If you’ve ever wondered whether you should purchase hearing aids at a big box store/warehouse like Costco or Sam’s Club versus a professional audiology practice, we’ll break down the important aspects in this article. Like many purchases we make in life, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons, and make a well-informed decision.
Pros to Big Box Store/Warehouse Hearing Aids:
- Competitive pricing.
- Demonstrations and trial period.
- Free hearing screenings.
- Free cleanings and checkups.
- Evening and weekend options.
Cons to Big Box Store/Warehouse Hearing Aids:
- There is wide variation in the training, experience, and type of dispenser you may work with. Some are hearing aid dispensers, some are audiologists, and you may have only limited supervision by an audiologist or not see one at all.
- Their hearing aid technology is often “locked,” or proprietary, which means you can only take your hearing aids to that specific chain for service. No other private audiologist or provider can work on them. Many patients do not realize this, and find out when they try to take their hearing aids to another practice for repairs or desire help from a more experienced professional.
- The top technology levels they often offer are slightly older technologies compared to what’s on the private market, and sometimes their higher-level products are more comparable to mid-level technologies available privately.
- They do not provide loaner hearing aids and they may have limited repair options if the store labeled brands (i.e., Kirkland) ends the contracted relationship with the manufacturer for a lower cost vendor or contract.
- The store actually owns the results to your hearing test, not you. That means you may not be able to take your test results to another practice for a second opinion.
- Big box stores/warehouses DO NOT accept insurance benefits for hearing aids.
- They do not perform wax removal or provide other important full-service audiology care, such as tinnitus or assessment for dizziness and balance disorders.
- The experience and environment are very different from a professional audiologist’s clinic. They don’t typically pre-schedule routine follow-up appointments.
- Scheduling follow-up service and appointments can be a challenge in a busy store and is often first-come, first-serve.
Professional Audiology Clinics
Professional audiology clinics such as Associated Audiologists offer you value beyond the purchase price of the product. This includes:
- Doctoral-level audiology care for every patient
- The widest selection of hearing aid technology and products from the world’s most respected hearing aid manufacturers. This means audiologists in other states (say you live in Florida or Arizona in the winter) can service your hearing aids. Some manufacturers and professional partners we work with regularly include: Widex, ReSound, Phonak, Lyric, Starkey, Westone, Neuromonics, TruHearing, EPIC, Amplifon, Esco and PowerOne.
- Entry-level hearing aids are available for as little as $675 each. Premium and mid-level hearing aids, with more sophisticated features, may cost up to $3,200 each with a full portfolio of services included. Our audiologists discuss your budget and goals up front and provide you with a written estimate of their recommendations.
- 45-day assessment period to determine your benefit and satisfaction with hearing aids.
- Comprehensive care for hearing loss with diagnostic hearing evaluations and reports sent to your primary care physician. We also provide dizziness, balance, and tinnitus care all within the same full-service, independent and locally-owned professional audiology practice. Your hearing examination results belong to you as a part of your medical record.
- Wax removal, a common need for patients.
- Loaner program, when appropriate, in the event your hearing aid needs to be sent to the manufacturer for repair. All-make repair options for most brands and older hearing models.
- Monday through Friday “Urgent Ear” hours for emergency problems or for same-day repairs, along with manufacturer repairs when necessary. Early morning appointments are available too.
- Utilization of real-ear technology to verify that your hearing aids are fit according to recommended prescriptions for proper hearing and safety. It is estimated only 20 to 30 percent of practices in the country use this advanced technology.
- Recommend and provide regular and critical follow-up appointments for checkups, adjustments, and monitoring of hearing. This means our patients’ hearing aids last longer – five to seven years on average – versus the industry standard of three to five years.
- Patients with health insurance may have hearing aid coverage that could help with the costs. We accept Medicare and most other types of health insurance, and investigate whether or not your particular plan has coverage for hearing aids.
- If you purchase hearing aids through a professional practice, they qualify as medical devices and are exempt from sales tax, which may not be the case if you purchase hearing aids through retail outlets.
- Financing options are available for individuals who qualify.
High Patient Satisfaction Rate at Associated Audiologists
But probably the most important difference between buying hearing aids at a discount chain and a professional audiology clinic such as Associated Audiologists is patient satisfaction. At Associated Audiologists, our patients consistently rate their experience with our practice at 4.9 out of 5 stars. To read our Google reviews, visit www.hearingyourbest.com/recent-patient-reviews.
Only One in Four Big Box Patients Returns to Purchase Again
Bottom line, you may feel you are spending less at a big box store, but this may come with reduced benefit, limited flexibility/service options, and most customers don’t return to buy another set. In fact, based on industry data, only 20 to 25 percent of patients return to purchase a second set of hearing aids from a big box store/warehouse. Good value is tied to many variables and your best value and satisfaction may be working with a doctoral-level audiologist in an independent audiology practice.
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Schedule an appointment with Associated Audiologists or call 855-547-8745 to be sure you are hearing your best