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Losing / Insuring Your Hearing Aids

Please note: I am not qualified or allowed to offer insurance services or insurance advice as these are regulated. To choose cover for yourself you should speak to an appropriate company or professional broker.

I can share stories about the pitfalls of bad insurer service though! I can also tell you that I have covered my own pair of aids on my home insurance policy, both inside and outside the home.

There are specialist insurers who cover aids separately. One customer's daughter told me she had paid over £600 per year. The customer was in a care home. I would, at that price point, have had a conversation with my audiologist about how much they would actually charge for a replacement aid, to weigh whether the annual cost was worth it. Independent audiologists might have some flexibility in what they charge for a replacement - especially if their customer is suffering from dementia and/or is no longer living in their own home.

Claiming on insurance is quite tricky too. If you lose one aid of the pair, insurers often try and get you to go to their preferred supplier for the replacement. They don't understand that you can't have different audiologists for each ear - there is literally no way this can work out! It's not professional pride or the audiologist being difficult, it's just impossible to do. Aids almost always work as a pair, and must be programmed to communicate with each other. If a new company tested one ear and programmed one aid, you would lose the features you have paid for and hear less well, particularly in noisy environments. Your phone connection likely wouldn't work either. Neither audiologist would be permitted to send off (or take receipt of) the other aid for repair under warranty. Although the aids belongs to the end user, hearing aid manufacturers have a service agreement with the audiologist.

So, you need to have your "one half of a pair" aid replaced by the original audiologist, or you must pay the new audiologist to "adopt" your remaining aid. B***s, my previous employer, used to charge £500 (per ear) for doing this.

It is not well known, but you can tell your insurer that you reject their offer of a replacement aid via their supplier. Your audiologist might be able to write a statement to back you up, or you can show them this article. If you reject the replacement the insurer should offer you a cash value, which may be linked to how much their preferred supplier would have charged them. You may need to challenge this, as some insurers (and customers!) don't understand that one aid costs more than half of the price of a pair. A pair might be £4,000, one aid might be £3,000. This is because of the service element of the cost, when you buy aids you are usually buying aftercare as well.

Again, your friendly independent audiologist might be flexible on the price of a replacement single aid. Regardless of my prices for new customers/aids, I charge half the cost of a pair for replacing a lost aid, because I have already been paid for the service. I have, however, been shouted at by an angry customer when working at B***s, because they lost the aid after a week , then found that it would cost 2/3 again to replace it. I didn't make that policy, I was simply passing along the unwelcome news (and the complaints department address!).

If you or your relative has a condition which makes them likely to lose an aid, it's even more important to follow these steps...

  • Talk to your insurer about what would happen if you lost one aid versus both.

  • Talk to the audiologist about how much they would charge for a replacement aid when you buy your pair.

  • If you lose an aid, call your audiologist first. They can tell you if the aid is still being produced, and help you with a quote and statement on why you need them to supply. They may offer to order a replacement now so you're not waiting longer than necessary.

  • If the insurer tries to restrict you to a certain supplier for your replacement, be aware of your consumer rights to ask for an alternative.

  • If your aid is over ~3 years old, you may wish to choose a new pair, rather than purchase a replacement, single, obsolete aid. Your audiologist can advise if the latest model is so amazing that you'll notice the difference (sometimes there really isn't any difference!).

  • Consider a retention device, (such as the rather fabulous chain below) or consider custom-made 'full shell' aids which may need a carer's help to insert, but also more difficult to lose.

  • Consider purchasing aids with features such as "lost partner warning" (Widex, setup required) and Find My Hearing Aid on the manufacturer's app, even if the person doesn't use their mobile phone connection. These can be very helpful, but are limited in how well they perform.

It is a pain losing an aid, but if you chose a good audiologist in the first place, they will not mind being called on to help you make it less painful!

My personal best was 9 days to replace the aid. Customer told me the day she lost it; I was able to order a replacement custom-made aid on a "sale or return" basis from my supplier. No new impressions were needed, the scans were on file. While this aid was being built, the customer placed her insurance claim. I wrote a statement so she could challenge the offer, they settled and by the time the money was in her account our shiny new aid was out for delivery with the courier!

Contrast this with another experience I had where the customer did not tell me he'd lost his RIC aid until he'd been waiting 7 weeks for his insurer to "look at the claim". Poor chap. I set up a loan pair for him 2 days later, and provided a strongly worded statement to the insurer, to have the claim treated as a priority due to his reliance on the aids for everyday communication and safety.

I hope you never lose your aids, as I know myself how horrible it is being without them. If you have no backup pair, be sure to take time choosing sufficient cover and a decent audiologist/insurer. Then you can go on the Log Flume at Flamingo Land with confidence!

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