Hearing Aid Trial Periods
Considering purchasing hearing aids? You’d be wise to familiarize yourself with the terms of hearing aid trial periods before taking the plunge.
If you review a handful of Better Business Bureau profiles for hearing aid providers, you’ll see that many of the disputes filed against hearing aid providers are regarding the terms of their trial periods. Take a few minutes to read this post and arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible before you sign on the dotted line.
In this post we’ll provide an overview of some of the general terms of hearing aid trial periods and help you steer clear of any pitfalls on your journey to better hearing.
What are hearing aid trial periods?
In many states, hearing aid purchasers are afforded certain protections under various state laws and regulations. Chief among these protections is what is referred to as a hearing aid trial period. A “trial period” is a period of time in which you are able to try out hearing aids after purchasing them, with the option to return or exchange them.
Because hearing aids are so expensive, and because hearing aids can take several weeks or more to get used to, it is against the law in many states to not offer a trial period. In those states which don’t have laws regarding trial periods, many hearing aid providers establish their own trial periods, as it’s simply good business, and patients certainly need some time to “settle in” to their new hearing aids.
Trial period laws vary by state
Here is a great resource providing an overview of the various trial period regulations of each state. That guide is the most comprehensive on the web, but it is a little outdated and some of the terms may have changed. Use the links to the various regulatory boards provided on that guide to check the most updated trial period laws and regulations in your state.
What should the terms of a hearing aid trial period be?
State regulations address various terms of trial periods such as:
- How many days you have (after a purchase has been made), to return or exchange your hearing aids
- What kind of fees your hearing provider may withhold in the event you return or exchange your hearing aids
- What circumstances (if any) may entitle you to a trial period extension
Paying attention to these three terms can save you a lot of money and frustration.
Below, we’ll expand on each of the above terms and give you some things to consider and discuss with your hearing provider before signing on the dotted line.
Length of trial periods: In states with trial period laws, 30 days is usually the minimum. If you live in a state that does not require a trial period, 30 days is the minimum you should ask for. For most people, 30 days is going to be ample time to decide whether or not their hearing aids are working for them. However, a few states have made the move to a 45 day trial period, and we feel this is a much better amount of time, primarily because it allows for more follow up appointments with your hearing care provider.
During your trial period, expect 2-4 follow up appointments with your provider. At these appointments, your provider will ensure the hearing aids are fitting right, performing right, and will make any programming adjustments necessary. These follow up appointments are critical, and as long as your hearing provider is doing a good job for you, the hearing aids should not be returned or “given up on” before you have a few of these appointments under your belt. It can take several weeks to completely adjust to your new hearing aids, so give yourself some time with them, with steady use, before making a decision to return them.
No matter how long your trial period lasts, pay particular attention to the exact day the trial ends. If your trial ends on a Saturday and the hearing provider’s office is closed, there are unfortunately offices who will not let you return your hearing aids on the following Monday.
Finally, while there may be laws in place that require a minimum trial period, keep in mind that your provider has the freedom to offer you an extended trial period, and many will if you simply ask. Playing it extra safe and getting an extra week or two on your trial period is never a bad idea.
Fitting, cancellation, or restocking fees: Despite your patience and the best efforts of your hearing provider, sometimes it just doesn’t work out and hearing aids need to be returned. It’s important to understand what kinds of fees you are going to incur if you end up needing to return your hearing aids.
Whether they’re called fitting fees, cancellation fees, or restocking fees, most hearing providers will withhold some money when they process your refund. These fees are legitimate and acceptable- to an extent. Some states allow hearing providers to withhold up to 20% of the returned funds, and on a premium set of hearing aids that could amount to well over $1000. This is an exorbitant price to pay for trying and returning hearing aids, and if you can’t negotiate for a reduced fee we would recommend purchasing elsewhere.
It’s our opinion that the maximum fee you should be charged for returning your hearing aids is somewhere around $250 per hearing aid returned. As a patient, you would never expect a physician to see you 2-4 times for 15-60 minutes each without charging you some sort of office visit fee, so a hearing provider should be no different.
Trial period extensions: Before you sign your purchase agreement, you may want to make sure there is some language that extends your trial period by any amount of time you are not in possession of the hearing aids during your trial period.
For instance, what if your new hearing aids need to be sent to the manufacturer for alteration during your trial period, and you are without them for 2 weeks? By the time your hearing aids are back in your ears, you may only have one week left on your trial period.
Many states require this by law and it’s referred to as “tolling”- meaning, the days you are not in possession of your hearing aids are tolled (tallied) and added on to your trial period.
Whether or not your state requires it, we feel this is good language to ensure is on your purchase agreement and is something that many hearing providers would agree to.
Most hearing providers follow the state laws to a T and provide their customers with additional protections that are not required by any regulatory bodies- as simply a matter of good business. However, there are certainly hearing providers who will purposely “keep you in the dark” regarding the terms of your trial period and will use your signature and the fine print against you when it comes down to it.
As with so many other things in life, when it comes to your hearing aid trial period, trust but verify. Do not be afraid to go over the fine print of your purchase agreement with your hearing provider and negotiate for more favorable terms as you see fit. If your hearing provider will not negotiate on some of these terms, it should give you pause, and may be a reason to switch hearing providers altogether. Who knows- you may just save yourself thousands of dollars and years of frustration.