In article <604l7o$3e4$1 at marshall.shentel.net> whitneyb at erols.com (Brad) writes:
>From: whitneyb at erols.com (Brad)
>Subject: Why Purchasing a Hearing Aid is a Consumer Nightmare
>Date: 22 Sep 1997 02:30:16 GMT
Gosh, I guess this guy never bought a car, or hired a lawyer, or went into the
Michael Ridenhour ;-)
>Why Purchasing a Hearing Aid is a Consumer Nightmare
>The way hearing aids are marketed in the US makes it very difficult
>for a consumer to become sufficiently informed to make an educated
>decision and is therefore totally at the discretion (some might say
> mercy) of the hearing aid dispenser.
>For the last several weeks I have been going through the process of
>trying to decide if I should purchase an aid and as part of the process
>I have been following this newsgroup and even participated on two occasions.
>I have seen ample evidence some of the participants of this newsgroup need to
>understand this process from the consumer's point of view, especially given
>the flaming I received for the sin of documenting some hearing aid prices.
>PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS POST IS AN HONEST ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE BETWEEN
>A TYPICAL CONSUMER AND DISPENSING AUDIOLOGISTS SO THAT OUR GROUPS UNDERSTAND
>With the availability of hearing instruments such as the Widex Senso
>consumers are being asked to pay thousands of dollars for a new,
>relatively unproven, product. These aids are usually recommended by an
>audiologist or dispenser we usually picked out of the phone book and/or
>we seldom see, with little or no way of checking into the aids reputation,
>the dealers reputation, or determining if the price is fair. Additionally,
>we consumers have no way to validate if the recommended aid is the best
>technical solution, or maybe just the highest priced one. We are asked to
>totally trust the audiologist or dispenser we may have just met, or have not
>seen in a few years. This mix of circumstances is an invitation for less
>conscience dealer to take great advantage of consumers.
>This problem has existed all along but hearing aid products such as the
>Widex Senso have dramatically increased the dollars of the expenditure
>to the point it could tempt anyone to "get a little extra premium" for
>an aid of this class. The Senso, in CIC form, is so much more expensive
>than other aids a consumer must naturally be cautious. For example, this
>aid is 30% more expensive than the top of the line CICs from either of the
>advertising and high overhead kings Beltone or Miracle Ear.
>>Except for www.ahearingaid.com I have been unable to find any published
>hearing aid pricing whatsoever. Readily available consumer pricing goes
>a long way towards helping a consumer feel assured he or she is not becoming
>the target of a greedy dealer. Compounding this problem, I have found
>some dealers will not quote the price of their aids over the phone. Without
>fail, if a dealer doesn't sell the aid you are inquiring about, they ALWAYS
>tell you they have something just as good or better, and during the sales
>effort, they will usually contradict other dealers recommendations (one says
>CIC another says no CIC, one says K-Amp another says definitely not a K-Amp,
>It is very difficult for a consumer to develop any trust in a marketplace
>with so many impediments to normal consumer tools such as priced
>product reviews, etc. With products now this expensive the consumer needs
>some assurance his or her decisions are sound, as the money spent will impact
>the entire family budget for many, many months.
>With the Internet, international information flows freely and we see dramatic
>price disparities between countries, compounding consumer unrest. While the
>differences in health care systems may effect the margins of the dispensers,
>what is in question is the wholesale price disparity. I have designed one
>medical device and was exposed to the marketing aspect of health devices.
>Many people blame the FDA for additional US costs but the truth is the US
>market the worlds cash cow for medical devices because of our capitalist
>health care system.
>The old basis of pricing an aid based on a margin over cost gets very visible
>as the price of the aid increases. One dispenser told me he loves to sell the
>Widex Senso because they are actually easier for him to program than other
>more conventional aids. He actually spends less time with Senso customers but
>charges them more.
>With no published pricing, dealers that refuse to quote prices over the phone,
>and the sensitivity exhibited by some dealers if prices are questioned, a
>must be very skeptical and exercise extreme caution when purchasing a hearing
>Dispensers, you must expect this very old debate to heat up significantly as
>hearing aid prices escalate at these precipitous rates.
>Knowledgeable consumers are not looking for the lowest price, only a fair one.
>A simple consumer