someone on staff needs to know about connectivity, how HAs work with all kinds of devices, phones, laptops, in car bluetooth phone connectivity, etc. It’s 2019, we are surrounded by these devices, we need to know how a HA is going to interact.
- Have some samples set up that customers can try. You can go into a Bose store and try out “Hearphones”. I’ve done it. You will leave the store knowing whether you liked it or not.
- Quit with the “we have to evaluate you, bla, bla, bla”. You are selling the exact same device as the company down the street. Tell me about your service, expertise the brands you carry and your prices. If I like that, I’ll come in and do the hearing test.
- I’ve done most of my research now online, and directly with the manufactures. The manufacturers have responsive, and have answered my technical questions. Phonak had their QA team connect to Zoom, try things out, answer questions, even sent me screenshots. So at this point, I’d rather just order these online. Let me adjust them with the app, or include one appoint with an Audiologist to set them up. Often I prefer to do business with someone local. In this case I don’t, because they are not providing a better experience.
In 5 years I’ll probably be going through this process again. I hope to see a different market when time comes.
What have your experiences been?