PETERBOROUGH, England, June 1 /PRNewswire/ -- One in seven people in the UK suffer from some degree of hearing loss; a figure that rises to 40% for people aged 50 or over and a staggering 71% for the over 70s. The only real solution for the vast majority of these people is wearing a hearing aid.
The NHS provides reasonable quality hearing aids which sit behind the ear and connect with a tube and clear plastic earpiece. Many people consider these to be unsightly and would rather seek the services of private hearing aid companies offering more aesthetic solutions. The range of technology in the private market is truly astounding with features such as zoom microphones, noise reduction and even artificial intelligence which adapts to the wearer's preferences. As expected, these hi-tech solutions are more expensive than NHS products.
For many years, private hearing aid companies have been charging exorbitant prices in the knowledge that it is virtually impossible to obtain clear price comparisons. The internet has heralded the end of this scandal as there are now networks of local independent hearing aid audiologists who have waged a price war, such as hearingaidsattrade.co.uk. They offer the same local service with fully qualified hearing aid audiologists, long warranties, free trial periods and free aftercare for the lifespan of the hearing aids (usually five years). The only difference is that you will pay 30-50% less.
The growth of the 'silver surfer' is exploding and indeed most people browse the internet before committing to purchase many items – especially higher priced ones. Prior to this, only the larger national chains of hearing aid retailers could afford to promote their products in local and national media. These adverts rarely represent the true price that most clients will end up paying. They entice the consumer into enquiring about "invisible" hearing aids for a few hundred pounds. The reality is that you can expect to pay between 500 pounds Sterling and 7,000 pounds Sterling for a pair of hearing aids; the average purchase being around 2,000 pounds Sterling. As an example, the latest, state-of-the-art hearing instrument, the Oticon Agil Pro would set you back around 6,000 pounds Sterling a pair from most national companies. The same aids can be found on hearingaidsattrade.co.uk for less than 3,000 pounds Sterling. If you're not concerned about top-of-the-range products, there are also cosmetic, mid-range digital hearing aids for little over 1,000 pounds Sterling despite some companies charging in excess of 2,000 pounds Sterling.
In an effort to prevent the consumer comparing prices online, some national companies have resorted to underhand tactics, such as renaming aids so that the product appears unique to them. However, the true name of the hearing aid can be obtained for comparison purposes by contacting one of the internet discount companies.
Most national hearing aid retailers are not as independent as they would like you to believe. Almost all of them are wholly or partially owned by individual hearing aid manufacturers. This means that they have a vested interest in recommending particular brands and do not stock the whole range of hearing aids available. Internet hearing aid 'networks' are essentially a group of fully independent local companies. They have no allegiance to any particular brand and offer the full range of instruments on the market. It's quite refreshing to see these smaller local companies take on the big boys for the benefit of the hearing-impaired consumer.
Our advice to you is this:
- Check on the internet and only contact a company who is prepared to show you their full price list. Avoid companies that don't because there's a reason for this.
- Compare prices online for the best deal
- Select a company that offers a local service. This is usually a network.
- Never buy a hearing aid unless you've compared prices online. If you've had a hearing test then don't commit yourself until you've compared prices with an online network.
Beware mail order hearing aids. There are a handful of companies offering cheap hearing aids on a mail order basis. In order for hearing aids to deliver the required benefit, they need to be programmed for the client's individual prescription. This involves, amongst many things, a hearing test. These 'off the peg' aids come with a standard fitting and are not individually tailored to fit the client either physically or audiologically.