Hearing aids are still having a moment. That's because of the relatively new availability of over-the-counter hearing aids and a growing public health push to close the years-long gap between when someone starts noticing signs of hearing loss and when they actually get a hearing aid.
The latest company to join the hearing health game is Bluemoth, an online prescription hearing aid company with a "try it out at home" model that officially launchedWednesday. Bluemoth is a new concept because it combines some of the DIY elements of the over-the-counter market with prescription-grade devices and added support from the company's medical team. It's currently available in about half the US states, with plans to expand.
It also resembles the online prescription glasses model, where you order online, upload the prescription you get from your eye doctor, and (depending on the company) give the frames a test run before you officially buy. Instead of buying a $100 pair of glasses, though, you'll be buying a $5,500 hearing aid package, which includes a weeklong test run of three demo prescription hearing aids to decide which one you like best, a 45-day trial period with the real deal and on-call support from a provider who works at Bluemoth to adjust your prescription device as needed.
Bluemoth is super new, and at the time of this writing, there were some gaps on Bluemoth's website that made for a slightly confusing user experience. But we spoke with Bluemoth's founder to get details about what to expect and how the trial experience will work for customers wanting to take their prescription hearing aids for a test drive.
Here's what to know.
Best Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids to Try in 2023 See at Cnet
How Bluemoth works
Bluemoth sells three models of prescription hearing aids: the Phonak Audeo Lumity, the Signia Charge & Go AX and the Widex Moment. The company also sells tinnitus treatment. When you purchase a hearing aid, you'll have access to professional assistance as long as you have the device.
This bundled service approach, which includes a virtual professional fitting with an audiologist and additional calls about your prescription device, sets it apart from over-the-counter options and is one reason for the high price tag.
As of now, its services are only available to people living in these 24 states, but Bluemoth plans to expand as it gets licensed in additional states.
Melanie Hecker, Bluemoth's founder and CEO, has been an audiologist for 13 years and used to work for one of the hearing aid companies Bluemoth sells (Widex). She says that the goal of Bluemoth is to combine some of the perks of over-the-counter hearing aids, like easier access or a do-it-at-home model, with a more traditional approach that's "overseen and guided by true medical care."
"That's what really was the inspiration for Bluemoth," Hecker said. "How do we take the most beautiful aspects of both of these and fill a void that's totally there in the hearing health care world?"
Here's how it works.
Step 1: Check to see if you're able to use Bluemoth in your state
First, check if you live in a state that Bluemoth is able to serve. You won't be able to be fitted for a prescription device or buy the full hearing aid package if you don't live in one of those states. However, I was able to go all the way to the checkout page for the experience box after entering a ZIP code for a state that Bluemoth isn't currently licensed in. (I was told Bluemoth is working on ironing out this kink.)
Step 2: Get a professional hearing test and order online
Bluemoth's hook is its "experience box": a box with three test tubes, each filled with a demo hearing aid pair you'll test for about a week before you decide on your prescription device and go forward with the longer 45-day trial with your fitted device. To get started, take the quizrather than select a single product. You'll be asked some general questions about your hearing and a few more that are hearing-aid specific. When you check out, you should have a $250 experience box in your cart. (This $250 will be applied to the total price of your prescription hearing aid package as a credit, but it's nonrefundable if you decide not to move forward with one of the prescription hearing aids.)
After placing your order, you should receive an email and will need to send Bluemoth your hearing prescription. Because these are professional hearing aids, you'll need a prescription from an audiologist or hearing clinic, instead of an online hearing test.
If you don't want to try the experience box, you can order any pair of the three types of hearing aids right away, simply by choosing the product from Bluemoth's website. You'll still have the 45-day trial period to test them out and return them for a full refund. According to Hecker, this route may be better for people who've already owned a hearing aid by one of the brands Bluemoth offers, so they don't need the extra few days to decide based on fit and style.
Step 3: If you ordered an experience box, send it back and get fitted for the real thing
The experience box comes with its own shipping label and instructions for return. After the first trial, you'll share with Bluemoth which pair you want, your device will be virtually fitted and tweaked by a provider and then you'll have an additional 45 days to test the real deal. You can contact Bluemoth's care team to speak with an audiologist along the way if you need additional tweaks or have questions.
According to the terms and conditions, if Bluemoth doesn't get the experience box back within 21 days, you'll be charged a total deposit of $1,000.
How much it costs and who might benefit
You'll pay $250 up front for your experience box, which is the short trial period with the demo hearing aids. That's nonrefundable, even if you decide not to buy any hearing aids from Bluemoth or decide to buy the same pair somewhere else. So the experience box is for people who know they want to order from Bluemoth, but would like a little extra time to consider and test the different options before making a final decision.
If you do settle on a pair, the $250 you initially paid is applied to the total $5,500 price. So you'll be charged the remaining $5,250 and you don't end up paying extra. This is the bundled price for the prescription hearing aids and telehealth access to an audiologist or other hearing professional, for as long as you have the device.
Prescription hearing aids are pricey, and Bluemoth is no exception. Insurance coverage for hearing aids has been notoriously poor, in part because they haven't been seen as essential. But you can check with your insurance provider ahead of time to see if you might be reimbursed after ordering, similar to how it'd work with online prescription glasses.
According to the Hearing Tracker blog, the average price people pay for a pair of prescription hearing aids is around $4,672, though prices range from under $1,000 to up to $8,000. When the FDA announced its rule for over-the-counter hearing aids last fall, a federal estimate predicted that people will save an average of $3,000 per pair, compared to those who require a prescription.
While preserving your hearing and communication abilities is extremely important for your overall health, $5,500 is a ton of money. If you have mild or moderate hearing loss and are a good candidate for over-the-counter hearing aids, you can save thousands of dollars by going that route. Audiologists still recommend you get a professional hearing test, if only to make sure your overall ear health is suited for over-the-counter options and that you don't have an underlying health condition.
Read more: How to Find the Right Pair of Hearing Aids
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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