Why Are Hearing Aids So Expensive?
One of the most common complaints shared among those with hearing loss today is that the benefits of hearing aids don’t warrant the high cost. It’s no secret that there’s a stigma surrounding hearing aid use—many claim that they make you seem old, they’re unfashionable and distracting, and they simply don’t work. While research regarding the prevalence of hearing loss and the technology behind today’s smart and discreet hearing aids disprove these misconceptions, the price of prescription hearing aids can be enough to drive away potential buyers.
The high cost of hearing
The first hearing aids were incredibly expensive for their time—a single unit cost between $62 and $159—and would hardly be considered sophisticated in today’s world. Modern adult hearing aids are not covered by insurance in most states, leaving patients to pay out-of-pocket for prescription devices that can retail from around $1,000 to $4,000 per ear. This cost increase may seem drastic if you don’t consider the influencing factors, such as:
- Advanced digital technology. Old hearing aids were analog and merely turned the volume up on sounds through the environment, leaving the results muddy and uncontrolled. All of today’s hearing aids make use of digital software that enables them to filter out unwanted background noise and enhance speech and environmental sounds, no matter the listening situation.
- Custom-built design. Unlike consumer electronic devices, hearing aids are often customized to ensure they correct your specific hearing issues and meet your comfort preferences and lifestyle requirements. They are also constructed for maximum quality and durability so they can keep working at peak performance for years to come.
- Research costs. Part of the cost of hearing aids goes toward audiological research teams who work with the most cutting-edge equipment and resources, including neural networks and artificial intelligence systems, to make hearing aids smarter, safer, and more enjoyable to wear. Among the top six hearing aid manufacturers worldwide, approximately $500 million is spent annually on research and development, which has an effect on the price of their products.
Even despite a seemingly high price of $4,500 for two hearing aids, a life expectancy of six years means that your devices will cost $750 a year, or just over $2 a day. Considering the average person with hearing loss can increase their annual income by as much as $12,000 a year simply by being fitted with hearing aids(by way of improved work performance), this one-time investment should be less alarming.
Bundled prices for hearing aids and service
You may have read online that professional hearing aids don’t cost much to manufacture, and that their selling price is nothing but profit-driven, but this is most certainly not the case. In reality, buying a hearing aid is not the same as buying a new smartphone or laptop, as any piece of medical equipment that is going to modify your daily living will involve a multi-step purchase and maintenance process.
Bundled with the cost of hearing aids are a number of healthcare-related services. The most useful—and money-saving—benefit of these packages for wearers is the freedom to schedule unlimited follow-up visits at no extra charge to have the hearing care professional troubleshoot and fine-tune your hearing aids. Other services include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Hearing screening
- Hearing aid fitting and programming
- Hearing aid batteries and accessories
- Counseling and treatment options
- Earmold impressions
- Hearing aid warranties
- Microphone testing
- Hearing aid adjustments and repairs
- Therapy services
Before purchasing a hearing aid, be sure to ask your hearing care professional about all the services that come along with it. They will be happy to explain all the services included in their package so you can see for yourself where your money is going. Some may be willing to discuss if there are any opportunities to “unbundle” in order to negotiate a lower price. Others offer financing and other assistance.
Avoiding consultation is risky
You may be tempted to unbundle the cost of hearing aids yourself by purchasing one of the many hearing-related products available online and skipping a medical examination. Unfortunately, the low prices of these generic devices is often too good to be true. When it comes to hearing loss, self-care has been linked to potential complications, including worsening existing hearing loss.
The FDA so far approves the use of the term “hearing aid” only for those devices that are sold by authorized hearing care professionals, such as audiologists and hearing instrument specialists. Products sold online or via retail outlets cannot currently receive this designation and are often referred to as personal sound amplification devices, or PSAPs. The limited technological features on these devices mean that your user experience will be poorer than what you would receive from a prescribed hearing aid. Avoiding professional medical treatment could keep you in the dark about the severity of your hearing loss and its implications for your future health.
Hearing is one of the most important senses, and also among the most fragile, which is why we suggest making an appointment with a hearing care professional immediately to begin treating your hearing loss. Only prescription hearing aids are guaranteed to promote better and safer hearing with the added bonus of free or discounted medical visits to keep your ears working their best. For more information about FDA regulation and PSAPs, please click here.