Why do hearing aids cost so much?

Hearing aids DON’T cost $6000, a bundled package does. Not everybody needs the Premium level of technology that is $6000, you can get the same circuit without the premium features for half that price. If you don’t want or need a Cadillac, don’t buy a Cadillac. If you don’t want to pay that much, find a provider who unbundles the price (testing, fitting, aural rehab, REM and speech in noise testing and acoutic and electronic verification of the instruments etc) and pay only for what you want. Brick and mortar stores cost money, 8 years of college to earn an AuD cost money, being there when you need service or adjustments cost money. If you don’t need or want the service or expertise, don’t go there, go online or elsewhere. At least quit bitching about being ripped off, if hearing aids could be sold for less they would be. Yes Costco is cheaper but they do so much volume they negotiate a wholesale price that is about 1/4 of the single unit wholesale price a professional has to pay. If I had tried to match Costco’s price when I was still in practice, I would have been out of business in less than a year. Hearing aid dealers and Audis are not trying to rip you off, they are trying to stay in business and be there when you need them.

Of course there are people out there that need all those features in order to hear different things. There some people that when they pick and choose features it means there will be areas where they will never hear. Nothing is ever cut and dry.

Serious question, and really hoping this does not sound “snarky”: Why do you think Costco does so much volume?

Probably going to get slammed for this, but here goes. It is my belief that there has been a growing sentiment in corporate America that a widget’s price should go up until the price gets to a point where the consumer stops purchasing it. Basically, get as much profit as you can squeeze without pricing yourself out of the market. And this sentiment is sold as “The American Way.” Why shouldn’t companies get top dollar for their product if someone is willing to pay it? That’s the philosophy, and, frankly, it sucks!

We, as consumers, have been trained for years to accept price hikes, because it’s not “cool” if you don’t have the latest whatever. Think about it. It’s nothing now to spend $40,000 on a freaking CAR! And we accept it.

Some of the success of Wal Mart has generated from the fact that people are willing to accept lower quality for lower prices. Companies keyed onto this by offering lower cost (but lower quality, and you don’t want the lower quality, do you?) products.

I believe that if people stopped trying to be rich and focused on making a good living by offering a fair price, both they and their customers would be better off. I was a provider for one franchisee who bought his top of the line hearing aids from the manufacturer for $1700 per pair. He sold them for about $8000 per pair. Now I know this guy had a lot of overhead and spent over a million per year on marketing. He wanted to be the top hearing aid franchise in the country.

Overhead is extremely expensive, because of that “get every dollar you can” mentality, in my opinion. Have you priced office space recently? Unfreakingbelievable! And heaven forbid your office doesn’t look as modern as the next guy’s down the road.

Forgive my soapbox antics, but I think so much of this has gotten out of hand. Not to be self-plugging here, but that is why my upcoming practice is going to be home-based and mobile using technology to perform telecare and marketing. I want to keep overhead down to the bare minimum so that I can lower prices for my patients. Why would I sell a pair of $1700 hearing aids for $8000, when I can sell them for, say, $3700 and everybody’s happy? Do that once a week, and I’m making $100,000 per year, minus expenses. That’s not a bad living. Not gonna be rich, but who cares? Wife’s happy, kids are fed, mortgage is paid.

Sorry for the long post, but I feel pretty passionately about this.

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Shawn, you are talking about an area of the market that I have been saying is needed and should be offered. My first six years in the industry (1976-1982) I worked predominantly in the patient’s home. It was a really enjoyable experience since you see a whole different side of the patient. As people get older and are less inclined or able to travel, I think the home service will become more and more viable. In fact the son of the man who hired me back in 1976 actually set up a strictly “in the field” hearing aid business going to senior living complexes. It has been very successful. In regards to your $8000 hearing aids, I also think that is ridiculous (was it a franchise with the initials ME by any chance). I have heard of $10,000 hearing aids, but I guess there will always be greedy individuals who will take advantage just because they can. I believe a practice is entitled to a fair profit for the work they do, in my case it was a small town and if I screwed the public word would have gotten out and I would have been out of business. A fair price and bending over backwards to achieve patient satisfaction worked great. After 22 years I sold the practice to the son of one of my patients and he has kept the same work ethic and is doing just fine. Good luck in your endeavor of going to the patient, I think there is a need and a market. I do think you will be surprised at the overhead you experience with the service calls. Tele programing can do just so much and then there is the personal exposure that is needed. I truly wish you success for both you and your patients sake.

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I truly appreciate that input. Part of my reason for doing this is to say, “Enough is ENOUGH!” It tears me up for a patient not to get help because they don’t have enough money. (I usually refer them to a charity like the Miracle-Ear Foundation in those cases.)

I agree about the overhead. In my projections, I’ve basically doubled the cost of everything just to be safe. I’m still confident that I can make a good living without having to gouge patients.

Regarding the telecare, I wouldn’t want to rely on it fully anyway. I actually enjoy my patients. They’re practically family. I’m just wanting to utilize telecare to cut down a percentage of the travel, especially for any patients that may be in rural areas where travel to or from can be challenging.

But, again, thank you so much for your response. In the future, I may reach out to you via private message with your permission. I would like to pick your brain and your experience.

I appreciate all your input.

PS: You are correct about the initials of the franchise. They’re not the only ones here. Another franchise just dumped about 8 locations locally and $8000 is their average selling price during their first year. Insane!

Happy to help if I can. Just remember, sometimes the advice is worth exactly what you paid for it. But after 43 years both in private practice and as a Practice Development Consultant, I seen a few things that work and didn’t work.

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