A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

The hearing aid industry and audiologists

In Accommodations for Deaf, ADA, Aging and hearing loss, audiogram, Deafness, Hard of hearing culture, Hearing aids, Hearing Loss, Lip Reading, Tinnitus on June 23, 2009 at 3:08 pm

I’m totally baffled and perturbed by the hearing aid industry and audiologists.  I’ve just about had it.  I recently interviewed two hearing aid companies:  Oticon and Sonova Holding HG.  You can read the interviews yourself at http://www.saywhatclub.com/newsletter/june09/interviewgw.html and the Sonova interview at: http://www.saywhatclub.com/newsletter/june09/interviewgf.html

In case you were not aware, Phonak and Unitron are under Sonova AG Holding.  In anycase, I find it interesting that each company believes their product is number 1. What I find interesting are the questions that went unanswered and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Why can’t hearing aid companies tell us how much it costs them to make a hearing aid?  Afterall, we have a pretty good idea how much it costs to make a car, how much it costs to make a movie, a video, clothing, etc. Yet no one wants to be honest about the manufacturers cost.

The manufacturer claims the audiologist makes a big profit and the audiologist claims the company does.  I now know the restocking fee is the audiologists, not the manufacturers fee, and in all honesty, the audiologist deserves that fee.  Afterall, they are spending time with us for the fitting and the programming.

However, I don’t know how any company or audiologist can think that a $3000 hearing aid is worthy of its cost.  We get a 45 day trial period, yet I am told that it can take up to 6 or 7 months to adjust to the sound.  Duh! I am $3000 down if I hate the sound after 6 months.  I wonder how many audiologists have stuck earplugs in their ears for 24 hours?  How many manufacturers make their Executive Boards wear the earplugs just to get the sense of a 35 db loss?

I recently went to see a new audiologist and though I liked her alot, she was totally unsavvy concerning assistive technology.  This is really not a good thing.  Why aren’t the audiologists being trained to understand the clients who need this technology to function?  Simple things like bluetooth technology and loop systems.   I don’t know about you, but I am so frustrated, I want to just get the software to program my own hearing aid and purchase an aid online.

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  1. Hey– I think this is why I haven’t gotten new aids in ten years. I hate the whole process.

    • My father was an inventor, who made his own hearing aids to deal with “profound hearing loss.” He said the industry is a total rip-off, because he could make HA’s for $50 that vendors expected him to pay $6,000 (per ear!!!) for the same quality .
      It’s a racket, and the companies know it all too well.

    • “Google” the following:
      “Songbird Hearing + Consumer Complaints”
      Bet you can’t even read them all?!

  2. Wow – this is the first time I’ve read this blog. It’s wonderful. First off, my name is Ben and I am the head of marketing for Songbird Hearing so please keep that in mind. I try to stay as connected as I can to commentary about the current industry, since it’s my job to help people understand that Songbird believes that consumers deserve fair pricing for quality products and that one does not necessarily need to go through the time and cost that the traditional industry requires.

    I read your interviews and agree that it is baffling. If you are ever interested, I would love to tell you more about Songbird because we are fundamentally trying to change the way this industry works and the options that people have available to them to hear better! We are at http://www.songbirdhearing.com and I’ve posted quite a few articles on the subject on our Facebook page as well – just search for Songbird Hearing on Facebook.

    If you are interested in connecting, I can be reached at bquigley@songbirdhearing.com. Great work on this blog – it’s fabulous and I am not sure why more of the media does not ask the type of questions that you are. Excellent. My best to you and your readers,

    Ben

    • Ben, I just checked out the songbird website….it strikes me as being the samething as the miracle aid? you only deal with mild to moderate hearing loss and it seems to me the aid available is nothing more than a microphone? this is not what people need to help them with their poor speech discrimination.

      • Songbird is designed to address mild to moderate hearing loss – you are absolutely right. The flexfit is similar to all digital hearing aids designed for mild-to-moderate hearing loss (including Miracle Ear), in that it is comprised of a speaker (receiver) a microphone, and chip that enables digital signal processing. The chip enables a digital hearing aid to selectively boost sound in particular frequencies. Songbird does this, focusing mostly on the frequency ranges where speech occurs. Doing so allows the aid to help people hear speech more clearly (for those who hear sound, but need more clarity of sound). Please look at the following if you would like to see more on the technical specifications. It’s also accessible from the “flexfit details” page in the “About Songbird” section… http://www.songbirdhearing.com/pdf/flexfit_graph.pdf

  3. ay Ben, I’m the editor of the SayWhatClub newsletter and if you want, I’ll do an interview with you if you promise to be honest. Do read our newsletters at http://www.saywhatclub.com click on newsletters and read them. Also, we’ll be starting a facebook in a few weeks. You can write me at pearltf1@nyc.rr.com

  4. Ben, digital, from what I understand of it, is set up through a computer program that matches the individuals hearing loss.
    How does Songbird do it?

    • Songbird programs its products – in a very similar manner – in its New Jersey headquarters according to the most prevalent profile for noise-induced or age-induced hearing loss.

  5. I wonder if you have seen this piece just published on Hearing Mojo. It speaks to the same issue that you raised here. http://hearingproductnews.com/?p=696

  6. I agree with most of your analysis and viewpoint. I am an eleven year veteran of HA’s in both ears. First with Oticon and now with Siemen. I am currently being pitched by a local audiologist with a new location near where I live. He is trying to market yet another expensive brand by the name of Audibel. I am pleased with my current audiologist who is not conveniently located for me. Yet I am not satisfied with the quality of my hearing ability with the help of my 18 month latest and greatest pair of Siemens.
    I have grown to think of my 11 year HA’s like I do my spouse of 50 plus years. She is sometimes very difficult to live with, but I know I do not want to try and live without her.
    Helpful recommendations would be welcomed.
    J in Stone Mountain.

  7. I can’t believe the pricing for the service an assistance as well as the small amount of electronics, programming and plastic injection molding involved. I this day and time the prices should have dropped. Sure would sell more and most likely have happier customers.

  8. If you buy from California hearing aid dealers, by law, they cannot charge a restocking fee -all fees associated with a return are against the law in California. So Californians or those outside the state who purchase in state have nothing to worry about when in a trial period- if they don’t like the aids- take them back- no out of pocket whatsoever. If they try to charge it- turn them in to the State. They will be fined a hefty fee- far more than the fees they try to charge.
    Same for those selling online who are based in California- they can’t charge restocking fees.
    So buy in California!

  9. I’m not sure you guys are being fair. Maybe the hearing instrument industry charges too much, but maybe you need to shop around and not get suckered into spending so much on your hearing aids. I know that you don’t have to spend $6,000 for a set of good hearing aids. If that’s what you’re being quoted, shop around. You don’t have to accept that. My audiologist charged me $3,200 for both of my hearing aids. They have bluetooth and they have a special assistive listening program. The price of hearing aids may be high, but if you think about it, you have to not only pay for the hearing aid, but also the services that you recieve. I asked my audiologist why prices were so high. She straight up told me that she combines the cost of the hearing aid with her services so that her patients only pay once but can feel free to see her whenever they need her without having to worry about being nickled and dimed. To be fair, the cost included services as long as I have the hearing aids and all repairs, which she says she can do most of them in the office, in addition, she offers night time group therapy classes to help me and her other patients learn to listen and communicate effectively. It’s like a built in support group. I felt the process was comforting and helpful. Maybe I just have a really good audiologist, but she helped me understand what to expect and is there to help whenever I need it. She’s like my counselor and my technical support. If I can make my hearing aids last 7 years or more, I figure they will have paid for themselves. Since I got my new hearing aids I have been able to go back to school and start working on my law degree. I have my confidence back and now that I can hear, I have the courage to start a new life. To me, my hearing aids are priceless.

  10. I am a Territory Sales Rep for a company called Sona Hearing. Hearing Care Professionals are extensively trained to help people with their hearing needs and it is not quite as easy as tuning a stereo, fitting a pair of eyeglasses etc. as some think. The fee you are charged not only covers the product, but the adjustment period as some have explained, which can be extensive (multiple visits).

    Ask your audiologist about a new company called Sona. It is an upgradeable hearing aid platform, so if the sound is not to your liking on the basic product, you can choose to upgrade within the 2 year period. If they don’t stock it, have them email me, I can send them to the office for you to try out…Thanks, nice thread

  11. I wear hearing aids purchased via the internet from HearSource.com. They call them the “All-Rite” model. They are small behind the ear hearing aids with the speaker in the canal. I only paid $1,990 for the set and received everything I needed to do the sound adjustments myself using my own computer. When I hit a rough patch and can’t figure something out I call in and they ( a HearSource Programming “Coach”) assists me with adjusting them remotely using my internet connected computer.

    I have worn other brands of hearing aid before and paid thousands more for them. I have never heard as well as I do with these “Personal Programmable” hearing aids.

    I understand that a local hearing aid dispenser must charge more for a similar product. They have a tremendous overhead with their facility and associated costs. The cost of the hearing aids themselves is only a part of what needs to be charged to support any kind of business. In the cost of a mug of beer, the beer only costs about 15 cents. But the air conditioning and insurance and staff and so on and so on make the delivery of that mug of beer much more. And so it is with hearing aid dealers. It doesn’t matter what it costs to make a hearing aid. It only matters what it cost to deliver the entire product, which of course includes the audiologist support of that product.

    Good luck to the traditional audiologist and their business model of product delivery via the retail / medical office. I for one have made the switch to what I feel is a more cost effective product / service / support delivery model. I have saved thousands of dollars and could not be happier.

  12. Maybe the audiologists that most people see are more competent that yours, so they don’t have problems with their hearing aids. It’s not just the plastic you put in your ear, you know?

  13. THAD ?????? HELLO……. Did you not READ MY post about the personal programmable hearing aids option from HearSource.com ?????? YOU now have the option. You now have the choice. You can get what you want or you can use the traditional hearing aid dispensing method.

    If the large hearing aid manufacturers want to dispense their products thru audiologist, then that is their business.

    Who and how you buy YOUR hearing aids from is your business. It is now YOUR choice. That is all an industry can provide.

  14. Hello,
    What a controversial topic. First, Hearing aids do work, you just have to get them early in life when you really need them. Most people just keep putting off purchasing them because of the cost and the stigma associated with wearing them. All hearing aids simply amplify the incoming sounds. Digital hearing aids do a better job of cleaning up that amplified sound and in keeping it within a comfortable range.

    Most people that have a problem with hearing aids simply have waited too long to get them. Or their ears generate too much wax and perspiration which destroy the hearing aid. Simply ask any child with a hearing loss that is now an adult, they all like their hearing aids because they are used to wearing them. People expect that a hearing aid will give them perfect hearing, but it can never do that, unlike eyeglasses. Each individual with a hearing loss is different because of the pattern of hearing loss that they have. And no matter how you look at it, even after you wear a hearing aid, it is not fixing that hearing loss, it is just helping you hear better with the damaged system you already have. If you get that, you will be halfway there. Also, if you wear hearing aids later in life, your brain has “forgotten” what sounds sound like so you will not like the sounds coming out of a hearing aid.

    Why do audiologists sell hearing aids and not the manufacturers? Biggest reason is conflict of interest. Also, most Governments will not allow the manufacturer to sell directly to the public. You can bet that if no audiologist existed that the price would even be higher so quit complaining. The price of the hearing device depends on the level of technology inside. The more the hearing aid can do in noise and with respect to feedback and communicate with your cell phone, the higher the price. Audiologists (i am not sure about dispensers) are usually well educated and need licenses and certification to practice. Why do you need an audiologist? I don’t know? Why do we need physicians, just look up your medical ailment online and prescribe your own drugs. People complain too much and try to be too cheap, always wanting to bypass a professionally educated person. That’s why in this world we have dispensers instead of audiologists, paralegals instead of lawyers, nurse practitioners instead of an MD etc. because no one wants to spend the money. Everyone wants something for nothing. That’s why audiologists charge the restocking fee – why should they work for free? they already do the hearing test for free because god forbid you have to pay someone for actually having them test something.

    I am, by the way hearing impaired and wear 2 hearing aids, I received excellent care from an audiologist. If I had to adjust my hearing aids myself I would have no idea what would be good for me and not damage my residual hearing. Adjusting the overall volume is not the only thing you have to worry about. Also, I used to wear analog hearing aids, they are terrible compared to modern and smaller digital hearing aids.

    Finally, if you buy a good set of hearing aids, they could potentially last 10 years. Take the cost and divide by ten years and it is not unreasonable, unlike buying eyeglasses every year for an arm and a leg. Just look at how much you have to spend for eyeglasses if you want to complain, all you are getting is plastic and it costs that much, versus a mini computer in each ear.

  15. TOTALLY agree. I am sick and tired. There are literally not even research papers available for free that compare across OTC hearing aids. WTF! $50 for a “research” paper to comparison shop a F***ing hearing aid? Thank you FDA and health industry.

    It’s par for the course in USA. I remember growing up 20 years ago, ( always wore glasses), you could NOT even get glasses replicated in the prescription you are already wearing WITHOUT A “OPTOMETRIST” prescription (another $75)!!! I remember going to a blood test lab in my state (NY) about 7 years agoand being told i couldn’t get a cholestorol test on MY OWN BLOOD w/o a doctor in a white coat’s prescription. America!!!! Freeeedoommm!!! Woooohhh! Freeeee!!!! Freeeeedom! OK let the sheeple suffer. Fine by me.

    Can you imagine what would happen if the “audiologist” industry required a doctors visit before you could buy an mp3 player? a stereo? home theater? why not legislate that?

    The world laughs at us, the superpower Jive turkey. Shhh….let it continue.

  16. You said “Why can’t hearing aid companies tell us how much it costs them to make a hearing aid? Afterall, we have a pretty good idea how much it costs to make a car, how much it costs to make a movie, a video, clothing, etc. Yet no one wants to be honest about the manufacturers cost.”

    Well, apparently, a widex bravissimo bv-xf can retail for $1600 each (based on http://www.hearingplanet.com/widex-bravissimo.php), but still be profitably sold to Minn DHS for $275 each. How’s that for margin? I can buy a full computer with sound and video processing, hard drive, ram, monitor and speakers for $600 easy. and a good one too.

    Quietly go here and download the data before the gov’t quotes the white coat official secrets act:
    http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/groups/business_partners/documents/pub/dhs16_163565.pdf

    DO IT FASSSST. You now how web works…..here today…..gone to maui.

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