I am often asked this question.  People see advertisements and the ads say they are “the best” and they have “the best hearing aids”, but do they?  If you pay the same price, or a maybe even a little more, for hearing aids at a corporate owned franchise or store, it must be the same or better, right?  WRONG.

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I recently saw a new patient a few weeks ago because he was “fed up” with the hearing aid franchise he had been with for about a decade.  He scheduled an appointment for a free consultation to see if there was any point in going somewhere else.

At his appointment, he greeted me by saying he was having a bad day.  His accountant just told him this morning that he owes a lot of money.  He also went on to tell me why he was here to see me.  Apparently, the place he used to go to, as recently as 2 days ago, had been bought and sold several times over the past few years. He added that he never sees the same person twice, as they tend not to stay.  Finally, he revealed that he just bought $7200 completely in the canal hearing aids in November and no one in that office knew how to adjust them.  He then showed me his receipt, as well as the identical hearing aids he bought from them 3 years prior.  He was told he needed new hearing aids to hear better.  Lastly, he said that he had heard good things about me and my practice from different acquaintances of his, and decided that he would try me out.  He said, “If you can make these hearing aids sound normal, I will shake your hand and YOU will be my new audiologist.”

While I cleaned the hearing aids and started loading the hearing aid software, I took the time to tell him a little about me and my background.  Like how I have been practicing as a licensed audiologist for over 15 years.  I told him about how I have my Master’s and Doctoral degrees in audiology and how I own my practice.  I told him about how I work with 8 different hearing aid manufacturers and I choose which device based on the patient’s needs, activity levels, lifestyle, and budget.  I also added that I am pretty good at programming hearing aids, especially the really nice ones he brought to me today.

Within a matter of minutes, I had the hearing aids connected to the computer while they were in his ears, made some adjustments, and then asked, “How do they sound?”  He was beaming from ear to ear!  He said, “Wow!  They sound so normal!”  Then he proceeded to offer me his hand and said, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.  YOU are my new audiologist!”  I said, “But wait, I’m not finished.”  I then pulled out the iPad, connected it to the computer wirelessly, and showed him how he could now take the programming one step further by sliding his finger to different parts of the screen, so he could make the hearing aids sound even more natural.

His next question was, “Why didn’t the others know how to do what you did?”  I said, “I don’t know.”

I proceeded to also reprogram his old hearing aids and we were chatting some more.  I asked him what he did before he retired and he told me about how he used to work for the CDC (Center for Disease Control).  I then stopped him and asked him if I could see his insurance cards.  Not because I was going to bill him, because if you remember  this was a FREE initial consultation.  No, I had a feeling that he had the Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program insurance.  And he did.

I said, “I am 99% sure that I just found you $2500.”  He said, “How?”  I said, “Well, since I am an audiologist and I am credentialed to accept insurances, I happen to know that your insurance covers $2500 toward the cost of hearing aids every 3 years.  His mouth dropped open.  After a moment, he said, “Why didn’t the other place know this?”  I said, “Because they are ‘Hearing Instrument Specialists’ they are not qualified to bill your health insurance.  They don’t know about your benefit because they don’t work with insurances.  This is also why your hearing tests were always free because they couldn’t bill your health insurance for it, and it is one less hurdle for you to purchase hearing aids from them.

I saw him about a week later.  He had spoken to Blue Cross Blue Shield and I was right about his insurance benefit.  He just needed my help in writing the appropriate procedure and diagnosis codes on that receipt from the other place, so he could fax it in to Blue Cross Blue Shield and receive a reimbursement check for $2500.

He said, “You know, Dr. Heiman.  What you did for me, when you reprogrammed my hearing aids so I can hear better… THAT was worth $2500!  I am so glad I met you.  I have been telling everyone about you!”

I help people everyday who are struggling with their hearing.  This type of situation happens frequently in our office.  I am always here to help and will try to work with the hearing aids you already own.  If you have any questions or comments,  please free to call our office at Advanced Audiology Consultants in Oak Brook,  IL 630-930-1025.  You can directly email me at [email protected]  .

Happy Hearing!

Dr. Dawn