Buyer beware: Asking the right questions before you spend

It’s now down to the consumer to do their homework.

As further reports emerge regarding clients who have been grossly over-charged or sold hearing aids with technology beyond their needs, I am more concerned than ever for anyone in need of hearing services. This past week alone I have had two clients come to me with hearing aids that were unnecessary for their lifestyle and budget. They had been up-sold and had over-spent on technology they didn’t need.

One individual was a client of the government Office of Hearing Services program and therefore entitled to free hearing aids. This person was sold top-up hearing aids at a cost to her of $6000. She is 75 years-old, seldom goes into background noise, and just wanted to hear her family and the TV better. Why, I asked, did you pay $6000 for top-up hearing aids? She said the salesperson/clinician said she needed better hearing aids than the free ones. In my opinion, the free hearing aids would have met this client’s needs and this was a case of taking advantage of someone’s trust. No wonder the ACCC is investigating the hearing aid industry.

You might ask how is this possible? This problem occurs for a couple of reasons, including:

  • The larger retail chains often hire clinicians, pay them sales commissions, and expect them to reach a monthly sales target. The result may be a decision about the client that does not take the client’s needs or budget into consideration. This decision takes the focus away from the patient and replaces it with selling a product; I call this ‘greed before need’.
  • The next part of the answer is that people expect health professionals to act on the client’s behalf; this is as it should be. As professionals, we sign up to a Code of Conduct to that effect. But too often I see people whose needs were not considered; they were sold hearing aids that either don’t work for them or were the wrong hearing aid to begin with.

The solution to these problems is to make sure the clinician is acting in the best interest of the client. Consumers need to do their research:

  • If possible, take a family member with you
  • Ask questions about sales commissions and sales targets
  • Never be afraid to seek a second opinion
  • Ask for a copy of your audiogram. This is useful when seeking a second opinion

Not everyone needs a hearing aid but everyone needs independent and professional advice.

I pride myself on maintaining an independent and ethical practice that acts on behalf of my client’s best interests.