“Big Box” stores and chains have become a mainstay in our modern culture because not only are the prices reasonable, but you can buy practically anything you could ever want or need within their walls. Their convenience is undeniable so it is easy to see why consumers would turn to them for everything, including their hearing health needs.
However, is it really worth the hype when it comes to hearing aids?
Before you turn to “Big Box” stores over a hearing specialist, considering what you are not receiving when you purchase hearing devices through them.
First and foremost, when you start shopping for a hearing provider, you are also shopping and ultimately adopting their business model–and their consequences. When it comes to hearing health, there are two major types of business models: the corporate model and the professional model.
A corporate model is a sales driven approach. Businesses with this model, such as “Big Box” retailers and corporately-owned hearing aid outlets, are focused on hearing aid sales. They demand sustained growth by “buying out the competition.” Their main goal is to push hearing aid sales and they have their eye on the bottom line and profit margins.
When you consider this strategy, it’s also important to realize the employees staffing the hearing care centers within these types of retail chains are minimally trained hearing aid dispensers more concerned with selling you on their product than they are with your individual needs. This means if you have any questions about choosing the right hearing aid for your specific type of hearing loss or lifestyle needs, you are on your own.
And as for aftercare? Forget about it.
At a “Big Box” retailer, you give the cashier money, they give you the hearing aids. End of transaction. If your hearing aid breaks or needs an adjustment or even a simple cleaning, where do you take them? These businesses may send them far away for repairs–if they even offer this service–and then what? You are left without hearing aids for weeks.
On the other hand, the professional business model has a much higher priority on the total patient experience. It assumes that customer satisfaction drives customer loyalty which in turn drives profitability and growth. This model is practiced by audiologists who are trained in an end-to-end process of patient-centered hearing care.
Audiologists can provide professional services and possess high-level training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and treatment of hearing disorders. Their extensive academic credentials, professional certifications, and licensures, allow audiologists to legally provide a full range of patient-centered care, a set of professional standards that include a thorough patient assessment, comprehensive diagnostic tests, a consultation to discuss treatment options, highly specialized hearing aid fitting and programming, and a process of post-fitting adjustments and counseling.
While profit is certainly important to independent audiologists, it does not dictate the patient process. Audiologists offer a wider range and selection of hearing aid devices and accessories and can guide you towards the products that would be most beneficial to you. And just because you purchase a specific type of hearing aid does not mean you are stuck with them. Independent audiologists have the flexibility to allow you to try many brands and technology levels risk-free until you find something you are completely satisfied with.
When you purchase hearing aids through an audiologist, you are also purchasing aftercare. You know exactly where to take them when they break or you need an adjustment or cleaning. Hearing aids bought from an audiologist come with a warranty–often three years or more–which includes regular cleanings, adjustments, repair and damage warranties, and hearing screenings. You also know who will be working on your devices should they need repairs. And if devices need to be sent to a manufacture for more extensive repairs, audiologists can provide you with loaners so you are never without hearing devices while yours are gone.
So what’s the bottom line?
Audiologists are focused on you as an individual and not your pocketbook. While “Big Box” advertising may seem appealing for the convenience, you are better off seeing a hearing healthcare professional to guarantee you are reaping the benefits hearing aids can bring to your life.