Audicus Hearing Aid Reviews
Originally launched in 2011, New York, NY based Audicus is one of the most widely recognized online hearing aid retailers in the industry.
With the average price of a single hearing aid ranging from $1600 - $2000, Audicus fills a need in the market by offering high quality hearing aids at greatly reduced prices.
What is Audicus's secret sauce, and how are they able to offer hearing aids at such low prices?
The answer lies in their distribution model.
How hearing aids are traditionally distributed
For as long as hearing aids have been widely and commercially available, hearing aid manufacturers have wholesaled hearing aids directly to hearing healthcare providers, who in turn retail the hearing aids to their customers (patients).
This distribution method gives hearing aid manufacturers the confidence that their products are being dispensed by licensed and trained professionals, and that the end user will have access to ongoing (local) support for their hearing aids.
This is still the most popular distribution method, and is endorsed by consumer protection agencies such as the FDA and FTC.
How Audicus distributes hearing aids
Taken straight from Audicus's website:
"We cut out the middlemen by partnering with top-tier, independent manufacturers in Germany and the US and delivering directly to you."
The “middleman” in this case, is the local hearing healthcare provider who is traditionally tasked with:
- Sizing the hearing aids, ensuring an appropriate physical fit
- Programming the hearing aids to a unique hearing profile
- Verifying the output of the hearing aids
- Counseling the patient on adjusting to hearing aids
- Providing local maintenance, handling warranty and repairs
- Re-testing hearing and reprogramming hearing aids as needed
These tasks are not insignificant and a hearing aid wearer's satisfaction with their with hearing aids is largely attributed to the above services.
Audicus aims to streamline the distribution process and reduce the price of hearing aids by foregoing some of the above services, or offering remote service.
Audicus's process is simple
- Get a hearing test from a local hearing provider or take one of their free online tests.
- Send the results to Audicus, or use the results of your online test.
- Audicus will remotely program and mail the hearing aids to you.
It's this simple and relatively uninvolved process which allows Audicus to retail hearing aids for (presumably) only hundreds of dollars above their acquisition cost.
For the patient, the savings over traditional retail prices are significant, but is there more than meets the eye?
What are the problems with this direct-to-consumer tistribution method?
Audicus and other direct-to-consumer online retailers would have you believe that ordering and being fit with hearing aids is as simple as any other online purchase.
They've employed smart marketing campaigns and have a simple, clear message- "cut out the middleman and save thousands."
For price-conscious consumers who may have previously been quoted much higher prices locally, this is an appealing message.
Though this message is sometimes technically accurate, the "middleman" plays a much more significant role than Audicus and similar retailers would have consumers believe.
In addition, the trade-offs which consumers make in foregoing that local service is of course not something that is conveyed by retailers.
It is important that first-time hearing aid wearers are aware of the challenges of being fit with hearing aids remotely, and some of the sacrifices they are making.
To help illustrate these points, and help you weigh the pros and cons of buying hearing aids online, we made this brief video:
Does Audicus sell good hearing aids?
Audicus hearing aids are built by German hearing aid manufacturer Hansaton.
Hansaton has been in business for over 50 years, and in 2015 was acquired by Sonova, which also owns the Phonak and Unitron brands- both of which are considered top-tier manufacturers in the hearing aid industry.
Since all the brands under the Sonova umbrella share technology, it is safe to say that Audicus-branded Hansaton hearing aids are excellent quality.
Are there affordable (local) alternatives to Audicus?
Audicus sells their premium Clara model for $699- which is an extremely competitive price.
Your best bet at finding a product at that price point would be through a Costco hearing aid center.
If there isn't a Costco near you, it's worth making calls to a few hearing aid centers nearby and asking for their best prices.
There are usually a few hearing aid centers within a reasonable drive that offer hearing aids at around $1000 each, and sometimes less.
While in the end you may pay a few hundred dollars more, you will have the benefit of local service, which should be worth the expense.
Is Audicus a good fit for some people?
Though, we'd recommend not purchasing from a direct-to-consumer retailer unless you have previously worn hearing aids and understand all that is involved in the proper fitting and maintenance of hearing aids.
If you are an experienced hearing aid wearer with no affordable options locally- absolutely give them a shot.
As you'll see in the comments section below, you could do a lot worse than Audicus! That's something I can't say for many online retailers.
With only 30% of the hard of hearing population in the US actually using hearing aids, I commend any company that can help increase adoption rates.
Of course, coming from the hearing health care industry, and personally working with thousands of patients, I have a bias regarding the way hearing aids should be distributed.
However, at the end of the day, the goal is to get more people hearing better, and I believe that consumers deserve choices and should be able to vote with their wallets.