Why Purchasing a Hearing Aid is a Consumer Nightmare

Paul D Dybala dybala at utdallas.edu
Tue Sep 23 09:12:11 EST 1997

Brad I understand your frustrations,

I am sorry that you are having such a hard time with this

send me an email and I will give you the information that you need.

The simple problem is this,

the charter of this newsgroup does not allow us to talk about
pricing of hearing aids.  If this continues to happen the charter
can be revoked and this group can cease to exist.

It has nothing to do with you not getting a price or people being
uncooperative.  I do not want to see this group fold.

Paul Dybala

Brad (whitneyb at erols.com) wrote:
> 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.


> 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

Thank you for your support,
Paul Dybala
dybala at utdallas.edu

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