Why HA prices so secretive?


#1

Why is HA pricing so secretive? Price transparency would be in everybody’s interest. I would think most people who buy HAs from local audiologist do not want a bundled package but are forced into them because they have no other options. (A lot of people are unwilling to purchase HAs on the web.) I personally would prefer an a la carte approach. I want to buy the HAs with an initial fitting and one follow up. After that I would pay for follow up adjustments on a per office visit.

Buying HAs is a major purchase for most people. When we make other major purchases such as automobiles, appliances, etc. we have bargaining power because we know the approximate dealer costs. Not so with HAs.


#2

I agree but be wary because if you happen to have fitting issues it could get costly and cause you to give up and just want a refund - extra fitting costs you have paid would not then be refundable. Perhaps a better approach would be included visits until the end of the trial period.

Having just purchased a new car I can tell you new car pricing is far from transparent.


#3

I think many of the clinic fear moving from the old model. I wonder how many of them have the flexibility to be in business. I have a hard time thinking of many of them succeeding as entrepreneurs. Now that all generality. Granted many are different.

I think there is a lot of fear out there. What was a given is now under assault. Their comfortable life is threatened.


#4

It’s probably the most expensive electronics item they will ever buy.


#5

One problem w. the HA industry is there is no standard in operating software. At least w. computers it’s narrowed down to MS being used by a vast majority of the business world with Apple having a significant minority. With cell phones, almost every mfr. uses Android - again with Apple having about 15% of the world market.
Every HA mfr. uses their own, proprietary, OS.


#6

Do you mean on the aids themselves, or the software used to program them? I can see how the latter restricts what brands any audiologist can deal with, but not how it reduces price transparency.


#7

It’s irrelevant to me that the HA mfgs use proprietary OS on their hearing aids because it doesn’t really affect me in anyway.

What’s relevant to me is that their programming softwares are compatible with Microsoft Windows so I can install their programming software on my computer. And they are. I don’t know if their programming software is compatible with iOS so it can be used on the Mac or not, but I don’t have the Mac so I don’t care.

What’s even more relevant to me is that I can use the universal HiPro/Mini Pro to connect their programming software to their hearing aids, so that I don’t have to buy a different and proprietary hardware device specific to their hearing aid brand in order to connect between the programming software and the hearing aids. Sure, they can sell their own hardware (like the wireless FittingLink 3.0 sold by Oticon that works for their OPN hearing aids only), but as long as I can also use a universal hardware like the MiniPro then all is good.

What’s most important to me is that they don’t lock out their hearing aids and not allow anybody but the authorized dealer to do the programming only (like what the Kirkland brand did for the KS5, KS6, hope I got this right because the KS7 and KS8 are not locked out).

Equally important is they make the programming software accessible to the public to download, even if they don’t make that official so they don’t have to provide public support for it.


#8

Macs use a Mac OS not iOS. And programming software for HAs does not come in a Mac version - just for those who want to know.


#9

Yes, you’re right, it’s MacOS for Macs, not iOS.


#10

Pricing is secretive because audiologists don’t want their exorbitant profits exposed to the customers.


#11

I don’t think prices are any more secretive than many high end items. If one looks, one can find prices online. There also places that sell hearing aids that you can be quoted a price over the phone and referred to an audiologist. Admittedly things could be a lot more transparent, but that’s more of a reflection on our society than hearing aids.


#12

Hearing aids are a health related item. And, like most health related items, they are priced at what the market will bear. Just what is your hearing worth to you? If it is worth $6K every few years, then they certainly have something for you. If hearing aids were purchased like any other electronics item, they likely wouldn’t cost more than a couple of hundred dollars. You are, in most cases, paying for the services of a professional, which costs. And, there are follow up visits. But, if they were sold as an electronic commodity instead of a health related item, You would go to your retailer, take a hearing test, purchase the aids and go home with the fitting software with your specific loss already entered. Then, you would do your own programming. If you just couldn’t get it right, you could see a professional for a professional fitting. Just like some people repair their own computers, while others go to a professional for PC repair. As of now, I see no real pressure to change the current business model away from the health related model to the electronic commodity model. So, pricing will remain secretive and high. And yes, I fully agree with the comment about new car pricing. My son sold cars for a while, and he told me things that would make your head spin.


#13

If you’re looking for a rough idea of what ha’s cost, you can go to truhearings website and see what they sell them for. They have a lot of brands, with most models and technology levels.


#14

The market will bear much higher prices if it doesn’t have a choice, or doesn’t know it has.

I don’t see the idea of buying online and programming yourself taking off. It’s too risky. Costco is the only real downward pressure I see.


#15

Risky? I’m new (1 year). I knew before I committed that I would be self-programming. Mostly due to distance to fitter (Costco).

Online places like Buyhear and RussF’s business have better prices for new. The used market via ebay and such is quite attractive.

Or even upscale OTC/PSAP’s with some kind of left/right equalization can work to a certain degree.

I think as the younger more tech-savvy people age (or damage themselves) into needing HA’s that self-programming will be even more of a thing.

But I don’t understand your “risky” idea.


#16

The risk is that you might pay a lot of money for aids that turn out to be unsuitable, or you find you can’t get them programmed right, or even programmed at all. Even at a fraction of the normal prices, it could still be a lot of money.

I thought about it, and about Costco, but decided that I would go down the normal route with my first pair (early this year). Next time, once I know more about it, and have a benchmark for what’s an acceptable result, I will explore other avenues.


#17

As long as you’re dealing with a reputable online store (and backed up by credit card protections) you return them and get a refund. But I agree that you shouldn’t do anything that you feel uncomfortable about.


#18

My first experience with aids was a couple of years ago when I stopped by one of many hearing aid dispensers in my area. I just asked if they thought I could benefit from aids. Which was the wrong question to ask, of course. They whisked me into a booth and ran a hearing test. Naturally, they said I could be helped and they just happened to have the very aid I needed at a significant savings of only $2750. I asked if I could return them for a full, and I did emphasize “full” refund if they did not help. They said I had 60 days to try them. I had to pay up front, of course. They didn’t really help and after a couple of “adjustment” appointments, I told them I wanted to return them. To my surprise, they weren’t at all reluctant and a couple of weeks later, I had a full refund. I was having some non hearing related ear problems and went to an ENT. One of the things they did there was an audiogram. Since I didn’t go about my hearing, they made no attempt to sell me hearing aids. Another year went by And after looking at the prices of used aids on eBay, I decided to do my own fitting. After all, no one knows more about my hearing than me. So, I went back to the Audiologist at the ENT and asked for an audiogram. She did one and suggested I return for a consultation. At that appointment, she went into great detail explaining the nature of my loss and even how hair cells work. She made no attempt to sell me a hearing aid. I paid for the audiogram and consultation and went my merry way. I bought a pair of Phonak V90’s off eBay for a fairly low price, downloaded Target, bought an iCube2 and started doing my own programming. I will never go back. I have programmed my aids many times and learned a lot about how modern hearing aids work in the process. I can even do my own hearing test with my aids and the Target software. I am still not sure whether aids can help me or not. So far, not really. I am convinced that no professional could have done better. I know almost instantly if a setting is helping or not. I can tinker around with any and all the many variables available for me to adjust. People are being kept in the dark about hearing aids. I don’t think there is some kind of dark conspiracy, it is just that the current business model almost forces those in the business to behave that way. It may not change any time soon. But with advances in technology and more younger people becoming technologically proficient, I think it will start to change soon. We will see Chinese companies basically copying some of the leaders and selling at mere fractions of what we pay now. As us baby boomers start to die off the seller’s market for hearing aids will disappear and they will become more like cellphones, where you just go to a store and get what you want.


#19

Perhaps price transparency has been reduced by insurance company involvement in the hearing aid business. Maybe things are migrating toward the pharmaceutical model (at least in the US). For example, if a pharmacy wants to have access to customers covered by insurance company X, the contract between the pharmacy and insurance company X requires that the pharmacy not disclose the retail prices (i.e. what uninsured folks pay) of drugs to customers with insurance company X coverage. It’s been documented that, for a few low-cost generics, the insured customer’s copay is more than the uninsured customer’s total cost.


#20

Another risk is that a novice will self-adjust the benefits away by focusing on comfort instead of how the hearing aids should be set up.