Dr Vass’ response
3 March 2017
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have just released its findings into an investigation undertaken within the hearing aid industry regarding consumer protection issues around the sale of hearing aids. Dr Vass is a long-standing advocate for an increase in regulation and transparency within the hearing industry. He has welcomed this investigation and its findings. An important finding of the ACCC report revealed that “Sales may be driven by commissions and other incentives rather than consumer need”. Dr Vass says that this is an industry-wide issue and he strongly believes that the patient’s needs come first, not sales commissions.
Having established his own practice on honesty, integrity and ethical standards, Dr Vass is the first to admit that this approach doesn’t result in large profits, but he says, “That’s not why I became an audiologist. I entered the profession over 30 years ago to help people with hearing loss and my patient-centred approach has always remained my focus. My philosophy is simple: treat everyone as you would like to be treated.” This golden rule of Dr Vass’ helps to make his practice unique and assures patients of the highest professional and ethical standards.
The ACCC report states that some clinics are paying their clinicians up to 15% commission on hearing aid sales, along with setting sales targets. These practices shift the focus from helping clients to selling a product. The report also found that “as with other healthcare professionals, consumers expect that these clinicians will provide independent and impartial advice and have as their primary consideration the well-being and best interest of the consumers they are consulting.” Dr Vass feels this is exactly the point and strongly recommends independent advice before anyone considers purchasing a hearing aid. ˜The industry needs to regain its integrity and back away from a sales based model. “Ideally, commissions should be abolished. However, at the very least clear disclosure needs to be provided to all clients looking to purchase hearing aids,” declares Dr Vass.
Another part of the ACCC report talks about vulnerable consumers such as recent case Dr Vass had involving a 94 year-old woman who was told she needed to spend $12,500 on hearing aids by a clinician working for a large retail chain. After a consultation with the woman, Dr Vass fitted her with hearing aids that were almost 50% less expensive. She was very happy with her new hearing aids and the services Dr Vass provided, but was confused as to why she had originally been quoted such a high amount for hearing aids. Perhaps the need of higher commissions could be the answer to her question.
When seeking advice for hearing loss there are a few things to consider: have an assessment with an independent, locally owned clinic, and look for a clinician who is well qualified to look after you.