Five Things to Know About Hearing Aids at Big Box Stores
If you like to shop at “Big Box Stores” like CostCo, Walmart, BJ’s, and Sam’s, then we have something in common. I find it fun to walk the aisles to see how many new things they are selling and how much money I can save on everyday commodities. Plus, it is convenient to buy everything under one roof, so I don’t have to go to other places.
But many people wonder: how far should Big Box Stores really go in the vast array of products they sell? Is it okay to buy any kind of medical devices that is normally available only through doctors? Isn’t there some kind of line they are crossing? Especially if the product addresses some deadly serious health conditions?
If you are thinking about buying hearing aids at a Big Box Store, here are five things to consider before you make that purchase.
Hearing Aids are Not Commodity Products
Because big box stores sell so many products, you might think that hearing aids are commodity products too, but they are not.
Hearing aids were never invented, designed, or intended to meet a person’s specific hearing needs “right out of the box”. Your hearing needs are as unique as your fingerprint which means you need to buy hearing aids that can be uniquely programmed just for you.
Mastering hearing aid programming is a skill that requires specialized education and training, expensive equipment, and two specific technologies. I once heard a well-known audiologist say, “You can buy hearing aids anywhere, even online. But if they are not programmed correctly, they are worthless, frustrating for the patient, and will usually always end up a drawer. What good is that?”
I question the programming at Big Box Stores. How skilled are they really? Is the store investing in the proper equipment required to program aids correctly? Are they allowing plenty of time for the programming at their appointments?
When hearing aids are not properly programmed, there is a better-than-even chance that they will over-amplify some sounds which could damage your hearing. Conversely, if under-amplified, you won’t get the benefits you need. This will mean that you may never hear clearly and comfortably when you really need to.…like in busy restaurants and social gatherings where many people are talking all at once.
When aids are properly programmed to your optimal level, you are keeping your brain healthy by exercising it through hearing, and at the same time, keeping serious illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and depression at bay. You are also greatly reducing your risk of falls with broken bones because maintaining your balance in your daily activities depends on hearing well.
People who buy their hearing aids at a Big Box Store often discover the importance of proper programming too late. Only then do they realize that they didn’t get all the value they paid for and realize that trying to save a few dollars was not worth it after all.
Most Big Box Stores Have No Audiologist
Before you buy hearing aids at a big box store, remember that very few employ true doctors of audiology. Normally at Big Box Stores you will be served by a licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS) instead of an audiologist. An audiologist has 8 years of clinical study and internship. Hearing Instrument Specialists have a one-year certification. Confirm at the time you are scheduling your appointment if you will be cared for by an audiologist. If they are an audiologist, you will see the letters “AuD” after their name on their license.
An Audiologist in Your Neighborhood May Be Less Expensive Than a Big Box Store
If you think buying hearing aids at a Big Box Store will always be less expensive than at an audiologist, that isn’t necessarily true. Many Audiologists are in network with major health insurance companies so that they can bill your health insurance company for hearing tests, hearing aids, and other hearing healthcare services. A Big Box store cannot do that.
Your healthcare insurance may cover a portion of your hearing aids or even provide a “hearing aid discount” making any cost differences at a Big Box Store negligible. In addition, your neighborhood audiologist can offer you a MUCH wider range of higher quality hearing devices with the latest technology. Big Box stores usually buy older hearing aids at discount prices so that they can maximize their profits. This makes good business sense for them and allows you to buy hearing aids on the cheap, but they won’t have the technology you may need to hear your best. Further, Big Box stores often sell aids that are “locked” which will prevent you from obtaining hearing care elsewhere if you are not satisfied.
Professional Continuing Care is Rarely Available at Big Box Stores
Getting hearing aids requires a process, whether you are a new user or an established user and it almost always requires professional continuing care. Audiologists recognize the importance of continuing care including making sure your hearing test is updated yearly. They know that hearing loss involves a number of complex factors and most people do not even know their hearing has changed when it has. Most audiologists even make it a point to reach out to their patients every six months for necessary checks and cleaning.
Most audiology practices know their patients. You are not just another consumer walking in a pair of big double doors. Part of the cost you pay for your aids at an audiologist covers quality patient care for years to come. In private practice, appointments are readily available as well as loaner aids if your aids need to be sent in for repair. This way, you will never be without hearing your best. This kind of quality patient care is not found at Big Box Stores.
Big Box Stores Thrive Because of Low Prices, Not Because of Quality or Service
Hearing aids purchased from big box stores can fail to reliably produce the high-quality comfortable sounds that your brain needs to stay healthy and avoid the risk of Alzheimer’s or falling with broken bones. Many people discover too late that buying outdated hearing aids with cheaper technology at Big Box stores can be a losing proposition. They often regret that they didn’t go to an Audiologist in private practice.
We hope this has been useful information and that you will consider using the licensed audiologists at Now Hear This® Hearing Aids and Audiology.