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Hearing Aid Prices and the True Cost of Audiologist Visits

Recently, we posted a blog entry explaining why some commonly cited reasons not to buy hearing aids online, despite much lower hearing aid prices, do not apply to Embrace Hearing.

This is the second of a two-part post focusing specifically on the last reason proposed by Neil J DiSarno in his Q&A piece in The New York Times.

Mr. DiSarno states that: Audiologists are professionals who can provide adjustment and programming of the devices, counseling, hearing training and support when you obtain hearing aids from them. Hearing aids bought online do not include these services.

First of all, this is not correct. At least it's not correct with Embrace Hearing. We provide all of these services to our customers precisely when they need it. No appointments are needed. No waiting rooms. Call us 7 days a week for exceptional support from our Audiologists. There is never a charge for this support.

But  we also believe that the local clinic model of “bundling” hearing aids and follow-on services as an 'included benefit' serves to hide the true costs of hearing aids and hearing aid services, to permit audiologists to charge more for the services than they would be able to charge on an easier-to-understand visit-by-visit basis.

To demonstrate this point, we’ve calculated the effective price of hearing aid follow-on services.


 

Above and here is our analysis of the effective cost per visit of the “training and support” referenced by Mr. DiSarno, when purchased as part of a bundled package. This analysis assumes that an audiologist pays $1,500 for a set of hearing aids from a manufacturer, sells it to a consumer for $5,000, and that the “fair price” for that sale is really much lower. It then asks the question – how much is the customer really paying per follow-up visit, depending on 1) how often he returns for follow-up visits, and 2) what hearing aid price he considers “fair” in the first place?

At the risk of stating the obvious, we submit to you that these are very high numbers!

In our view it is unlikely that hearing aid wearers would be willing to pay per-visit prices at these levels, if given a transparent choice. Hearing aid “bundling” is so common because it allows audiologists to include these exorbitant hidden costs in the up-front $5,000+ hearing aid price. First-time hearing aid buyers may not know whether $5,000 is too much to pay for a medical device – but they would suspect that $1,000 is too much to pay for a follow-on visit.

While it is impossible to know Mr DiSarno’s true motivations, we note that he has “spent the last 35 years as a practicing audiologist” and therefore has likely benefited financially from profits created by the practice of hiding high per-visit costs in an opaque “bundle.” We leave it for our readers to decide whether this conflict of interest might influence the thinking of audiologists who advise consumers not to buy hearing aids online because doing so deprives consumers of the ability to obtain “adjustment and programming of the devices, counseling, hearing training and support” from audiologists.

To this argument, we say – if you really want to ensure that all consumers have access to these services, then why not charge for them on a per-visit basis, no matter where consumers originally purchased their devices?

In a more transparent system, the free-market price for these services would decline to the level that consumers feel is fair. In an environment with lower prices, it is highly likely that many of the 27 million Americans with untreated hearing loss would purchase hearing aids and achieve an improved quality of life. And shouldn't that be the goal of everyone involved in the hearing care industry?

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The X-Series Models

Vs
  • Compare to:

  • Our price per ear/pair:

  • ? This is the number of frequency bands we use to program your hearing aids to the results of your hearing test. The hearing aid then uses these bands to re-build sound to meet the needs of your hearing loss. The greater the number of bands, the better the sound quality delivered to you.
    Programable bands/channels

  • ? Our comprehensive warranty covers any manufacturer defects including free replacement of rechargeable batteries and receivers as well as half price one-time loss and irreparable damage replacement. In addition, during the warranty, there is no charge for reprogramming or adjustments.
    Warranty (and Loss Insurance)

  • ? Connects directly to your smartphone (or other Android or Apple device). Two way streaming enables completely hands free calls. Add our TV Connector for direct streaming from your TV so you can adjust your TV volume without affecting the sound for others.
    Bluetooth for completeley hands-free calls

  • ? Although the software on these hearings makes adjustments seldom necessary, it is possible to change the volume and some manual settings using either the free smartphone App or the buttons on the aids. An optional hand held remote is also available.
    Volume and Program Control

  • ? We offer a choice of disposable 312 battery or lithium ion rechargeable battery on some models. The rechargeable battery will perform for up to 24 hours after a 3 hour charge. The disposable batteries will last 3-7 days depending on hours of use, level of hearing loss and amount of Bluetooth streaming. A year’s supply of size 312 batteries currently costs about $30/year/aid.
    Power Source

  • ? The hearing aid's software automatically identifies and adjusts to changes in your sound environment (e.g. From a quiet car to a noisy restaurant) so no manual adjustments are needed.
    Automatically adjusts to your environment

  • ? This is the best technology for group situations. It provides optimal speech understanding from all directions by dynamically scanning your environment to focus on the active speaker in your immediate vicinity.
    LiveSpeechFocus

  • ? While most people find that the restoration of high frequency hearing through the use of properly programmed hearing aids significantly improves tinnitus symptoms, there is more we can do. All of our hearing aids come with a tinnitus management program. This is not a cure but it can further help alleviate tinnitus symptoms through the use of a self-adjustable 'white noise' sound in the background.
    Tinnitus Manager Program

  • ? BiCROS hearing aid progamming is for people who have unaidable hearing loss in one ear but have some level of hearing in the other. You would wear hearing aids on both ears. We program them so a microphone picks up sounds from the weak ear and transmits them to wirelessly to the ear with better hearing.
    BiCROS programming

  • ? REMOTE PROGRAMMING - With the X-550 and X-950 models, we can make adjustments to you hearing aids remotely. You would explain the issue to our Audiologists and the new program would be uploaded to your hearing aids automatically (via Bluetooth).
    Remote Programming

  • ? TELECOIL - The telecoil is also known as a T-coil, or T-switch. When activated, the telecoil permits the transmission of sound from a "Hearing Loop" sometimes found in public spaces and theaters. If you require this feature, please call us for details at (888) 929-9555.
    Telecoil

  • Colors

The C-Series Models

Vs
  • Compare to:

  • Our price per ear/pair:

  • ? This is the number of frequency bands we use to program your hearing aids to the results of your hearing test. The hearing aid then uses these bands to re-build sound to meet the needs of your hearing loss. The greater the number of bands, the more natural the sound and the better the performance in more challenging situations, like restaurants.
    Programable bands/channels

  • ? Our comprehensive warranty covers any manufacturer defects including free replacement of rechargeable batteries and receivers as well as half price one-time loss and irreparable damage replacement. In addition, during the warranty, there is no charge for reprogramming or adjustments.
    Warranty (and Loss Insurance)

  • ? Although the software on these hearings makes adjustments seldom necessary, it is possible to change the volume and some manual settings using the Android/Apple smartphone App or optional hand held remote.
    Volume and Program Control

  • ? The disposable size 10 batteries on these hearing aids will last about 4-6 days depending on hours of use and level of hearing loss. A year’s supply of size 10 batteries currently costs about $30/year/aid.
    Power Source

  • ? The hearing aid's software automatically identifies and adjusts to changes in your sound environment (e.g. From a quiet car to a noisy restaurant) so no manual adjustments are needed.
    Automatically adjusts to your environment

  • ? This is the best technology for group situations. It provides optimal speech understanding from all directions by dynamically scanning your environment to focus on the active speaker in your immediate vicinity.
    LiveSpeechFocus

  • ? While most people find that the restoration of high frequency hearing through the use of properly programmed hearing aids significantly improves tinnitus symptoms, there is more we can do. All of our hearing aids come with a tinnitus management program. This is not a cure but it can further help alleviate tinnitus symptoms through the use of a self-adjustable 'white noise' sound in the background.
    Tinnitus Manager Program

  • ? BiCROS hearing aids are designed for people who have unaidable hearing loss in one ear but have some level of hearing in the other. You would wear hearing aids on both ears. A microphone picks up sounds from the weak ear and transmits it to wirelessly to the ear with better hearing
    BiCROS programming

  • ? With the C-540 and C-940 models, we can make adjustments to you hearing aids remotely. You would explain the issue to our Audiologists and the new program would be uploaded to your hearing aids automatically.
    Remote programming and adjustments

  • Telecoil

  • Colors

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