CLARITY HEARING SOLUTIONS
When it comes to hearing aid pricing and service provision, understanding the difference between ‘bundled’ and ‘unbundled’ packages is critical.
When looking at treating a hearing loss with hearing aids, I’m often asked why there are large differences in pricing across different companies for the same hearing aids.
If you were to scout the internet or visit several hearing providers you may find a large variation of pricing between companies on exactly the same hearing devices. However what the potential hearing aid candidate may not be aware of is the different service provision, or treatment package, that is included in the price of the hearing aid.
The reason for much of this confusion is because there are now two methods of pricing within the audiological industry called bundled and unbundled. Until recently traditional hearing aid provision models were all bundled and you would pay a set price for the hearing aid and this included all the treatment and service provision for the life of the hearing aid. So as a hearing provider you had to calculate and build in the cost of five years and more of service provision and treatment into that cost. Because you are having to provide service and treatment for this period the hearing aid price may be quite expensive to encompass this.
The problem with this model is patients think it is the hearing aids that are the expense, when in reality part of it can be attributed to the expense of the audiologist’s time to provide the service and associated treatment for 5+ years. Audiologists are health professionals with Masters level graduate credentials, so they have 5-6 years of university study followed by an intense internship period. The closest health professional to compare with is a dentist. In fact, in the United States, audiology is only offered as a doctorate so like a dentist when you graduate you are a Doctor of Audiology. We will eventually head down the same path here in Australia. So in theory an audiologist’s time should be comparative to a dentist’s but unfortunately for us in reality it’s not even close. However our time is of some value. The other big issue is that if a hearing aid is lost or damaged close to the purchase date, you move away from the provider, or God forbid you pass away not long after the purchase, you have paid for all of these consultations that you never receive.
To counter these potential inequities of lengthy service provision and to educate the consumer more on what the actual costs are when purchasing, many audiologists are now moving to an unbundled model. Unbundling consists of breaking down the clinical costs and making the patient/consumer aware of them, then providing flexibility in choosing the treatment methods to accompany the hearing aid purchase. For example we don’t actually make our income from a hearing aid sale now, we sell hearing aids for minimal costs (anywhere from $250) and then focus on charging an hourly rate for our consultation, or a treatment package that best suits your needs to accompany the hearing aid. So a reputable audiologist should provide a full costing breakdown of services associated with treating their hearing loss, including how many consultations it may take, and let the patient decide whether they wish to pay per consultation or package their treatment plan, which may cover unlimited consultations similar to bundled packages. I personally feel that this transparency is much more ethical and also significantly reduces the costs associated with treating hearing loss with hearing aids.