Should buying a hearing aid be like buying a TV or buying a pair of glasses?
When you buy a new TV you can go into your local electronic store and try out a bunch of different models and pick the one you like. You get hands-on with the TV before you part with your money and you can see the differences between them side-by-side. Some people will know the different brands of TV, which ones are better, their strengths and weaknesses, they probably have a favourite brand that they are loyal to.
When you buy a new pair of glasses you get your eyes tested, pick some frames that you like and have the lenses fitted. You might have some choices to make about the lenses – thinner for extra money etc – but it’s mostly a case of you get what the optician is fitting you with.
So where should hearing aid sales be?
At the moment they are sold like glasses. You have your hearing test and you get a recommendation or two from your audiologist and that’s about that. You can pick a colour and a style (BTE, ITC, etc) but not a lot more. I’m guessing that 99% of people buying hearing aids go with their audiologist’s recommendation – there aren’t many that will know the difference between different aids or the brand names that are available.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the audiologist’s recommendation is a bad thing. They are working based on the experiences of other customers with the same hearing loss and requirements. So a lot of the time it probably works out and the buyer is happy with their purchase. But could they have got something better?
I’ve said before that I think there are better way to trial hearing aids. I really do believe that having the software from each hearing aid available for the user to try out hands-on and side-by-side will give them a better chance of getting the right hearing aids for them. This would be moving hearing aid sales more towards the TV selling model. It would be a good thing.
I’d love to hear your comments on this. I’d be interested to know if buyers are happy with the way they buy hearing aids at the moment and whether audiologists think they could do something a bit different.
Do you think we’ll ever see the day when people are brand loyal to Phonak, Starkey or Oticon as well as Apple and Sony? Could we ever see a Phonak store opening on high streets? We want to make buying hearing aids an easier process. So we have written an article on the main site that answers a lot of questions about buying hearing aids such as When Do You Need Hearing Aids?