Maximize benefits from hearing aids

by Dr. Clint Keifer, FLT Columnist

Odds are that you or someone you know has hearing loss (1 in 10). Unfortunately, as common as reduced hearing acuity may be, finding affordable, quality hearing care can be a challenging task. So much that it can become a barrier to seeking help.

More and more, people understand the significant differences between audiologists and dispensers (and why audiologists are the best choice). This month, I am extending the conversation to the cost of obtaining hearing aids — an important topic of discussion since much of the expense (hundreds to thousands of dollars) can be out-of-pocket. And while affordability matters, what’s more important is obtaining value.

Hearing aid pricing is often quoted as a bundled cost which includes the device, warranty, insurance, and any included services. And “FREE” really means you pay for it as part of the bundle. Because of this “bundling” and notion of “free service,” it is easy to overlook how critically important proper audiologic evaluation, recommendations, counseling, fitting, adjustment, and prescription verification are to the process.

When properly selected and adjusted, modern hearing aid technology can be positively life-altering. Studies reveal quality of life improvement with hearing aids is directly proportional to receiving audiological best practices (and have a greater impact than technology level alone). In other words, the skill and capabilities of the provider are critical in ensuring maximal communicative outcomes and satisfaction. Hearing aids in the drawer, whatever their cost, are a poor investment.

Cost, as a variable, is further affected by the retail business model. Retailers commonly mark-up their bundled charges by multiplying the invoice device cost by a certain percentage, resulting in increased profit and commissions on higher priced models which require no additional time or services to fit. This has led to unethical “upselling” practices, bait-and-switch advertising tactics, and unnecessarily high costs for better technology.

A provider’s main motivation should obviously not be to sell you the most, but rather should be to assist you with obtaining the most beneficial devices and services to match your individual needs and help you achieve success. As an example, my practice offers an alternative model which clearly defines separate device and service charges, with hearing aid fitting services remaining the same no matter which technology level is selected. Not only does this reflect the importance and benefit of quality audiology services, but also makes the best technologies more affordable — both of which result in the delivery of greater value.

Dr. Clint Keifer is the owner of Great Lakes Audiology in Toledo. You can contact him at 419-327-2273; email at ckeifer@glaudiology.com; or visit http://www.GLAudiology.com.