Recurring costs for hearing aid owner

How much do you folks pay your HA provider for periodic cleanings, hearing tests, and program adjustments? Is there a “typical” amount to be expected?

When I bought my current Sonic Enchants 5 years ago, my income was especially low that year (it’s always rather meager, but that was a really bad year) and the HIS said I qualified for free “lifetime” (life of the HAs, not my life) services. So I go in every 3 months for cleanings and batteries, every 6 months for a minor adjustment (mainly my “s” sounds keep slipping away), and every year for a hearing test… all at no charge. Very happy with this, but not sure how long it would continue since the HAs are 5 years old now. Of course, for the past 3 years every time I go in he tries to sell me some new HAs, which (under my situation) would now only have 1 year of services included (IIRC it’s $150 or more per year thereafter).

I have to go on Medicare this coming summer, but right now my current insurance situation will let me get a new set of HAs for 5% copay. I want to jump on that. However, with my financial situation I want to be very mindful of what I’ll need to shell out on an annual basis to keep them in good tune.

There are two well-established, sizable audiologist doctor practices in my metro. Today I called each one and asked some questions about insurance, costs, repair facilities, etc. When it came to a recurring cost of HA adjustments, I got ZERO straight answers! One office simply said it was all included for 1 year but didn’t say anything about what comes after that year is up; the other office lady literally said she could not find any adjustment price, and she only quoted a $25 per HA cleaning fee (which would be $200/year if I still took them in every 3 months).

I’m sort of worried about this expense, and it bugs me that I could not get an up-front answer from well-established professional offices. Any thoughts?

My hearing loss is the typical high frequency loss, btw.

At least in the US most providers bundle the cost of services into the price of the hearing aids. That is one reason prices vary. I will be going to Duke University audiology next week. If I need to get new aids, they do not bundle their services. I hope unbundling might help some of the charges to be covered by health insurance.

Those services have always been included in the price of the hearing aids I’ve bought from an audiologist. Only when I transferred to a new audi when I moved to a different state and my aids were probably 7 years old did I pay for an office visit when I needed adjustments.

I’m wondering though if this might have changed as a common audi practice because I’ve seen some recently where there were timeframe limitations on the services provided. To me, it should at least last as long as the longest warranty on the hearing aids but I’ve heard as short as one year.

Good luck.

The indications I’m getting from those two offices is that they’re only including the services for maybe a year or two, and thereafter I’d be paying out of pocket. I’d really like to find another one that will bundle in the services for, say, 5 years, or for as long as I’m still wearing those HAs. I’m still looking… :slightly_smiling_face:

The thing is, I am not rough on my HAs or other electronic devices. (I have only dropped a cell phone once in the last 4 or 5 years, unlike most people I know!) So I figure on making a new pair last for a decade if possible.

I tried pinning my Costco specialist on the length of support. She guessed about 5 years, assuming they could get parts from the manufacturer. I believe most all of their aids have a 3 year warranty.

Service and programming for the life of the hearing aids sound great, but the higher price for including that consumers will bitch about. If you go to a dentist for an implant or have a plumber come out to fix a drain and you have them check it again a year later, do you expect to be charged again? More and more hearing aid practices are or will be going to an unbundled pricing plan. You can expect to pay for what is being done and if it is done again in 6 months, guess what, you will pay again. Your initial cost when purchasing will be lower but you will pay for the services you require. If you don’t require much in the way of service or programming, it will not cost you as much. When I was still in private practice, I would service the hearing aids for life. If I was still in practice today, I am not so sure I would still do that.

1 Like

Costco seems to have figured that out while charging one third to one half the prices found elsewhere.

1 Like

So what “service” are you thinking you might have to offer, say every 6 months or so? Also you mentioned “programming” in that time, so you mean some adjustments right, very little input from you guys to to do this, remote care is something that can be offered instead of coming into the clinic, remote care can only get better over time, the beauty for you guys is you won’t be needing a brick and mortar shop front.
Unbundled sale’s is definitely the way forward, it’s what the consumer wants, can’t see the point in you guys wanting “more” for this then you do now, programming for life sounds like a brilliant idea.

1 Like

I want some of @gorgeguy’s Polskie Ogorki!

3 Likes

I believe that the notion of “service” needs to be redefined. If you buy a Gibson guitar, you don’t get free strings for life. Nor are the strings you buy typically installed for free. But the installation doesn’t cost you $250, either.

I find that much of the HA Industry’s pricing is obscenely bloated and predatory. Is it any wonder that customers object?

3 Likes

Today I have reason to be happy. I’d left a voice message at a ENT clinic, and today a woman returned my call. She knew her stuff and was able to tell me up front what all my costs would be. Periodic adjustments and cleanings are free for as long as they can still program the HA, she said. Even 10 or 12 years down the road? I asked. The reply was: yes. She also told me exactly what their standard repair charge is when the warranty runs out. She sounded so much more competent than the others I’d talked to, I gladly made an appointment for next Thursday.

I had assumed that a place with numerous MDs as well as Audis would be prohibitively expensive in their fees (including after-care), but I was wrong.

4 Likes

My ears produce a lot of wax. As such, I needed to go in for cleanings every two weeks or so. These were free. However, I bought the Jodi-vac vaccuum for hearing aids and don’t have to go in for cleanings anymore. My audi was really impressed with the device when I brought it in for a tutorial. This device is great and well worth it!

What your ENT told you over the phone is standard for my HA provider. Not a bad deal.

3 Likes

But with aids from Costco you get domes and wax filters. All I have needed to buy for my aids were batteries.

3 Likes

@3dslides: Congratulations! Good for you and best of luck.

1 Like

The only reason Costco can charge less is that their volume allows them to negotiate a much lower price on the wholesale level and there store overhead is significantly lower that a stand alone clinic. It is basic Business 101.

1 Like

Thx for sharing about this vacuum. I have a lot of wax too. Somehow though, my old Oticons didn’t require changing the filter very often. The Philips 9030 I now have gets clogged fairly often. I have to change the filter even though it doesn’t look like it’s full of wax at all, it just becomes plugged so the sound is muffled or non-existent.

I have found the prices for service going up over the last 25 years I have worn hearing aids. For example, one place charges $60 “restocking” fee to send to the manufacturer for repairs while the aid is under manufacturer’s warranty. Also, when I purchased the hearing aid, I was given pricing for routine cleaning and office visits. After one year, the office raised the prices, I wrote a letter with a copy of my original paperwork and the office backed down and gave me the original price not the increase they were trying to charge me.
It is my understanding that some companies like Beltone do free cleanings and servie for the life of the hearing aid. But then some places give you the hard sell every time you go in. Since I go in every six months and have had two repairs in the past 3 years that involved the manufacturer, I think it is important to find out the prices and save your initial paperwork. Get it in writing what the cleanings and service will be going forward. After five years Phonak no longer made parts on one of my set of aids so I had to get new ones or find a mom and pop shop for repair.

I have some understanding of the difficulty of competing with a cost cutter. My father ran a luggage store in a low income area when ‘factory outlets’ were opening.

I have no doubt that Costco overhead is lower than that of standalone clinics, but I would bet they trade off a lot of markup in favor of selling in a lot of volume. The 1st audi I consulted told me my only choice was to spend $6,000 on HAs when a complete shoulder replacement (with 2 surgeons doing the work) probably didn’t cost me $600. I’d have been much more open to $2,000 for aids an the 1st year of service, with follow-up service costing me reasonable prices. That probably would have gotten him pretty close to $6K over 4-5 years. That’s a lot less than $6K up front - but he would have gotten a lot more than $0.

Standalone clinics may have some advantages in expertise and in relationships with customers. I’m on my 5th Costco person, and I’d rather not have to deal with the parade.

Have you considered charging prices closer to Costco’s. Do you have professional associations? Has anyone modeled and tested different business models?

I don’t know the answers to my questions. They do not mean to tell you how to run your business, just to elicit answers, since I’m forever curous.

It would be very difficult to try and match Costco pricing. I have seen many offices try to do that and go out of business. There are (or have been) many buying groups for professionals to try and get a bigger volume discount on product. When I retired from private practice, a top of the line hearing aid wholesaled at $1200 - 1400 PER HEARING AID and that was with the additional volume discount. So matching Costco’s $1600 for a pair retail is just not an option. Theoretically, the higher price of a private clinic is offset by better service and better expertise. In a perfect world that would be the case but when I was consulting all around the country, I saw some business (I won’t even call them a “practice”) that if they sold hearing aid at cost, the patient would still be over paying. Unfortunately there is a very diverse group of people who get involved with hearing aids. Some are phenominal and others are the opposite. But I guess it is the same as any business, there are the good, the bad and the ugly.

4 Likes

I don’t think local clinics need to match Costco’s prices, and they can’t sell at a loss and survive for long.

I do think that personal service and nice digs will appeal to many buyers who choose Costco because the price differential is so significant. Lowering prices and unbundling services might result in a big enough increase in volume to more than make up for the lower markup.

I know one practice that does that - $150 for consultation on HAs, lower prices for aids, unbundled services. They would have gotten my wife’s business, but our insurance pays off much better for bundled services than for unbundled one. So the business model probably needs to give options.

That’s just a hypothesis, though.

I saw more than a little humor in charging customers/patients to listen to a sales pitch. :slightly_smiling_face: The good part was that she explained why she recommended what she did instead of other HAs that they sold. It was worth the cost to us, and we’re probably not alone.