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.