Where we could verify the wholesale price of the aids we tested, the average markup was 117 percent, so there's room to bargain. Only 15 percent of our survey participants tried that, but more than 40 percent of those who tried succeeded. Cheryl Wruk, 62, a county board member from Crivitz, Wis., got her aids discounted to $1,500 from $1,750 by declining promotional extras such as a $100 gas debit card.
Make sure you clearly understand the terms: extra visits not covered by the hearing aid price, length of warranty, the cost to replace a lost or damaged aid, the cost of batteries, the length of the trial period during which you can exchange or return your aids, and the return fee, if any. Make sure your contract allows you to return your aids and get all or most of your money back if you're not satisfied.
Consider your future needs; ask whether the chosen hearing aid has enough residual amplification to handle a hearing loss that gets worse.
Insist on having brand and style choices. Survey respondents gave lowest marks for choice and selection among all aspects of their shopping experience. Just less than half of our shoppers were not offered a choice of hearing aid style. "They sold me a completely-in-the-canal model without asking if I minded using that style," a shopper reported to us.
Keep in mind that if you're not thrilled with the first provider's evaluation or personality, or want to see what other providers offer, you're entitled to a copy of your audiogram to shop elsewhere.
Before you leave with your new aids, practice inserting and removing the battery, cleaning and storing the aid, putting it into your ear, using its switches and controls, and using the telephone while wearing it. Most of our shoppers got no telephone training or help with volume controls.
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