How One Company Is Rebooting the Hearing Aid Purchase Experience

If You've Got Hearing Loss, Now You Can Try Before You Buy

By David Copithorne

Before you buy a new car, you take a test drive. So why can't you take your new hearing aids out for a pre-purchase spin as well? Unitron, a leading hearing aid brand, lets you do just that—and more—with its newly expanded and enhanced FLEX trial program.

The Canadian company, a subsidiary of number-one hearing aid manufacturer Sonova Group, has introduced the Unitron FLEX Discover platform to help guide new hearing-aid wearers through successful trials before they pay a dime.

"The consumer's journey is not an easy one." Lilika Beck of Unitron describes how the FLEX trial program helps first-time hearing-aid wearers get accustomed to amplification—before they spend any money. Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions clicking on the gear icon.

"First-fit" solution sends you home with trial hearing aids that are fully-functional

FLEX is designed to give you an easy introduction to the sometimes disorienting world of hearing aids through a series of simple steps:

  • Your hearing care provider gives you a complete hearing test and creates a "first-fit" hearing-aid program that delivers a comfortable initial sound experience.
  • You get a trial set of Unitron FLEX Moxi Fit or Moxi Jump hearing aids programmed to your personal audiogram.
  • The hearing aids have enough amplification to help you get used to them—but less than the optimal enhancement they will eventually provide.
  • Then—before you buy the hearing aids—you take them home for an extended trial.

A Unitron animation takes prospective hearing aid patients on a step-by-step walk through the FLEX trial process. Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions clicking on the gear icon.

FLEX trials provide a better chance to get comfortable with hearing aid amplification

On a hearing aid "test drive," your hearing will improve instantly, but you’ll also hear sounds you may not have heard for a long time: birds tweeting, car keys jingling, kids on the playground across the street, etc. Better hearing is a joyful experience, but hearing so much sound can be overwhelming at first

“Age-related hearing loss happens gradually. Over time, the auditory system grows accustomed to decreased volume and decreased variety of sounds," says Dr. Donald Hayes, Unitron's Director of Clinical Research. "It takes a while to get used to higher, more beneficial levels of amplification."

After a week or two wearing the hearing aids, your brain adjusts, and those sounds start to feel normal again. When you return to your hearing care provider, they may turn up your hearing aids a little. With each bump up in volume, you’ll hear a little better, and at some point you’ll reach the ideal volume for maximum benefit. Don’t give up on the process too early!

Removing the cost barrier to trying hearing aids

The prospect of spending several thousand dollars on a pair of hearing aids often slows down the fitting process or even deters people from getting any help at all. But FLEX trials give those who are anxious about hearing aid costs time to understand the true value—before they put their money down. And they let providers focus on patient care before worrying about selling the hearing aids.

"Clinicians don't love the selling part of their job as much as providing service to patients," says McLaughlin. After the trial, when patients arrive for the second visit, they have a more complete understanding of the full value they will receive for their money, she says. "Often the hearing aids have already sold themselves."

The change to a try-before-you-buy FLEX model is something new in the hearing industry. Most providers offer 30- or 60-day money-back return policies. But few offer extensive free trials. Dr. Hayes says that old patient-care model is rapidly becoming outdated and needs to change.

"To continue fitting hearing aids the way we have since 1945 is really a disservice to customers," he says. "It's far better to let them experience the value first."

New models available

Unitron FLEX products currently include two RIC (receiver-in-canal) hearing aid: Moxi™ Fit with a 312 battery, and Moxi™ Jump R with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Both feature industry-leading connectivity that enables wireless streaming of phone calls from smartphones and audio from all other Bluetooth-enabled devices to both ears, hands-free. Both are premium-level products.