Why Purchasing a Hearing Aid is a Consumer Nightmare

gandalf at infi.net gandalf at infi.net
Mon Sep 22 14:44:45 EST 1997


In article <604l7o$3e4$1 at marshall.shentel.net> whitneyb at erols.com (Brad) writes:
>From: whitneyb at erols.com (Brad)
>Subject: Why Purchasing a Hearing Aid is a Consumer Nightmare
>Date: 22 Sep 1997 02:30:16 GMT


Gosh, I guess this guy never bought a car, or hired a lawyer, or went into the 
hospital.

Michael Ridenhour ;-)

>Why Purchasing a Hearing Aid is a Consumer Nightmare

>The way hearing aids are marketed in the US makes it very difficult 
>for a consumer to become sufficiently informed to make an educated 
>decision and is therefore totally at the discretion (some might say
> mercy) of the hearing aid dispenser.

>For the last several weeks I have been going through the process of 
>trying to decide if I should purchase an aid and as part of the process 
>I have been following this newsgroup and even participated on two occasions.
>I have seen ample evidence some of the participants of this newsgroup need to 
>understand this process from the consumer's point of view, especially given 
>the flaming I received for the sin of documenting some hearing aid prices.

>PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS POST IS AN HONEST ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE BETWEEN
>A TYPICAL CONSUMER AND DISPENSING AUDIOLOGISTS SO THAT OUR GROUPS UNDERSTAND
>EACH OTHER.  

>The Problem:

>With the availability of hearing instruments such as the Widex Senso 
>consumers are being asked to pay thousands of dollars for a new, 
>relatively unproven, product.  These aids are usually recommended by an 
>audiologist or dispenser we usually picked out of the phone book and/or 
>we seldom see, with little or no way of checking into the aids reputation, 
>the dealers reputation, or determining if the price is fair.  Additionally, 
>we consumers have no way to validate if the recommended aid is the best 
>technical solution, or maybe just the highest priced one.  We are asked to 
>totally trust the audiologist or dispenser we may have just met, or have not 
>seen in a few years.  This mix of circumstances is an invitation for less 
>conscience dealer to take great advantage of consumers.

>This problem has existed all along but hearing aid products such as the 
>Widex Senso have dramatically increased the dollars of the expenditure 
>to the point it could tempt anyone to "get a little extra premium" for 
>an aid of this class.  The Senso, in CIC form, is so much more expensive 
>than other aids a consumer must naturally be cautious.  For example, this 
>aid is 30% more expensive than the top of the line CICs from either of the 
>advertising and high overhead kings Beltone or Miracle Ear.
> 
>Except for www.ahearingaid.com I have been unable to find any published 
>hearing aid pricing whatsoever.  Readily available consumer pricing goes 
>a long way towards helping a consumer feel assured he or she is not becoming 
>the target of a greedy dealer.  Compounding this problem, I have found 
>some dealers will not quote the price of their aids over the phone. Without 
>fail, if a dealer doesn't sell the aid you are inquiring about, they ALWAYS 
>tell you they have something just as good or better, and during the sales 
>effort, they will usually contradict other dealers recommendations (one says 
>CIC another says no CIC, one says K-Amp another says definitely not a K-Amp, 
>etc.).

>It is very difficult for a consumer to develop any trust in a marketplace 
>with so many impediments to normal consumer tools such as priced 
>advertisements,
>product reviews, etc.  With products now this expensive the consumer needs 
>some assurance his or her decisions are sound, as the money spent will impact 
>the entire family budget for many, many months.

>With the Internet, international information flows freely and we see dramatic 
>price disparities between countries, compounding consumer unrest.  While the 
>differences in health care systems may effect the margins of the dispensers, 
>what is in question is the wholesale price disparity.  I have designed one 
>medical device and was exposed to the marketing aspect of health devices.  
>Many people blame the FDA for additional US costs but the truth is the US 
>market the worlds cash cow for medical devices because of our capitalist 
>health care system.

>The old basis of pricing an aid based on a margin over cost gets very visible
>as the price of the aid increases.  One dispenser told me he loves to sell the 
>Widex Senso because they are actually easier for him to program than other 
>more conventional aids.  He actually spends less time with Senso customers but 
>charges them more.

>With no published pricing, dealers that refuse to quote prices over the phone, 
>and the sensitivity exhibited by some dealers if prices are questioned, a 
>consumer
>must be very skeptical and exercise extreme caution when purchasing a hearing 
>aid.
>Dispensers, you must expect this very old debate to heat up significantly as 
>hearing aid prices escalate at these precipitous rates.

>Knowledgeable consumers are not looking for the lowest price, only a fair one.


>Respectfully,

>Brad
>A simple consumer





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