Hearing Aid Scams: What to Watch Out For
Many people are reluctant to buy hearing aids, and for a number of reasons. For some, it is because there is still some stigma associated with wearing a hearing aid- although many invisible products are available. For others, maybe they don’t think their hearing loss is bad enough yet. Still, for others, it’s due to the largely negative reputation that the industry has garnered for itself among consumers due to a few “bad apples.” People that purchase hearing aids and are unhappy about their experience are usually “louder” than those who were satisfied, so the negative stories are usually the ones being told. This in turn makes other folks think that they too will have a bad outcome if they purchase hearing aids. I can’t say I blame people for putting off buying a hearing aid because they are worried they will get scammed, ripped off, or end up paying way too much. If you’re thinking about purchasing hearing aids but are reluctant due to concerns like this, this post is for you. In this post I’ll attempt to expose all the tactics that those “bad apples” use, and how you can protect yourself from them.
Tactic 1: Very strict trial periods that do not allow for flexibility
If you were to look at BBB reports of hearing aid providers, this would be the most common reason for complaints. So most of the time when you buy a hearing aid, you are actually on a trial period, though some places don’t mention this to you. It varies by state, but you usually have a minimum of 30 days to return the hearing aid for a full refund (though sometimes small fees apply). This means that if at any time during your trial period you are unhappy, you can return the hearing aids with no questions asked. Trial periods (in my opinion) should have plenty of room for flexibility, and here’s what I mean. Let’s say you purchase your hearing aids on August 1 and start your 30 day trial period. Well, on August 20th you bring the hearing aid in to the provider because for some reason it has stopped working, or maybe it needs another adjustment. So the hearing aid is sent out to the manufacturer, and gets back on September 2. Guess what? You’re 30 days are up. And if that hearing provider has strict trial periods, they may have even prolonged calling you to come pick up your hearing aid, knowing that you wouldn’t be able to return it by the time you got it back, since you’d be past your 30 days. I’m painting a picture of very unethical hearing providers, I don’t mean to scare you away or say they are all like this, the vast majority are not, but you need to know they do exist. There are ways to avoid this of course. First, when you sign your contract, discuss this issue. It is perfectly reasonable to ask that your trial period be extended for any time your aid is away in the shop. This is standard practice for a lot of companies, but providers with questionable ethics will probably not agree to terms such as this. Second, bargain for a little bit longer than 30 days if you feel you need to. Most manufacturers allow hearing providers to return the hearing aids at no cost up to 60 and sometimes 90 days after the date of purchase, so you can usually squeeze out a week of extra trial period time if you ask nicely.
Tactic 2: Creating a sense of urgency, a sale price that ends today
This is more of a grey area, as this is a general business and sales tactic applied in almost all industries, but I don’t think it should exist in the hearing aid industry. In my opinion, buying a hearing aid should not be an impulse purchase subject to pressure from a “salesman.” Sure, that may be fine for that new suit at Macy’s, or at the car lot, but I think it’s wrong to employ those tactics in the hearing aid industry. Hearing aids should not be purchased until you are sure you need them and you are totally ready. Your successful use of hearing aids is going to come from your desire to hear better, and your provider’s technical abilities in adjusting the hearing aids- and no other outside forces like a flash-sale. One of the common sales tactics you’ll see with hearing aids is the buy-on-get-one discount. It’s advertised to make you think you’re saving thousands of dollars, when in reality you are just paying the full suggested retail price for one, and getting the other one included. Typically, hearing aids are sold at 40-50% lower than the suggested retail price (when sales aren’t going on), so you can see how it is a misleading tactic.
Tactic 3: Offering only the most expensive hearing aids
This is another grey area, because the most expensive hearing aids are often times the best, and you will have the best results with them. Some providers choose to only sell only the very high end units, but I think it’s generally accepted among the hearing aid industry that those are not always the best units for a person based on their lifestyle and other factors. For example, if you lead a pretty low-key lifestyle and don’t get in to a lot of difficult listening environments on a regular basis (i.e, concerts, arenas, noisy restaurants), you probably don’t need a high-end hearing aid for $3,500/unit. Often times, you can get away with a set of hearing aids that have mid-level technology for $3,000-$4,000 and be perfectly happy. If someone is only recommending the most expensive unit for you, they need to have a good reason why.
The bottom line is, hearing aids are expensive consumer goods, and like any other good or service, they are subject to the ethics of the purveyor. When buying hearing aids, pay attention to your emotions, and don’t be afraid to back out of anything you don’t feel good about for any reason. The relationship between you as a consumer and your hearing aid provider will last many years, so if you have any doubts, back out while you still can- there are many other providers who can help you. Most of all, use your head and keep the above three tactics in mind and you should be just fine!
If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.