Looking for hearing aids? Here's how to find a hearing expert you can trust.

Having a hearing loss can be frustrating. The last thing you need is more frustration as you try to wade through the misinformation, gimmicks, and sales pitches out there. Here is a secret that will make the whole thing much easier: find the right hearing doctor first. If you get the right hearing doctor, you will get the right hearing aids. So how do you find the right hearing doctor?

Look for credentials

Not all hearing professionals out there are the same. At one end of the spectrum you have Doctors of Audiology who have completed anywhere from 8 to 10 years of college-level study and are board certified. Their specialized education gives them the medical understanding of hearing loss and a deeper understanding of hearing solutions.

At the other end of the spectrum you have those who have completed the minimum amount of schooling (2 years of college) to become Hearing Instrument Specialists.

Needless to say, a Doctor of Audiology is going to give you a more thorough examination and diagnosis. Don’t be afraid to ask for credentials. Your hearing is too precious to trust to a glorified hearing aid salesman. You deserve the expertise of a doctor.

Inquire about the examination

Know what’s involved in a thorough hearing examination. A Doctor of Audiology will:

 Conduct an examination of the ear canal for possible blockage of sound.

 Perform a tympanic membrane test – tympanometry examines the movement of the eardrum, looking for possible medical interference.

 Perform a hearing evaluation in a sound proof booth. This evaluation uses both words and pure tones (beeps) to diagnose specific degrees of possible hearing loss. 

Through this process, your doctor can identify any medically related hearing loss that could be treated in other ways. Additionally, it helps inform the type of technology that would best suit your situation.

Understand how they make a recommendation

If test results indicate a need, your doctor will recommend the proper hearing aids for your specific hearing loss, life style, and budget.

Make sure your doctor has options from the 6 major brands – Starkey, Phonak, ReSound, Oticon, Widex, & Siemens. Some places may only offer one brand – this may be good for them, but it may not lead to the best solution for the patient.

Additionally, your doctor should fit the hearing aid, fine tuning it for your unique situation. Some of the tools the doctor should use include:

 Live Speech Mapping

 Real-Ear Measurements

 Sound-Field Threshold Measurements

 COSI or APHAB

Know the questions to ask

It’s easy to get confused when it comes to finding the right solution for your hearing. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to make a sound decision. At the very least, arm yourself with these 5 questions:

1. Do you have an advanced degree in the field? Do you really want to trust your hearing to anything less than a doctor?

2. Can you provide me with references? It’s good to see a track record of successful treatment.

3. What hearing tests are performed and is Live Speech Mapping used? You deserve to know that you’re getting the best evaluation available.

4. Are you local? You want to know that if you ever have a problem, there is somebody in town that can help.

5. Are you manufacturer-owned or a manufacturer franchise (limiting your choice to just one brand of hearing aids)? You want unbiased advice that you’ll find at the objective private practice of a Doctor of Audiology.

 

What Should I Expect to Pay for a Hearing Aid?

This is a great question.  But, I must tell you it is amazing to observe the variation in pricing we see from one Provider to another.  There is no rhyme or reason for it.  Since there is not a Consumer Reports, JD Power and Associates or Consumer Advocate for hearing aids, it is impossible to know if the price(s) you are being charged is a good value. So, what can you do?

At Sound Advice Hearing Doctors we believe the answer is to educate yourself, so we are going to help by explaining how the industry works and a way to evaluate the price of any hearing aid.

First, manufacturers do not set the price of hearing aids: 
Private practice providers operate independent of manufacturers.  Each provider negotiates the price they are willing to pay manufacturers for hearing aids then they mark them up and sell them to you.  WARNING!  Be careful when you see the initials M.S.R.P (manufactures suggested retail price).  An M.S.R.P. doesn’t exist for Hearing Aids. 

Second, there is not a standard markup on hearing aids: 
The markup on hearing aids is at the discretion of the provider.  As a result, prices can vary by hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars.  For example, the following illustration lists a Starkey S Series 5 hearing aid purchased one year ago.   Besides being 3 year old technology that we wouldn't sell today, these hearing aids are considered to be economy models or entry level products.  At Sound Advice Hearing Doctors, we would have sold this product for $2,500 a pair, yet the Provider charged this patient $4,490 for the exact device (same manufacture, model, etc.).  Unfortunately, this patient paid too much for the hearing aids and was taken advantage of by the Provider.  The patient should have also received his trial period RISK FREE.  If he wasn’t happy with the hearing aids or decides he wants to go to another Provider, he should not have been liable for a charge of $893 to return them.  

Third, you have to match the level of technology with the price: 
Like cars, computers, cell phones and other electronics, hearing aid technology changes.  There are three major factors that determine the price of hearing aids.  First is the number of bands and channels in the device.   The higher the number of bands and channels the more you will pay for the device.  You can look on any manufactures website to determine the number of bands and channels on the particular model offered by your Provider and match it up with our pricing guide. (See Below)

Second is the number of features in the hearing aid.  Every hearing aid company will offer an economy product plus a good, better, and best model.  As you move up the chain the number and type of features will increase.  You have to be careful here because hearing aid manufacturers and the majority of providers will push the top model.  Experience has shown unless you are in very specific situations the middle model is often the best value.  Hearing Aid companies make everything sound wonderful, but often overstate the benefit of the feature.  Some features sound really good in the brochure but don’t actually help enough in the real world.  This is why you want to try the hearing aids before you purchase them.  
Third, and the most significant factor on the price of the aid, is the markup the provider is using to price the product.  We already told you the price is at the discretion of the provider, so they can charge whatever they like.  How can you know if the aid is being sold at a fair price…all you have to do is determine the number of bands and channels in the hearing aid you are considering and match it up to our pricing guide below. The guide will give a price range for that level of technology…it is that simple.  If the product is priced outside the range on the guide find another provider.   

 

What is included in the price of a hearing aid:
All Hearing Aids should come with a lifetime service guarantee through the Provider and a specific warranty from the manufacture.  Manufacture warranties vary, that is why we always encourage people to only buy one of the big six (Phonak, Starkey, Oticon, ReSound, Siemens & Widex).  Lifetime services should always include adjustments, maintenance, cleanings and correcting issues that may arise during the life of the hearing aid.  Be very cautious here!!  Many Providers may simply drive into your town for a day or two offering a “great deal” and never return.  You wouldn’t buy glasses or other medical devices from someone in a trailer or back of a pharmacy, so why hearing aids.  They may promise you a lifetime service, but never return to provide it.  Hearing Aids will require adjustments and maintenance, so ensure your Provider is someone local and can provide these services.   The best way to ensure your Provider will provide this lifetime service guarantee is to ask around.  We constantly receive feedback from patients that come to us for services, because their Provider is no longer in town or is not providing the services promised during the purchase.

Hearing Aids Are Not "One Size Fits All"

Our passion at Sound Advice Hearing Doctors is to ensure that we give everyone professional, quality care with compassion.  Being told that you have a hearing loss can be an emotional journey, but we want you to know that we are here for you.  One thing we pride ourselves on is making sure that the process is stress free and that the proper treatment is being implemented.  

There are over 600 choices of hearing devices on the market today.  This may seem overwhelming; however, with the right Audiologist, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming for the patient.  No two people are alike; therefore, there is not a “one size fits all” hearing aid.  It is our job to correctly diagnose your hearing loss and then recommend the best treatment option.  If it is in your best interest to look into amplification, we will guide you in the proper direction and still give you the opportunity to choose which hearing aid best fits your lifestyle.  Not only do we assess your hearing, we also look at your daily activities and what is most important to you.  Hearing aids are meant to impact your everyday life and improve your quality of life.  We want to ensure that you have a device that is comfortable and improves the sound quality around you.  Sound Advice Hearing Doctors doesn’t specialize in one specific brand or model of hearing aids.  This allows our Audiologist to fit the best device and manufacture based on the patient’s hearing loss, lifestyle and budget.   

I leave you with something to consider when it comes time to look for a provider.  I highly encourage you to do your research!  Do they have their Doctorate in Audiology?  Do they only advertise or push one particular brand of hearing aids, or do they give you options?  Can their hearing aids be adjusted or serviced anywhere?  If a provider is only providing one brand of hearing aids, they are not putting the patient’s best interest first.  Hearing is such a powerful sense and you owe it to yourself to receive the best care and services available.    

Why Are All Hearing Aid Advertisements The Same?

Have you ever noticed that all hearing aid advertisements are essentially the same? Hearingvaid advertisements are usually promoting: 

  1. Revolutionary new technology
  2. Huge savings if you buy within a certain time slot. 


One aspect of hearing aid advertisements that you rarely see is the credentials of the person working with you.  Most of the time that “little” detail is left out of the advertisement because he or she doesn’t want you to know how little training they actually have.  Always start with knowing your provider, and make sure that you are seeing a Doctor of Audiology!

Dealing with hearing loss can be very difficult. Typically, people put off getting their hearing tested because they don’t want to know the results. Also, they are fearful of what the next steps could be. For example, everyone has heard how expensive hearing aids can be; and everyone has a friend or family member that bought hearing aids that are now in a drawer. 

Don’t fall victim to this way of thinking! Do your research on providers, technology, pricing, warranty, experience, etc. before making a decision.

Upcoming Springfield, MO Events

Don't miss these two great opportunities to meet us in person!  April 9th we will be an exhibitor at the Age Strong Health and Wellness Expo being held at the Fairgrounds E-Plex from 9am to 2pm.  And then on April 16th we will again have a booth at the KY3 Safe and Sound Event also being held at the Fairgrounds E-Plex.  Come learn about us and all of the very latest technology available to help you hear your world!

Carl M. of Branson says, "Are You Serious?"

We get this response quite often when we tell our patients about our trial program.  Chase Britton, our provider in the Branson area, chuckles as he reads the following testimonial from his patient Carl M.  "I'll never forget the first time I went to Sound Advice.  I walked in with a hearing problem and walked out with $3,800.00 worth of hearing aids that I hadn't paid for.  I asked Chase if he wanted a credit card or anything.  He said, "Nope. We trust you."  I was just amazed.  He wanted to make sure the aids were working just right for me before he'd let me pay for them.  You don't see that every day."

That's the way we've been doing business since 1998 and we don't intend to change a thing.