There’s a relatively new, insidious trend in the audiology field that’s lowering the standard of care for patients. Insurance companies have been partnering with third-party managers to provide what sounds like hearing aid benefits, claiming it saves them money and that they pass those savings onto patients. But in reality, this practice damages the quality of care for patients. Examples of these companies are TruHearing, Hearing Care Solutions, Planet Hearing, and hi HealthInnovations.
The main reason these third-party companies are problematic is that they restrict your options. Sure, the hearing aids will be cheaper, but you’ll be forced to select from a limited list of equipment that may fail to fit your specific needs and lifestyle.
Not only that, but you will have to choose from a list of company-approved providers. Some of these providers and dispensers aren’t even healthcare professionals — they’re salespeople! If you do manage to get into the office of an audiology expert, there will be a limit on the number of visits. The third-party company will dictate which solutions your hearing professional will be able to provide, increasing the likelihood that your issue remains unresolved.
People too often purchase hearing aids as if they were buying a TV. “Oh, it has features x, y, and z — great, I’ll take it!” and they’re out the door. In reality, hearing aids are complex devices requiring expert calibration and auditory rehabilitation to maximize their usefulness. Audiologists like myself have spent years learning the intricacies of the human ear and the most effective ways to apply our vast array of technological solutions.
A new patient of mine once came into my office to be fitted with hearing aids for the first time. Unfamiliar with the process, he said to me: “Surely, you can just fit it and be done,” he said to me. At his first fitting appointment, much time was spent programming the devices specifically for his unique hearing loss; however I emphasized that this was just the beginning of the retraining process and that it would be important for me to see him for follow-up in the next several weeks to build a strong foundation of hearing care. He was skeptical about the need for follow-up appointments. After a few short weeks, he returned, in need of further care. It appeared that the hearing devices needed some fine-tuning, and I made the needed adjustments to the programming. His eyes widened with the difference. “Wow!” He exclaimed. “It’s like night and day!” He was incredibly grateful, and his skepticism regarding follow-up care evaporated.
Success stories like this simply cannot happen when a third-party company is interfering with treatment. They masquerade as if they have patients’ interests at heart, but really, they’re in cahoots with the insurance companies solely to cut costs. Again, examples of these are TruHearing, Hearing Care Solutions, hi HealthInnovations, or Planet Hearing. If you receive a letter that looks like it’s from your insurance company offering “substantial savings on your hearing aids,” be sure to examine the fine print and truly understand what they are offering, because at first glance, these can be misleading. You deserve the highest quality of care available. Don’t let these third-party companies make such an important decision for you!
Dr. Janice Powis, Au.D.