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The State of the Hearing Industry

Time to Read: 10 minutes

How to avoid becoming caught up in misleading practices

There has been a lot of talk lately about how the hearing industry is unregulated and how some clinics are rorting the system and making exuberant profit out of unsuspecting client with hearing loss.

Some of these claims are unfortunately true, but this has now opened up the industry to other players preying on your price sensitivity.

It might just be me, but it seems the market has just become even more perilous to the unsuspecting client searching for better hearing.

Here's what to watch out for:

  • Cheaper pricing without the service to back it up
  • Advertise one price, but sell you at another
  • Selling Hearing aids, which aren’t hearing aids at all!
  • How to avoid these practices
  • Decide what you really want

What you see is NOT what you get:

Here are a few examples of what I have been seeing happening in the industry:

  1. Cheaper pricing without the service to back it up

I have written a whole blog article on this aspect, which you can read here. Basically some online providers advertise cheap hearing aids that can be fitted by their partners anywhere in Australia. Unfortunately, these partners are not owned or controlled by the company selling these hearing aids, so the quality of the outcome might leave much to be desired.

These partners only receive a fraction of the price you paid, so they might not be as keen on providing you with the same standard of care that they would to their own clients. Furthermore, the clinics taking part in these schemes are often desperate for work and might not be the highest quality providers available. They are frequently new to the business and may not even be around for ongoing support in the years to come.

 

  1. Advertise one price, but sell you at another

There have instances of clinics that have been advertising their hearing aids online at rates lower than their competitors. That is all fine and well until you realise that you cannot actually purchase the hearing aids at those advertised prices.

The reason for this is that these clinics price their hearing aids separately from their fitting fees. They are not ethically able to supply the aids without fitting, so they have to charge you a fitting fee. When everything has been added up, you end up paying the same or more than you would have elsewhere. The low hearing aid prices are shown simply to get you in or to get you to contact them.

This is potentially a breach of the ACCC’s component pricing legislation: https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/advertising-selling/advertising-and-selling-guide/pricing/component-pricing

 

  1. Selling Hearing aids, which aren’t hearing aids at all!

This is another topic, for which I have created an entire blog article. You can read more by clicking here.

There exist devices called personal sound amplifiers, that may look very much like hearing aids, but are not hearing aids at all. Some retailers, who are notably not hearing care professionals, are now advertising these “Hearing Aids” at prices as low as $99 each, but frequently at around $349 each. These devices are actually designed for normal hearing people who want a bit of a boost and aren’t suitable for use with hearing loss. They could even cause further hearing damage! Make sure you read the full article here.

How to avoid these practices:

Ensure you are dealing with a reputable company:

  • How long have they been in business?

Check websites such as http://abr.business.gov.au/ . Simply search for the name and then click on the ABN number to see when it was registered. Ideally a business should have been running for at least five (5) years to prove it is sustainable. This information is not always accurate as the company may have started as one structure but evolved over time into a more complex structure with names registered later. Sometimes it is worth just asking the question straight to the provider.

  • Do they have a lot of customer reviews especially from long standing customers?

Check their website for testimonials, video reviews etc. Also see if they have independent reviews by searching their name + review.  Make sure reviews from long standing clients are present as well, otherwise you might be dealing with a fly by night type operation, or someone just starting out in business.Are the clinics they advertise their own or do they use partners of varying quality?

The easiest way to see this is to look at their contact page. If they have locations without addresses, then these are likely partners. They simply don’t want you to bypass them and go straight to their partners as they then lose out on their cut.

  • Are they selling reputable hearing aid brands?

Make sure only consider quality hearing aid brands including Phonak, Oticon, Siemens, Signia, Resound, Widex, Bernafon, Unitron, Starkey, Hansaton, Sonic Innovations.

These are well known quality brands with great reputations that are commonly found in Australia. There are a few more, but they are generally found in overseas markets. Some retailers rebrand defeatured hearing aid models to their own internal names. These are not included in this list as they are not widely available.

  • Is the retailer all about the hearing aids sale or are they focused on the journey to better outcomes?

If they are only in it for the sale, then you are likely to see them focus simply on pricing with prices shown upfront. Do they have content on their blog or news section educating you with useful information beyond just product updates? If not, then they may simply worry about the initial sale rather than your long term benefit.

  • Do they supply the “hearing aids” online or are there face to face consultations involved?

Most retailers selling hearing aids online directly to the consumer without face-to-face interactions are simply in it for the sale. There is no or only limited ongoing personal support. Only consider this route if you are happy just having a hearing aid, but are not too concerned with getting the very best out of your hearing.Are there additional costs involved to get the hearing aids set up for your hearing and to follow-up on the initial outcome?

  • Do you pay extra for testing and fitting of the hearing aids?

If so make sure to add this to the total cost when comparing apples to apples.

Decide what you really want

  • Do you simply want a hearing aid at the cheapest possible price?
    If this is true for you, then you have many options available to you, with varying outcomes.  You get what you pay for.
  • Do you want long term improvement in your quality of life through better hearing?

Most people don’t purchase a hearing aid simply because they like the idea of one.

The reason you start or repeat this journey is to enjoy a better quality of life and improved social connections through better hearing. This takes more than just buying a hearing aid. It involves working with a hearing professional who understands your unique individual needs and who can support in you in achieving the best possible long term benefit.

If this is you, then we are a great place to start exploring this journey. You can read more about your journey with Value Hearing Here.