For hearing aid manufacturers, as in the broader economy, market share is king. One example of how this is playing out involves Costco and Phonak. Everyone knows Costco. Phonak is a hearing aid manufacturer that recently struck a deal to place their products with Costco.
This a big deal to audiologists, especially independent audiologists, because Phonak offers their products to Costco at prices which are dramatically lower than those available to independent audiologists. This means the independent audiologist cannot hope to match the Costco price for the same product.
Not everyone is a Costco member, so that helps. But the trend is (and has been for years) for manufacturers to manage the supply chain as best they can to return the maximum profit to the company. One example of this is company owned store-fronts. Audibel stores are owned by a hearing aid maker called Starkey. William Demant Holding (parent of Oticon) runs store fronts under the name Avada. Connect Hearing and Newport Audiology are run by Sonova, parent company of Phonak.
So what’s an audiologist to do? We’re beginning to band together to negotiate better discounts from the manufacturers so we can be price competitive. A group is forming called the Audiology Provider Organization (APO). They are recruiting audiologists who want to keep providing quality hearing care while also retaining the ability to compete. They plan to pass on 100% of the discount they get from the manufacturer. Administrative costs will be covered by a monthly fee that is small compared to the projected savings.
If APO is successful it will mean that I can (and will) offer hearing aids at significantly lower prices.