When some businesses are quoting $10,000-$12,000 or more for hearing aids, it is easy to understand why there is a perception in the community that hearing loss treatment is expensive.
When it comes to hearing loss, people in Australia wait, on average, seven years to address their loss – a wait that could cost them socially, economically and emotionally. Principal Audiologist and owner of Clarity Hearing + Balance in Mackay, Grant Collins, says one of the biggest reasons for that delay is the perception of high cost, but it is his goal to remove that barrier.
Mr Collins says there is no reason why costs should be so high. To reduce costs for their patients, Clarity operate under what Mr Collins calls an “unbundled” hearing loss treatment model.
“At Clarity we separate our clinical audiology fees from the device costs. This means you pay separately for the advice we give you and for the devices you may end up being recommended,” Mr Collins said.
“Operators who bundle those two items together will offer their clinical services for free, or at very low cost, to get you in the door. This though means they are almost forced to recommend and sell you hearing aids in order to pay the rent, even if you may not need them,” Mr Collins continued. “They derive their income from sales… not from clinical advice. Some operators even have sales targets and commissions for their staff.”
“There should be no room at all for sales targets or commissions in what is a health aid industry,” Mr Collins said.
“At Clarity, because our clinical time is covered outside the purchase of a device, we can focus on giving our patients unbiased, independent hearing loss treatment advice, rather than trying to sell them an expensive device to cover costs,” Mr Collins said.
It’s a model that works well for Clarity and their patients with some travelling from NSW and even WA to attend Clarity clinics in Queensland.
“We’re a north Queensland owned business so it’s something we are really proud of that people are willing to travel these long distances to come see us,” Mr Collins said.
Where patients are covered by the government’s Hearing Services Program, Mr Collins sees the same issues with many patients pushed to co-pay top up aids, when the free-to-client offering would have been more than adequate.
“I have yet to see fully independent studies that show expensive top-up devices provide any additional hearing benefit over properly fitted free-to-client devices,” Mr Collins said.
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