Can extended warranties protect your hearing investment?
Service warranties from hearing aid manufacturers help protect your investment in better hearing. More than likely, your new hearing aids came with a warranty that covers them in the event of defects in material, workmanship and if they require repair for mechanical failure. Depending upon your manufacturer, your warranty may even cover the cost of a one-time replacement if you damage your aids beyond the point of repair or lose them. But what happens when the warranty runs out? Is there a way to protect your hearing aids beyond the initial warranty?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. An extended warranty can give you the peace of mind you need, especially if you have an active lifestyle or a family member prone to misplacing their personal items.
What are extended warranties and insurance?
To answer this question, Healthy Hearing turned to Dr. Charlie Stone, an audiologist turned businessman who founded Ear Service Corporation (ESCO) in 1989 to address a gap in hearing aid protection. Dr. Stone, who owned a hearing center in Minneapolis for more than 25 years, didn’t like his patients’ options when it came to protecting their expensive hearing devices beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. Tired of arguing with manufacturers about their lack of options, he took their advice and decided to provide a better extended warranty solution himself.
Dr. Stone explained that an extended warranty is an after-market service product that extends the coverage on your hearing devices for specified incidents, such as loss or repair.
“The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act basically defines a warranty,” he said. “If you manufacture something and warranty it for one year, you guarantee it against a defect in material, workmanship and mechanical failure. Whenever you agree to replace something however, that falls into the category of insurance.”
Speaking of insurance, does your homeowner’s insurance policy cover your hearing aids? "Maybe," said Dr. Stone, "but not always." Those which do often list hearing aids as a Named Peril, meaning you’ve specifically listed your hearing aids in the policy. Coverage may only include fire, theft and vandalism -- and your deductible most likely applies. Your best bet is to talk to your insurance agent about your specific coverage. If there are any gaps in your policy as it relates to your hearing devices, you may be able to fill them by purchasing an extended warranty.
Who needs an extended warranty?
You’re a careful person, right? Maybe you won’t accidentally drop your hearing aid on the tile floor or sweep it into a sink full of water while you’re washing your face. Parents with children who wear hearing aids may want to purchase an extended warranty for a child who never sits still as opposed to one who prefers more sedentary activities. While it’s completely your call, talk to your hearing care professional to find out if they recommend it for you.
Dr. Stone said while you don’t need to buy more coverage than you think you’ll need, it’s important to consider what type of coverage you’re interested in and make sure the extended warranty you purchase includes it. “Are you only interested in replacing it if it’s lost?” he queried. “How about when the dog eats it or you drop it on the ground and step on it?”
One-third of all ESCO’s new business comes from consumers who have lost a hearing aid while the other two-thirds represent the youngest and oldest patient age groups. Although people who lose a hearing aid are no more likely to experience a second loss, they are more cautious. “When you lose a hearing aid, you want it replaced as fast as possible,” he said. “You really guard it.”
Options and cost
If you think an extended warranty is for you, check with your hearing health professional. They may offer an option that fits your budget and your lifestyle. Before you sign an agreement however, Dr. Stone said it’s important to ask if there’s an insurance company backing the policy. “That way you’re assured the instrument will be replaced for what you paid,” he said.
“Insurance is not rocket science,” he said “it’s how many do you insure, how many are lost, and what it costs to replace them. That’s actuarial work. The numbers are analyzed by insurance companies and risk is determined by instrument, make and model.”
If your hearing aid center doesn’t offer extended warranties, you can purchase a policy online from a company such as Dr. Stone's ESCO or Midwest Hearing Industries. ESCO premiums average $180 with monthly payment plans available for $20-$30. Midwest Hearing Industries polices begin at $76 for entry level technology but can cost as much as $241 for devices classified as premium level technology.
Still not convinced an extended warranty is worth the cost? Consider this: "The average person buys their first hearing aid at age 63.3,” Dr. Stone said. “That means half are older people who are probably in retirement and limiting their expenditures. The younger half may live from paycheck to paycheck. I would rather cover something against possible loss or damage than get a bill for a $3,000 replacement.”
The main reason for purchasing an extended warranty is to protect your sizeable investment in hearing aids. Whether or not you opt to purchase a policy for your hearing devices, you should always follow manufacturer’s care and cleaning guidelines. And don’t forget to see your hearing care professional regularly for scheduled maintenance and hearing checks. With a little diligence and care, you’ll be hearing your best for years to come.