What’s New

Making an appointment for almost any service these days takes longer than we’d like. Years ago, you could call and get your car serviced within a day or two, or perhaps even that same day. Now, you’ll need to wait two weeks or more. It’s a problem for everyone.

Sadly, it’s the same for us. The problem arises for a couple of reasons:

First, many insurances over the last three years or more are providing coverage for hearing aids. We are one of the very few audiology practices to participate with all major insurance companies/Medicare Advantage plans and their third-party administrators (more about that here) and everyone is rushing to get hearing aids.

Second, being home due to COVID, many were able to ignore their increased hearing loss. Now that they are getting back out again, their loss is much more disruptive.

Suffice it to say that these two things in particular have placed a great strain on us. We want to be sure that once you become a patient of our practice, if there is any problem, you will not have to wait an inordinate amount of time to see us. We take service very seriously and never want to leave you without an ability to hear once you have gotten your hearing aids.

While it may be several weeks before we can see you the first time, once you are ‘in the queue’, you’ll be taken well care of. If you wait, you’re only postponing the inevitable. Call us for an appointment today.

Some things to consider....

For those with insurance which offers a hearing aid benefit including many Medicare Advantage plans!

The most important thing for you to consider is this: the person you’re seeing an Audiologist, preferably a Doctor of Audiology. If you go to see a Hearing Aid salesperson (sometimes advertising themself as a Hearing Aid Specialist), you may wind up getting hearing aids, but your insurance company won’t pay!  

An Audiologist is someone who has completed at least a college-level master’s degree. Further, for the past several years, the requirement for those seeking to become an Audiologist has been a Doctor of Audiology degree. State licensing for a Hearing Aid salesperson, on the other hand, is generally a requirement of a high school diploma and passing a state-sponsored test after a few months to a year of on-the-job training. 

An Audiologist provides medical evaluation in areas such as balance, tinnitus, and more not relying solely on selling hearing aids for their income while a Hearing Aid salesperson is limited to simply selling hearing aids. 

Insurance. Think about this next…

We recommend that as you’re choosing an Audiologist for your hearing care, you determine if your insurance has a hearing care (testing) benefit AND, as a lot now do, a hearing aid benefit. From there, you’ll want to know if the Audiologist PARTICIPATES directly with YOUR insurance company and their HEARING NETWORK!

It’s not enough for a provider to say, for example, “We participate with all major insurances.” Your insurance benefit, especially for hearing aids, is almost always through a totally separate (and usually independent) company (often with a totally different name from your insurance) and the Audiologist must be contracted with THEM!

In our area, very few do this because this deprives them of their ability to set their own prices on what they sell. Since the advent of these hearing networks, we’ve participated in nearly all of them because we feel that the more people who can live better lives through better hearing, the better their world will be. Sounds a bit corny we’ll admit, but it’s true - honestly!

Don’t be fooled by a run-around (“We’ll fill out all the forms….” or whatever) because that won’t assure that you’re getting the negotiated price your insurance company has agreed on with the manufacturers. Good news: most insurance companies have a very broad selection of major hearing aid manufacturers from which to select. 

And a little more...

Here’s the (very small) catch: YOU will need to make a call to your insurance company’s HEARING HEALTHCARE NETWORK to sign up for your benefits under their plan. There is no cost or obligation just to sign up. This will be a separate company from your insurance company. They’ll ask you your insurance policy information etc. and generally they prefer to make the appointment arrangements with the Audiologist. Sometimes finding who to call can be a bit difficult (it’s a benefit, after all, and if you don’t use it, they save money!) but give us a call and we’ll point you in the right direction to get started. 

Once you’re signed up with your insurance carrier’s hearing network, you’ll have an appointment set up and you can come in to see us. Bring along a spouse or friend if you’d like. Most of the time, this is very helpful, particularly as they’ll remember things that you may not (or may not hear correctly). 

We normally plan an hour for the initial appointment time by first-time patients. This will allow enough time for the Audiologist to give you an audiological examination (don’t worry: it’s quite painless!) and then talk about the results. IF (and only IF) you would benefit from a hearing aid (or two), he’ll also provide his recommendations. We’ll also talk with you about how much you’ll be expected to pay to your insurance company’s hearing network - and nearly all insurance benefit programs want your portion of the payment (if there is any) before they will order the hearing aids.

Just so you know, if you’re covered by a hearing aid benefit plan, we can’t give you prices until after you’ve had your hearing exam because until we know your hearing loss level, we don’t know if you’ll be better served by one aid or two and by what level of technology - which also considers your budget. AND IT DEPENDS ON WHAT YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGE OFFERS in terms of hearing aid brands and THEIR prices!

It's a bit complicated - but we'll be right here to help!

Insurance ‘stuff’ can seem complicated: it's something you don't do every day. The playing field changes very, very regularly. Insurance carriers may switch to a different network, for example, so the benefits you had two years ago might be entirely different now. We’re happy to talk you through these things and answer any questions you may have. We 'do' insurance daily and we've learned how to make things as simple as possible for you.

Even if you choose not to see us (or perhaps you’re reading this from beyond the Downeast Maine area, BE SURE that the Audiologist you see is part of the Hearing Healthcare Network for your insurer! 

Category: What's New

When you call us to make an appointment for the first time, we’ll ask you about insurance coverage. Why?

Many insurance companies and Medicare Advantage plans now offer a benefit towards hearing aids or ‘reduced pricing’ arrangements. To use this hearing aid benefit, you may need to sign up with a company that has a different name than your insurer.

This other company is called a “third-party benefit manager” often referred to as a “network”. They handle your hearing AID benefit. To take advantage of the benefit, YOU MUST first sign up with the network. We can’t do this for you. (As an example, if you have United Healthcare, you must contact United Hearing Healthcare, at a totally different phone number.) If you can’t locate who to contact, give us a call and we’ll point you in the right direction.

(And just one additional word of advice: while you may have an insurance advisor, you STILL need to sign up with the network that provides hearing aid benefits. We know, we deal with this all day long every day of the week. We do know what needs to be done so don’t let anyone tell you differently. Also, we’ve heard rumors that some in our service area are ‘pretending’ that they’ll give you the same arrangement as your insurer: don’t be misled! It’s bait and switch and you’ll be the loser.)

We participate with many (almost all!) of these networks, but if you need hearing aids, you’ll purchase them from the network. We’ll do the ordering and fitting and provide service in accordance with the terms of your particular plan. We’ve been doing this for some time now and folks have been pleased with the outcome. Unfortunately, this sometimes takes much longer to process than if the aids were ordered by us directly. We wish we could make this process go faster but, regrettably, we can’t.

Is this a good deal? You bet! If your insurance company gives you a discount over retail price or hundreds of dollars, what’s not to like? Until you sign up with the network though, we can’t tell you what your hearing aid options are or what they will cost.

Some who call us find the ‘extra step’ of signing up with the network to be burdensome and a few have even gotten frustrated with us (even though it’s your insurance company that’s made the rules and we’re just trying to help YOU!) BUT if you’re going to get a reduced price on your hearing aid purchase or, in many cases, payment towards the cost, it seems to us to be worthwhile spending a few minutes on the phone for a few hundred dollars or more which won’t come out of your pocket.

One other thing: if you haven’t had an audiogram, that’ll be included in your benefit so there’s no need to go somewhere else first.

Again, as always, call and ask us if you’ve got questions. We know this is confusing stuff and we’re always glad to help!

Category: What's New

As recently as 3-4 years ago, insurance coverage for adult hearing aids finally began to appear. Now, coverage is becoming very widely available. You may have hearing aid coverage and not even know it.

However, you can’t get your insurance benefits UNLESS you purchase them through an Audiologist in their network. The insurance companies offering these benefits almost always have a third-party company that deals exclusively with their hearing aid benefit offering.

So, there are a couple of ‘hoops’ you’ll need to jump through - but they’re easy and we’ll be there to help and guide you all the way.

First, though, please understand this: just because you’ve got insurance, doesn’t mean that we’ll be pushing you to buy hearing aids. If you know anyone who’s dealt with our practice, you’ll learn that we’re VERY low key and we don’t try to sell you something you don’t need. We regularly (and happily) will tell patients that they don’t need hearing aids now and encourage them to come back and see us in a couple of years.

Some Audiologists claim to “participate” with your insurance carrier. While this might help if they’re providing medical-type services, it doesn’t mean that you can get insurance benefits for hearing aids from them. They must be “in network” with the insurance company’s hearing benefits administrator. WE ARE!

Read more about this process at “What Insurance Do You Have”?

LYNGE, DENMARK, Oct. 14, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Hearing aid innovator Signia today announced that two of Signia's latest innovations have been selected as honorees in the Consumer Electronics Show 2022 Innovation Awards.

The CES Innovation Awards program is an annual competition honoring outstanding design and engineering in 27 consumer technology product categories.

"We are extremely proud of this recognition for two of our latest and most innovative products. At Signia our mission is to enhance human performance through iconic innovations and being named an Innovation Awards Honoree clearly shows us that we are on the right path," says Signia's Global CMO, Maarten Barmentlo.

Read more about the reward and Signia's hearing aids.

Like other healthcare entities, we are carefully watching this world-wide pandemic. Like others, we’re trying as best we can to anticipate upcoming challenges.Rest assured that your health and safety are our paramount concern. To that end, we’re suggesting that those who are thinking about their annual or semi-annual ‘check-up’ postpone making that appointment until we know more.  If, however, you have a problem that you can readily identify (a broken RIC wire, for example), we encourage you to wrap your device securely and mail it to us. We will then call and let you know if anything else was a problem and will mail it back to you or make arrangements for pickup. Our goal is to minimize office visit contact for non-essential services while continuing to provide prompt and efficient care when it’s needed. We are actively monitoring guidance from the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, Medical Group Management Association, the national and Maine Centers for Disease Control and other professional entities, all of whom are providing a wealth of suggestions and information. Do be safe in these difficult times and let us know how we can help.

From time to time, you may see hearing aids deals advertised with ‘buy one, get one (sometimes abbreviated as BOGO) FREE’. Or - ‘50% off this week only’ or other lucrative sounding enticements. If you’re thinking that this sounds too good to be true, you’re probably right. Most consumers realize “There must be a catch here!” when something sounds like it’s a really amazing bargain.

Most often, the ad is simply designed to get you through the door - so they can sell you something FAR more expensive than what was advertised - and perhaps more than you really need for your particular hearing loss. “Bait and switch” is not unknown in sales and more especially in hearing aid sales. It’s not like a grocery store where they’ll sometimes have a ‘loss leader’ - something sold at less than cost - in order to entice customers into the store where they’ll buy a whole lot of other things. How many sets of hearing aids will you buy, even if one pair is ridiculously cheap?

One local hearing aid dealer, now deceased, used to vigorously advertise on television, “I can get you the best possible hearing aid at the lowest possible price!” Think about that. What does it mean? What’s the ‘best’ and ‘lowest’? (Is the ‘best’ something bought in bulk from a factory in China at $30? Is the ‘lowest’ the $1,500 or more you might wind up paying?) It was gimmick advertising - but he sold lots of hearing aids that way, we’re sure, because people didn’t stop to think about what the words actually meant.

Don’t be fooled by advertising: if someone offers a deal that’s too good to be true, think twice. You might also consider seeing us for a ‘second opinion’.

One ‘offer’ we hear about all the time: There’s a hearing aid sales company in our area who will tell you that you need two hearing aids at a cost of $8,000. If you protest that it’s too much money, they’ll offer to lower the price to $6,000 and offer instant financing through their own finance company where you’ll pay almost as much in finance charges as you paid for the hearing aids.

And did you REALLY need two hearing aids? Some of our patients actually only need one, sometimes one is all you can afford.

That’s something to consider also.  As P. T. Barnum used to say, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” We could go on and on - but if you’ve been to someplace like that, talk to us about a second opinion before you go ahead. You’ll find we will very likely be a LOT less expensive and we won’t try to rope you in to some high-interest financing by a company we own either.

(See more about financing here.)

 (Unless, of course, you want to….)
We’ve heard from folks who’ve come to see us, after dealing with others in our area, that they were told they need to buy new hearing aids every three years. We suspect some car dealerships would love to have you believe that as well - but do you REALLY need to change or is it just a ruse to get another sale?

Well, probably, it’s a little of both. It all depends….

A car, reaching the six or seven-year mark, may be running quite well or it may be on the verge of heading to the scrap yard after a new starter, a balky transmission, etc. It likely depends a LOT on how well you take care of the car (regular oil changes, etc.) AND how much you drive. You might think about hearing aids the same way. Do you get regular checkups from your audiologist, change the wax filters when needed, and take care of them or do you man-handle them, drop them on hard surfaces, etc.? ALSO, has your hearing changed? As we get older, it does.

Now changes in hearing shouldn’t be that great a problem. Hopefully whoever sold you your hearing aids should have considered aids that would accommodate a reasonable change in your hearing level - and on one of your regular visits, you’d have mentioned this to the Audiologist so that adjustments could be made. If, though, you’re now undergoing radical medical treatment such as cancer therapy involving ototoxic drugs, your hearing will likely change rapidly - hopefully not enough to require a change in devices(s) right away.

On the other hand, new technology is coming out day by day. Back up cameras in cars used to be highly expensive and far to ‘techie’ for the average driver. Now, particularly for those who are older, they can really help prevent ‘mistakes’ in driving. As we get older too, these conveniences can add significantly to our welfare and enjoyment of life. Can you pick up your smartphone and change the volume on your hearing aid based on your surroundings? Wouldn’t you rather do it that way more discreetly than reaching up to your ear?

So, as we said: it depends.

One other factor: all manufacturers have a limited life during which they’ll provide ‘factory’ service. Again, it’s similar to a car. The older it gets, the less likely you can find original equipment parts.

In addition, while most of the mid- and high tier hearing aids have a three year manufacturer’s warranty, it’s again like a car: once you pass that warranty period, if there’s a major problem with your hearing aid (you stepped on it and crushed it to pieces, for example), it’s probably better in the long run to replace rather than repair.

Finally, it’s great to have something that your comfortable with - as long as its working at its best. However, don’t forget to think ahead and consider the benefits of ‘moving up’ every now and then. You’ll thank yourself, I’m sure!

(Note: Our Administrator who wrote this has driven a couple of Subarus into the ground and always got the ‘base model’. However, now that he’s gotten older and they’ve got all kinds of newer safety features baked in, it’s time to change both his attitude and his vehicle. Do yourself a favor and don’t just consider time/price: it’s the quality of your life that really matters.)

With the invention of behind-the-ear hearing aids and what are referred to as bubble tips or domes, an entirely new generation of instruments began to evolve. No longer were you forced to endure a big hunk of plastic in the middle of your ear and no longer did you get that ‘stuffy’ feeling similar to what you experience if you cup your hand over your ear and try to talk.

For the hearing aid dispenser, these proved to be a boon as well. Now, a patient (or client, as hearing aid dealers refer to people) could be fitted with a narrow selection of plastic tip sizes. No longer was skill required to take a mold of one’s ear and hope that when it was made, it didn’t hurt. It was great - and a lot faster too!

However, what we and a number of other good audiologists soon came to realize was one size didn't fit everyone:

Some people couldn't find bubble tips that fit well or were comfortable
Sometimes a bubble tip would come out of the ear with possible loss of the hearing aid
Certain hearing losses really need to have the ear closed off to have a consistent hearing experience

As a result, ear molds made of clear, soft and comfortable material designed to hold the tip in the optimum location yet remain barely visible was developed. Our experience over several years has shown that patients have significantly better results when ear molds are used. Not everyone needs them but for those who do, it’s almost a must. Without an ear mold, you may be fiddling to keep that bubble tip in the right place.

This is something we feel strongly about. If you buy your hearing aid(s) at someplace that doesn’t even mention such things, it may be because they don’t have the technical expertise to take a good impression of your ear canal. Or, sadly, it may be because they don’t want to spend the extra time that it takes to give you the maximum benefit from your device. We do! The small additional cost of an ear mold will prove to be greatly beneficial in your future hearing - and you’ll never know how much less benefit you might have had without it.

We’ll talk more about this with you if it’s something that you should have.