The Main Event: A Transaction vs. An Experience

By: Joy Glen

As an Audiologist with 20 years of experience in hearing healthcare, I am often asked about the pros and cons of big box hearing solutions.

Chain stores are a convenient place to solve many of our problems. You can purchase whatever you need, from a gallon of milk to a new tire all within a few aisles of one another.

So it’s not hard to see why some people are turning to chain stores for their hearing aids. But while it may be convenient, there are many reasons you shouldn’t buy your hearing aids at the same place you buy your undershirts.

Before you throw a pair in your cart, consider everything you’re not getting when you buy hearing aids at a big box store.

When I first discovered that a hearing impaired person could buy hearing aids at their local big box store (Costco, Sam’s bigboxClub, CVS) I was instantly concerned. How could the hearing impaired get personalized attention to their hearing journey if they were stopping in for a hearing test under the bright fluorescent lights, next to the flat screen TV section? I wondered about the licensed professionals who would work in a big box setting, challenged with the task of fitting hearing aids. I could only imagine that the experience would be, well…less than an experience.

I know first-hand how personal and unique each hearing loss is to that person and their family. No one’s hearing loss is identical to another person’s. Each person faces his or her own unique challenges. Some people struggle to hear children’s voices; others can’t hear women easily. Some people find that they experience debilitating ringing in their ears and they start to get desperate for solutions. Others can hear well in small groups, while some can’t hear at all.

Hearing losses come in all shapes and sizes. On top of all of that, they change over time. Untreated hearing loss can illicit so many different emotions: sadness, embarrassment, anger, frustration, and feelings of worthlessness…. I wondered how all of this would be taken into consideration for the person that winds up in the sound booth at the local big box hearing aid store.

I knew I had to get to the bottom of all my questions and concerns and that there would only be one way to get honest answers. I would have to find a hearing impaired friend to go on a “secret shopper” journey for me at several different Sam’s Clubs and Costco hearing aid places.

The Secret Shopper Adventure Beginssecretshopper

I asked a married couple who were friends of mine to go to several different locations and to share their hearing experience with me. “Jill” was very experienced with hearing loss and had been her husbands, Dave, advocate for better hearing for a few decades. “Dave” has a moderate high frequency hearing loss and has been wearing hearing aids for years. I asked them to get Dave’s hearing tested and to go through the process of buying hearing aids and getting fit.

What I learned is that not all big box hearing places are bad. I also learned that not all big box hearing aid places are good. There were so many different levels of professionalism and service and the experience was more grey than black and white. This is a summary of their secret hopper hearing aid journey:


  • Big Box Hearing Aid stores aren’t really focused on the third party. This means that they don’t really care if you bring your husband or wife with you. They don’t do speech testing using your loved ones voice to see how much of your wife’s or husband’s voice you are missing. They don’t treat the hearing loss as a family problem and don’t encourage the family to attend the fitting and follow up counseling sessions. This is something that we routinely do at our Starkey HearCare locations.
  • Some of the audiology testing was top notch; some of it barely met state licensure requirements. Some licensed professionals did complete and thorough testing, others just did basic air conduction testing, and might have missed potential areas for conductive hearing loss or middle ear issues. Bottom line regarding testing: it all depends on whom you get during their “shift”.
  • athensinteriorThe experience that you get when talking to your hearing care professional is not exactly an experience, but more of a transaction. You are sitting under florescent lights, and typically next to the toilet paper or electronic isle. There is not a lot of privacy, nor is there a lot of time to get to the root of your problems and how it has impacted your quality of life. There is just enough time to get your ears inspected and tested, and then you are given a sales pitch for the cheapest technology that would be appropriate for your hearing loss. All of this is happening in a very loud office with soaring high ceilings and bright lights. This is certainly not the experience that we provide at our Starkey HearCare locations, where our hearing testing rooms are sound proof, private, and conducive to family counseling.
  • Once you are fit with hearing aids, you might not be offered the open door for follow up visits. Some big box hearing places are booked for months and getting a follow up appointment is not an easy option. Walk-in appointments for trouble shooting service are hit and miss depending on how busy the office is. Long-term care is not proactive.
  • Price is typically lower than you might get in a local hearing aid practice, sometimes up to a couple hundred dollars. However, you don’t always get offered some of the “bells and whistles” that the local hearing aid practice will offer. Some of the “bells and whistles that Starkey HearCare might include are: free batteries, complimentary monthly follow up fittings, family counseling for hearing loss, ringing in the ears counseling, wax management, quarterly clean & checks for “tune ups”, and annual hearing tests.

So why should you trust your hearing care to one of our offices in the Starkey HearCare network?

At a chain store, you give the cashier money, and she gives you hearing aids. End of transaction. If your aids break or need adjustments or cleaning, where do you take them? The store where you bought them may send them far away to be repaired, leaving you without hearing aids for weeks, or they may provide no aftercare services at all.

When you purchase your hearing aids at an Starkey HearCare location, you know exactly where to take them, and who will be working on them. The same licensed hearing care providers you see every time you come in will repair your devices for you while you enjoy some freshly made coffee and warm cookies.

aftercareAt our Starkey HearCare offices, your aftercare services are included with the purchase of your hearing aid. Our audiologists and licensed providers provide a complete Hearing Healthcare program, which comes with regular cleaning and adjustments, repair and damage warranties, yearly screenings, and batteries. We encourage families to join you for your appointments, where we incorporate their voice into your hearing testing and help them become part of your hearing solutions. We also help people with tinnitus issues, or “ringing in the ears”.

That ten-items or less lane might be great for your groceries, but it’s not a great place to take care of your hearing loss.

The biggest difference between hearing solutions from a big box versus hearing solutions from Starkey HearCare is that big box hearing aid services are a transaction. All American hearing looks at you as a unique person with individual needs. We customize hearing solutions and work with you along your hearing journey. We are with you for the long haul and will be your partner for better hearing. Coming to our office is an experience that you will enjoy and look forward to.

Life is Worth Hearing!


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