In preparation for meeting with a hearing aid dispenser to buy hearing aids, there are a few steps you should take to ensure that you get the most out of the visit. Most importantly, you should not only have had a complete hearing test administered but you should also have had your test results explained to you in detail. Make sure you have the results handy so you can bring them to discuss with the hearing aid dispenser.
In addition, it may be helpful to make a prioritized list of the concerns that you have and the benefits that you wish to get from your hearing aid. You should also call your insurance provider to find out ahead of time if any part of your purchase or any of your fittings will be covered. Unfortunately, most insurance companies do not offer coverage when you buy hearing aids, but some do, and it is important to ask. Finally, if you feel it is necessary, recruit a friend or family member to come with you to the hearing aid dispenser – someone who has no problem saying no to high-pressure sales tactics, should the situation arise.
At the Dispenser’s Office
When you are at the dispenser’s office, if you are still unclear about the meaning of your hearing test results, ask about them first and be sure that you understand the answers completely. Next, bring out your prioritized list and ask the hearing aid dispenser to discuss it with you. You should be able to find out which items on your list you can reasonably expect when you buy your hearing aids, and which may not be possible to achieve with your particular level of hearing loss.
Then, the hearing aid dispenser should discuss the sizes of hearing aids that are available to you and which have the most benefit for your situation. If you have limited dexterity – such as from arthritis or complications from diabetes – you may wish to buy hearing aids that have larger, easier-to-use controls. If mobility is not an issue for you, you may instead look to buy hearing aids that are smaller and less visible.
Next, find out from the hearing aid dispenser which extras or options are available with the hearing aid models that work best for your needs, and find out how much these cost. Consider which options you will actually use, and which are not worth the extra money. For example, if you are in noisy situations many times during the week – you like to go to restaurants, or you work in a noisy environment – then you may want to buy hearing aids that have a directional microphone. If, on the other hand, you rarely leave your home or you are rarely in loud situations, then you may not need to spend the money on this feature.
At this point in the discussion, ask about the price of the hearing aid that you are considering – and get that price in writing. Do not feel pressured by a sales person who quotes you one price, and then offers you a discount “if you buy the hearing aids right now.” Make sure that the price you are quoted will remain the same for an established period of time – you should be able to leave the office of the hearing aid dispenser in order to think about your purchase for a day or two, and you should able to return at a later time when you are ready to buy hearing aids at the quoted price.
When you buy hearing aids, it is also important to find out about any warranties offered. Ask how long the warranty lasts and what it covers. You should also find out how much it costs to extend the warranty beyond its initial coverage period, and whether the warranty covers repairs only, or whether it also covers loss or remakes for fit problems. Ask the hearing aid dispenser to explain the entire warranty to you in detail until you feel comfortable that you understand what is being offered.
In addition, you should ask what happens when your warranty expires. What types of fees will the hearing aid dispenser charge you for any repairs when that time period ends? Also find out what type of warranty is given on repairs – ideally you will be given a new six month warranty after any repair is performed. Many manufacturers will charge a flat rate for certain repairs, but may require additional fees if a case needs to be remade or other more complex changes need to be performed. Find out this information before you buy hearing aids.
Return Policies and Restocking Fees
You should also ask about the return-for-credit policy that the hearing aid dispenser has. Federal law mandates that when you buy hearing aids, you be able to return them within 30 days, for any reason at all, and some dispensers will extend this timeframe to 60 days or longer. However, you also need to find out if a restocking fee will be charged if you do decide to make a return. A 10 percent restocking fee may not sound like much, but if the hearing aid costs you $3,000, you will be charged $300 for your return. Look for a hearing aid dispenser that charges a reasonable fee, or, ideally, no fee at all for returns.
Additional Important Questions
Digital hearing aids will require fine tuning of their internal programming, and you may need to return to the hearing aid dispenser several times until the hearing aid sounds best to you. Ask how many of these visits are included when you buy hearing aids from that vendor – often three or four will be included, which is usually sufficient - and how much additional visits will cost.
Finally, find out the upgrade policy of the hearing aid dispenser. If a new hearing aid product is introduced within a certain period of time, will the dispenser allow you to purchase that for a reduced fee? Will you be allowed to trade in your current hearing aid for the newer model? Try to find a hearing aid dispenser who offers some sort of upgrade policy when you buy hearing aids.
At this point in the conversation, you may think it’s time to buy your hearing aids, but, actually, it is not. You may be surprised to hear this, but you should be able to walk out of the office, go home, and think everything you have learned. Do not let anyone pressure you into making a purchase on the spot. Instead, before you buy hearing aids, comparison shop, as you would for any other product. Ask different dispensers what they offer and how their products compare to others. And do not make a purchase from someone with whom you do not feel completely comfortable.
If you follow the guidelines discussed above, you will be able to weed out the high-pressure salespeople and the bait-and-switch pricing tricks that some vendors use. Instead, you can be sure that you will find a hearing aid dispenser that you can trust and from whom you can buy hearing aids that will improve your hearing and your quality of life.