The world of hearing aids can be confusing and frustrating. There are over 400 different companies, and each focus on a different technology. Every company advertises competitive pricing and state-of-the-art technology, but that isn’t always the truth. The hearing aid industry has six major brands that are responsible for the majority of hearing aid sales worldwide. These companies invest significant money into their research and development departments and come out with the latest and greatest advances in hearing aid technology. To make sure you get the best hearing aids, follow these rules:
- Always buy from a major manufacturer. The top six brands of hearing aids by units dispensed are Oticon, Widex, Phonak, Resound, Starky and Siemens, in no particular order. Buying from any manufacturer other than these six typically means you are purchasing a secondary technology or previously used technology.
- Avoid privately branded hearing aids. Some manufacturers will reproduce their product under a different brand name such as IntellaHear (McDonald), Kirkland (Costco), Amplifon (Miracle Ear) and Sonus (AGX). If you do choose to purchase a privately branded hearing aid, keep in mind that it must be adjusted by the company you purchased it from. If you feel this company hasn’t done a great job, you cannot go elsewhere because nobody else has the software to reprogram the devices. The technology isn’t the newest release. The six main manufacturers do not rebrand their latest release of technology. When people use rebranded or privately labeled hearing aids, they are also using those companies’ previous models of hearing aids. The price doesn’t go down because of the label, but the performance does.
- Just because a hearing aid company is part of a chain or has multiple stores does not make them a “good” choice; it just means they have figured out how to make money from multiple channels. The chains come and go; what is in the Sacramento area today won’t necessarily be here tomorrow if times get tough. In the suburbs of Sacramento, the city of Elk Grove has had a few different companies who didn’t make it. Accuquest has more than 165 stores nationwide but could not keep their office open. Elk Grove Hearing Aids was owned and operated by one person and closed over four years ago.
- The most important first step in choosing a provider is making sure you do your research. You are getting ready to not only purchase hearing aids but also all your future services (think of this as an ongoing relationship) with the provider you are buying from for approximately 4-6 years. Perform background checks with your providers and consult public review sites such as Yelp, Google+ and the Better Business Bureau. I would even recommend checking the license # of the provider you are working with. There is a new lawsuit headed up by the Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensers Board against McDonald Hearing Aid Centers for over 41 violations including having unlicensed trainees perform duties beyond their capacity1. Looking up complaints on the Better Business Bureau, where McDonald Hearing Aid Center has 61 on file, can be the motivation you need to make a different choice.2
1. Olson, Ryan. (11/20/2015). State files complaint again McDonald Hearing Aid Center. Retrieved from http://www.dailydemocrat.com
2. Better Business Bureau. (2016). Consumer Complaints McDonald Hearing Aid Center. Retrieved from http://www.bbb.org/sacramento/business-reviews/hearing-aids-and-assistive-devices/mcdonald-hearing-aid-center-in-roseville-ca-13000031/complaints/