Subscription Hearing Aids... Thoughts?

There is an outfit in Dallas, TX – Hearing Haven who offers a “Hearing for Life Program” which charges a fee of $700 - 2500 for the hearing aids and then a monthly fee (with 48 month contract)… This pricing seems a bit steep and still doesn’t cure the problem that most people, including myself, don’t have $2500 dollars laying around to spend on myself when the kids need to eat.

Any thoughts on this or experience with different business models? I mean, honestly, if Verizon gave me a bill every 3-5 years for $3000-$5000, I would NOT have a cell phone. Just an idea…

Thoughts?

I think the details might be difficult to work out, but it seems like a completely reasonable solution. Lyric Hearing effectively does this now.

Argentina has a very interesting model call MAH. I believe it is a non profit organization.
the idea is, you pay a monthly fee (cheap) and you get access to hearing aids at a very
very discounted price…

HearingAidGirl didn’t give the monthly subscription price she’d have to pay for 48 months on top of the $700-2500, or what’s included in the subscription, or what happens when the 48 month period is up (new aids? new fees?) so it’s hard to say how this option compares to just buying hearing aids outright. It sounds to me like the subscription fee may just be another term for financing charge. That’s a very long subscription period, 48 months. A long time to be locked in to one pair of hearing aids. We all want our hearing aids to last at least that long, but what happens if six months later, you don’t want to use these any more, or you lose or break one? It sounds like you have to keep paying the fee for the next 3.5 years anyway.

What Lyric does is charge an annual subscription fee in the range of $3000-$4000 depending on the audiologist. That covers everything for 12 months. When you need new Lyric aids for whatever reason (and typically, you have to go back to your audiologist for new Lyrics at least once every three or four months when their non-replaceable batteries die), you get new Lyrics at no charge. Lyrics have to be inserted and removed by the audiologist–they’re embedded deep in the ear canal and cannot be easily seen by others. So it’s a totally different business model. Very expensive long-term, but some people consider them a great deal, because they don’t have to fuss with them or worry about losing them. If you decide six months in with Lyrics that they’re not for you, you just don’t renew your subscription at the 12-month mark, and you go on to something else. On the other hand, if Lyrics start causing lots of pain and/or infections (and for some people, they do) several months into the subscription, you can walk away but you get no money back on your subscription. Lyrics didn’t work for me, but fortunately, I figured that out during the free trial.

As Hamjor stated, I feel subscriptions would limit the freedom of choice.
Plus, basing on my personal story, I’ve to say that if I wouldn’t have paid mountains of $$$$$$$$ (even if actually for me value is Euro) I wouldn’t have forced myself in using HA on my first months of utilization - it took me exactly 10 months to win the initial discomfort I suffered with “new” sounds - if it all ended with me giving up and losing some hundred euros “only”.
Btw, paying a monthly fee is not a bad idea itself, I’m sure many in the HA world are thinking about it, but it’s difficult the idea to become reality.
On my opinion, I would suggest at first to propose fees only to experienced users - if not in my case I would have given up everything immediatly and still suffering for bad hearing.
So, once monthly charge of X euros each month is applied, I would propose a period shorter than 48 months, would say 12 months max. To be eventually renewed, if not user would lose the option to make trials also with other models of other brands - unless AudioPro to successfully collaborate with more than one HA manifacturer, quite rare at least here where I live.

Unless you get a significant discount of some kind on a new purchase I’d stay away from it. If you can afford to pay the provider that much per month then just put that much per month by direct debit into your hearing aid savings account and then in 48 months you will have cash to take to whichever provider suits your needs. And not sure what protection rules are like in the US, but in the UK if a company goes bust (and it’s the right economy for it) then the government gets paid off in full first before consumers get a penny. I paid £102 for a service and my eventual rebate in liquidation was £1.00 and I had to wait 3 years to get my £1. Imagine if you paid in $3,000 to a hearing aid provider then found they went out of business and you could have $300 back in a further 3 years’ time? Or if by the time you want to renew your hearing aids they only do a particular brand that you hate? Or in 3 years’ time hearing aids have fallen to only $500 cost (we can dream!) and you have $3,000 in the fund that is redeemable ONLY against hearing aids?

In exchange for them receiving your money each month to guarantee themselves the repeat sale, taking the risk of them taking your money and then going bust and also to keep your money in their pockets to keep themselves ticking over you should be getting a serious discount on renewals. Less than 40% discount on the new hearing aids and I’d not touch with a barge pole.

So, if I understand their website info correctly, one must pay $47 per aid (or so) for 48 months ($2256, plus the initial fee of $750+) This doesnt seem like a great deal at all and 48 months to get into new technology is a bit long IMO. I would like to see how the economics would work on a 24-36 month contract @ roughly $50 per month, plus the initial cost of the device @ $100-$400. This business model would create negative cashflow for two years, but if you got 1000s of subscribers it could work out nicely for both user and dealer…

I looked at it, too, now, on their website, and it does look to me that what they’re calling a “subscription” is another term for a financing charge. One benefit to this is that some customers who may not qualify for credit can get aids that they otherwise would not be able to afford. The downside to this is that the customer may not have consumer protection that would be afforded to someone paying a properly labeled finance charge. For example, you’ve calculated the 48-month price, but this may be so much higher than the cash price for these same aids as to border on usury. This could be in effect a 50% interest rate. They could get away with that by calling it a subscription. Or it could be a very reasonable 15%. There’s no way to tell from I could see what the effective interest rate is because I’m not seeing the aids or their cash price identified.

And it is a “new aids every 4 years” deal. I presume they would have a way for you to cancel AFTER paying off the subscription. That in itself is not necessarily bad, to me. Some aids will last longer, and some would want to keep their aids and not pay more money. Other people would like that arrangement. You may want new hearing aid technology sooner than four years from now, and you’re correct, it’s changing quickly out there, but buying new, high-tech aids every two to three years gets quite expensive (as with Lyric subscriptions) and is more money than most people want to or can spend.

This is similar to cell phone companies offering “new every two” phones, which is probably what gave this guy the “new every 4 years” idea. Some people love getting a new cell phone every two years. Some want to keep their old phones and will stay with their cell phone company paying month-to-month rates until the phone dies. Others want a new phone every year or so and pay through the nose for the privilege. It’s the customer’s choice.

I used Care Credit to finance my hearing aids. The insurance company covered $1000 for the pair (after deductible), I made a modest down payment and then have monthly payments. If I pay the entire balance within twelve months, there is no interest cost. If I choose to extend beyond the twelve months, all of the interest fees apply.

It works for me. I could easily purchase the aids I need and pay them off within twelve months. I’m sure many audiologists in the US have this option available.

Jeff

Looking at the subscription terms and value, I would have some concerns. Four year finance deals are usually not that great, I would really want to see the small print of the contract.
If a large amount of money upfront is a problem, then some type of interest free consumer credit is the best. As always read the terms and penalties. What I do is take $20 out per week by direct debit and let it build up.