Purchasing Hearing Instruments: Cost vs. Value

When purchasing hearing aids you are relying on an expert to use his skills and experience to adjust the product to perform for you.

Purchasing Hearing Instruments: Cost vs. Value

In today’s world, we are always happy when we can spend less. Nevertheless, when purchasing medical devices, such as hearing aids, you are not just buying a product. Rather, you are relying on an expert to use his skills and experience to adjust the product to perform for you. Here are two cases from my practice I would like to share with you.

Case 1: Shelly

Shelly had a long history of reduced hearing, so she decided to go to “BigBox” to get hearing aids at the urging of a friend. Coincidentally, she was referred to me by another acquaintance.

Shelly had already obtained BigBox Digital Max 100* hearing aids prior to her initial appointment with me. She stated that they were so loud it was impossible for her to wear them for longer than one hour. I tested her and suggested we try two hearing aids that I had in stock. After customized programming, Shelly was astounded at the difference in fidelity speech understanding and acoustic comfort experienced with the products I had fitted. On the way out of my office, she said, “Next stop, BigBox, to return the Digital Max 100s.”

At the first follow-up appointment, Shelly no longer had any difficulties communicating in any listening environment. She said she loved the hearing aids. It turned out that the devices from BigBox were $100 less than those obtained from my practice. The difference: Now Shelly can wear the hearing aids all the time and live a fuller life.

Case 2: Ben

Ben was a patient of mine for about ten years prior to entering military service. During deployment, he served for several years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ben was in need of new hearing aids and contacted the local VA hospital when he returned to the USA. After a six-month wait, he was finally seen for an evaluation. Another six weeks elapsed until the hearing aids were fitted.

When the audiologist put the new hearing aids into Ben’s ears and handed over the instruction manual, Ben stated that the hearing aids were far too loud. The audiologist responded: “You’ll get used to them.” The entire fitting procedure took less than five minutes.

Out of desperation, Ben contacted me and explained the situation. I scheduled a one-hour appointment to re-evaluate his hearing and adjust the devices. When I examined the settings of the hearing aids, I almost fell over. My evaluation indicated that Ben could endure sounds no louder than 92 dB; yet, the hearing aids were set at 124 dB. This was equivalent to 25 times louder than Ben could tolerate. Small wonder he could not wear the hearing aids. After resetting all of the parameters, he left to try the units for one week.

Ben’s follow-up appointment revealed average daily use of 14 hours with no discomfort to any acoustic stimuli. All of his previous problems were resolved. Any subsequent visits to my office have been for routine maintenance and product software upgrades.

The Professionalism Your Audiologist Should Deliver

These cases exemplify that cost and competency do not necessarily go hand in hand. In the BigBox case, the difference in performance and the ability to wear the products was well worth the $100 cost difference. The VA story simply illustrates that your audiologist should perform a thorough evaluation and use the results to customize the instruments to work within the parameters of your usable hearing. All of your questions and answers should be addressed to ensure that the hearing instruments perform to your complete satisfaction. No matter the cost, a hearing device that cannot be worn is never a good value.

* “Digital Max 100” is a fictitious name.

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