By Karen Schaffner
Tucsonans can soon hear better when Beltone opens its Oro Valley clinic in the former Urgent Care at Oracle Crossings early this year.
It will be the only Tucson clinic. In the meantime, there’s a once-a-week clinic at 3037 W. Ina Road.
“It’s great synergy for health care and also retail; it has really good, easy access,” says Kory Castro, a co-owner. “There was definitely a need for a Beltone to be out in Tucson.”
This is the fourth Beltone in Arizona that Castro, his father and brother-in-law own and operate. The others are in Prescott, Carefree and Scottsdale.
Beltone does more than sell hearing aids.
“We treat hearing loss,” Castro says. “At times that involves recommending or fitting a hearing aid on to somebody, but really it’s evaluating somebody’s need and performing hearing tests.”
Typically, Castro says, folks visit Beltone because they are having issues hearing and understanding people. That’s when things get complicated. Clients don’t just show up and get a hearing aid.
“Our job is to evaluate to see if, one, are those issues they’re having validated and do they have a hearing loss?” Castro says. “Two, what kind of hearing loss is that and is it something that needs to be seen by a physician? Are there other underlying health concerns?”
Hearing is a two-organ function; we hear with our ears and understand with our brain, he says. When clients come in for an evaluation, the staff performs a tone test to determine how well the brain is functioning.
“We do word understanding tests, speech and (noise) tests, and we use that to determine how well somebody would perform if they were to use a hearing aid,” Castro says.
Castro has been in the industry for 15 years. He became interested in this type of work when he was in middle school while watching his dad, who is still in the trade.
Beltone offers free hearing tests and will clean, service and repair any hearing aid model. Although some Medicare Advantage plans help with the cost, Medicare does not cover this, and that can be an issue because hearing aids are expensive.
“All of our hearing aids we bundle with lifetime care, so the cost is the device plus all of that follow-up care and the fitting services bundled into one cost,” Castro says. “For two years for both ears, that’s going to start around $2,000 and it can go up to $6,000 or $7,000, depending on how sophisticated the device is.”
Over-the-counter hearing aids can be more cost effective. Beltone has them, but there is a caveat.
“We’re worried that people will try to take their hearing health care into their own hands and that they’ll skip seeing a professional,” Castro says.
Although Beltone offers payment plans, leasing hearing aids is an option. Castro says clients pay a monthly fee and then every four years the old hearing aids are replaced with new devices.