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Why Are Hearing Aids So Expensive?

This past week I received an email from one of our readers asking why hearing aids are so expensive. I thought it was an excellent question and most likely a question that many people are thinking but are afraid to ask. So I want to share my thoughts on this subject.

Hearing aids are very sophisticated electronic devices that we expect to work well in every situation from indoors to outdoors and from noisy places like a crowded restaurant to quiet places like the privacy of your own home. We expect to hear well on the telephone, understand the voices on the television and to be able to go to the theater and understand what is being said. We also expect these little devices to live inside of our ears which are full of hair, wax and moisture. Quite hefty expectations for such a small device!

My rep at one of the manufacturers explained to me that his company spends tens of millions of dollars every year on research and development of these devices as they try to design something that works most like the human ear, as well as understand the complex damages to the inner ear that occur when a person has a hearing loss. In essence they’re working on designing the most perfect product; the one thing that will revolutionize the industry and improve people’s lives for the better. This may be a longer lasting battery, Bluetooth capability or even a smaller, more invisible device that is impervious to ear wax and moisture.

The rep also explained that hearing aids have varied features and components inside, some that drive the cost up higher than others. For example, a hearing aid with two or more microphones will have a higher cost than one that only has one microphone. A hearing aid that is compatible with higher levels of technology (like Bluetooth) will likely have a larger price tag than your more basic level of technology.

You also have to look at the cost of the Audiologist whose time is worth quite a bit. At The Hearing Professionals, my team of Audiologists will test your hearing, help you select the correct hearing aid, fit it to your ear, program it, and provide follow-up adjustments. We also provide counseling on how to use the hearing aid, setting realistic expectations on what you can achieve from amplification and more. Every Audiologists at The Hearing Professionals has a four year degree from college; a post-graduate Masters Degree in hearing science and many have gone on to achieve their Doctoral Degree. So when buying a hearing aid you’re not just getting the device, but the knowledge and professional services of a true hearing healthcare expert.

For many people, hearing aids are not a luxury … they are simply a necessity. They improve the quality of life and allow you to participate when you otherwise might not be able to do so.

The average hearing aid user wears their hearing aid 12 hours a day or 4,380 hours every year. The average life expectancy of a hearing aid is four to five years which results in about 22,000 hours of usage. If the average cost of a hearing aid is $2,000, you’re looking at less than $1.10 per day to hear well. And that doesn’t sound like a large price to hear your friends and family members!

A recent search on eBay came up with over 1,200 hearing aid related items, with prices up to $10,000! Yes, it would be faster and easier to buy a used hearing aid on eBay, but it will also be far riskier as you never know if the device is really appropriate for you and your needs. If the hearing aids are set for someone else’s loss, they may be too loud for you, which may actually further damage your hearing. On the other hand, if the devices are set too soft or in the wrong frequencies, you won’t be able to hear what is being said. If you do find a hearing care office that will program your eBay purchase, you will end up paying dearly for their services. Many of these offices will charge you an office visit fee in addition to whatever the cost is for the services that you are receiving. In the end, many people pay more for a used hearing aid off of eBay then they would have paid if they purchased something new directly from the hearing care provider.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts. And don’t forget to visit our website at www.icanhearthat.com  or to visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theheairngprofessionals. You can also follow us on Twitter @thehearingpros.

About Adam Bernstein

Adam Bernstein is the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Milwaukee's premier hearing healthcare facility. As the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Mr. Bernstein has close to 20 years of experience in the hearing healthcare industry. He began his career in 1995 at GN Danavox, one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world. After leaving Danavox, Mr. Bernstein opened two hearing healthcare offices in Chicago, IL. In 2001 he moved to Milwaukee, WI and opened The Hearing Professionals. In 2008 he added a second Wisconsin office in the town of Brookfield. Today The Hearing Professionals is the largest private audiology practice in SE Wisconsin. Mr. Bernstein has written numerous articles on hearing healthcare which has appeared in newspapers throughout the country and has been interviewed by news programs regarding advances in the hearing industry. Mr. Bernstein a member of Unitron’s Customer Advisory Board and a graduate of The University of Minnesota. You can email him at adam@icanhearthat.com and you can visit The Hearing Professionals at www.icanhearthat.com.

5 responses »

  1. Awesome stuff and incredibly enlightening. Thanks for taking the time to write it and post it!

    Reply
  2. Hearing Aid Devices

    I have read the article,and i want to say thanks to you for exceptional information.
    You have provided deep and easily understandable knowledge to us.

    Reply
  3. Good article, but I think there is more to it as well. Sure, technology is important and drives the price a little bit. However, an iPhone is far more sophisticated than a hearing aid… but costs up to 6x less. Also, with the advent of digital signal processing technology, the tech in hearing aids is likely to become more and more commoditized.

    Reply
  4. Jim Billingsley

    Why is the average life of a hearing aids ( regardless of perchase price) only 4 to 5 years?

    Reply
    • How long an aid last depends upon the wear and tear – how well it’s been taken care of, how waxy the person’s ear is, how oily the skin is, etc. We’ve had patients whose hearing aids only last two years because of their skin (oil and wax). On the other hand, we’ve had patients whose aids have lasted 10 years or longer. Just think of your car, the better you take care of the car, the longer it will last.

      Reply

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