Comparing Traditional and Direct Mail Hearing Aids
Kochkin (2014) reports on the largest and most objective analysis of hearing aids obtained via traditional methods, as compared to mail order (including Internet) protocols. The mail order data base was comprised of more than 2,300 responses.
In general, the mail order customer is male, has a high school education (or less), is 75 years old or older, retired, and has a household income of $26,000 or less. Some 43 percent of mail order customers are first-time users (FTUs) as compared to 47 percent for traditional methods. Of note, nearly half of all direct mail FTUs have previous traditional experience. The mail order customer primarily purchases one hearing aid (rather than binaural) and it’s most often a larger BTE. Of note, the median mail order price per unit is $299, compared to $1,500 for traditionally fitted hearing aids.
Kochkin reports (both) direct mail and traditional patients wear their hearing aids nine hours daily, both groups are nearly equivalent with regard to overall satisfaction and perceived benefit, both groups rate sound quality (clarity of tone/sound, sound of voice, natural sound…) as statistically equivalent. Of note, the direct mail customer rates their purchase "higher on value…."
Kochkin concludes that about half the direct mail consumers have previously gone through traditional routes, direct mail and traditional consumers have similar hearing loss profiles, direct mail users are slightly older and likely retired, direct mail consumers have lower income and are likely to wear only one hearing aid. The direct mail and traditional user wear their hearing aid(s) nine hours daily and the direct mail consumer likely paid one-fifth (purchase price) of what the traditional user paid out of pocket. Further, direct mail consumers are more likely to have positive attitudes regarding their purchase and both devices (traditional and mail order) provide equivalent benefit and quality of life benefit/improvements. Kochkin notes that "the key factor in success appears to be improved audibility."
For More Information, References, and Recommendations
Kochkin S. (2014) A Comparison of Consumer Satisfaction, Subjective Benefit and Quality of Life Changes Associated with Traditional and Direct-Mail Hearing Aid Use. The Hearing Review. January:16 – 26.
Kochkin S, Beck DL, Christensen DL, Compton-Conley C, Fligor BJ, Kricos PB, McSpaden JB, Mueller GH, Nilsson MJ, Northern JL, Powers TA, Sweetow RW, Taylor B, Turner RG. (2010) MarkeTrak VIII – The Impact of the Hearing Healthcare Professional on Hearing Aid User Success. The Hearing Review April.