What does the hearing aid consumer want today?

So, historically there has been far too much hype and sales connected to the dispensing of hearing aids in the UK. I guess this is due in part to the low level of qualification required to do the job of hearing aid dispenser prior to 2010.
And also, the recognised slowness of UK citizens to accept hearing amplification help (this is changing rapidly in the last few years).

It’s a bad mix and until recently this created a toxic scenario of a home visit where the dispenser was probably on a large commission structure.
Advertising of hearing aids has tended to grossly over-state the potential benefits of products in background noise, and has misled consumers into believing that the ‘ultimate’ solution is a pair of spectacle aids or an invisible pop-in aid that you ‘forget’. This in truth, is rarely the case.

Like many professions and services, the quality of what you get is mostly in the control of the professional involved. So, builders, solicitors, doctors etc – the end result can vary tremendously. And as we all know, it can be beneficial to develop a relationship with your trusted professionals (whilst being occasionally diligent in checking that the fees are kept realistic in the long term).

Human nature is usually, not always, ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’. So in most cases, a trusted professional is best. This in turn will normally mean getting these goods and services from a small or small-to-medium ‘independent’ type business.

We are all rather vulnerable when confronting this sort of problem, so it is harder to be strictly rational.
In the UK, hearing aids are, after all, still provided free of charge. So this should be a good place to start.
If you wish to compare the differences between public and private, then I suggest that you book yourself in to a local independent who is willing at the outset to give you a period to evaluate any hearing aid. This should be without any fee – you can negotiate this if you try! We offer this to everyone.

You should probably try another model, so you can fairly compare. Find out the fee and exactly what it includes. An established firm is probably going to stay in touch with you, whereas a large retailer certainly will stay in touch, however the person you see is likely to change.

MOST OF THE VALUE DERIVED FROM HEARING AIDS is delivered in the quality of the immediate fine-tuning and in the quality of the after care in the years to come.

 

So, TO ANSWER THE QUESTION in the title:

I think the majority of patients want:- An embarrassing and annoying problem dealt with by a name that is known. So in most instances, new consumers will approach Specsavers and Boots.

– However, with a little research, they will glean that NHS hearing aids are available, and that ‘independents’ tend to offer higher levels of satisfaction (‘Which?’ magazine’s last two surveys).

A feeling of trust with their provider. That trust must be earned. That will come about by believing that they are getting good value AND outstanding health care. It is very easy for ‘us’ to charge an awful lot and convince you that by definition, you’ll get a perfect service. As you know, this is not always true. This value judgement is important and must be made by you.

Reviews and information from third parties is a wonderful tool you SHOULD use. This is very important if I am correct in that the main value will be derived from your business relationship with your hearing aid dispenser.

Not being sold equipment that is over the top. The truth is that almost all RIC (that is, thin wire) hearing aids are utterly amazing on most wearers. Some of our most convincing reviews are from high-earning and high-functioning patients who have purchased low-end hearing aids.

– Most independent businesses in the UK fall into two historic categories. Those that purport to offer excellent care BUT at a price*; and those that offer ‘internet’ prices and operate a low cost model. Now it is true that there are doubtless some exemplary examples in both types: I can think of some – Where the standards are truly exceptional and the prices are justified; and the hard-working home visitor who is both hard-working and not greedy. What you need to do with a little research – is find those independents who sit in-between these two categories. A rather efficient business model that is generating enough business to sustain an excellent after care but stay relevant to High Street prices.

What does this cost?
A sustainable cost of top level hearing aids is about £3800, and around £2000 for lower level technology (which is probably adequate for most of us). This should include a 5 year warranty and some degree of resolution from your supplier to keep in touch and deliver regular hearing tests and hearing aid maintenance. Batteries and domes, etc. will be chargeable, but hopefully your chosen provider will be in a mindset to look after you properly (in the hope that recommendations and referrals follow).

Inadequate Business Models?
*A pricing level of over £4500 for top level hearing aids may be excessive. A matter of opinion, but I have seen examples where a monthly fee is ALSO payable to ensure you get that care that you deserve.
At the other end, I see that where consumers pay £3000 for top level, it is often but not always the case that after care deteriorates over the first few years, usually because the professional person changes, OR because the logistics of visiting you become increasingly challenging to the small business involved.

How we help our colleagues meet this challenge
We are well placed to help you, the caring type of hearing aid dispenser that wants to look after their patients, understand how to present yourself to the ‘market’.

It is SO easy to become an effective Independent Hearing Aid Provider.
We can help.

robert@hearingpracticegroup.co.uk

robert@rjdhearingcare.co.uk

Author robert@rjdhearingcare.co.uk

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