How Much Do Hearing Aids Cost & What Makes Them So Expensive?
You can't put a price on your hearing—can you? Hearing loss affects millions of Americans, and no one is immune. One in eight people over 12 years old in the US have hearing loss in both ears, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
However, of those suffering from hearing loss who could benefit from the use of hearing aids, only 30% of those 70 and older have ever used hearing aids. The percentage is even lower for adults between 20 and 69—only 16% of those in this age bracket with hearing loss have tried hearing aids.
Sadly, one of the primary reasons why those who could benefit from hearing aids are not using them is due to cost. So, you may be asking yourself—why are hearing aids so expensive?
Average cost of hearing aids
While the cost of hearing aids varies greatly, if you're considering one, you've probably already wondered: how much do hearing aids cost? A report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology found the average price of a single hearing aid is $2,300 or more. Since most people with hearing loss will have hearing loss in both ears and purchase as a pair, it's no wonder that many people spend $5,000 or more on their hearing aids.
As you can imagine, this is a price point that's out of reach for many of those with hearing loss—especially when the vast majority of health insurance plans, as well as Medicare, do not provide coverage for hearing aids or the services surrounding them.
While these prices are fairly consistent across the country at in-person clinics and audiologist offices, companies like Lively are leveraging technology to reduce those costs. Lively offers high quality and professionally-tuned hearing aids online for $1,850 a pair, which includes two three of audiology care.
What is included in the cost of hearing aids
When you break it down, there are several factors that go into answering the question of "why are hearing aids so expensive?". Some of these contributors to cost include:
The operating costs of a clinic
The costs of operating a clinic include the time of the clinic staff, the rent and facility fees, numerous technology investments, and the additional time the clinic owner spends operating the business. Because the average clinic sells roughly twenty hearing aids per month, there aren't that many customers to help cover the burden of those costs. What clinics bring to a community in terms of geographic accessibility, they also lose in terms of less efficient allocation of resources — for example, a national teleaudiology firm can help defray technology costs across operations across the country.
Lack of insurance coverage
As mentioned previously, most insurance companies do not cover or offer reimbursement for hearing aids or the services necessary to maintain them. "Within that lack of reimbursement, is not only a lack of reimbursement for the technology itself—it's a lack of reimbursement regarding the services required to help a person be successful with their hearing aids," says Callahan.
Hearing aids are not a one-and-done deal. There's a lot that goes into helping a person hear better and succeed with hearing aids, so that he or she can hear the world better and feel comfortable. It's (unfortunately) not as easy as putting a hearing aid in your ear and going on your way. Hearing aids need to be serviced initially, meaning they need to be fitted properly, programmed, and adjusted by an audiologist to make sure they will work their best and don't interfere with your active lifestyle. And, with insurance usually not covering the cost of the audiologist's services, many audiologist offices are forced to integrate the cost of their care into the cost of the hearing aids themselves.
High cost from manufacturer
Audiologists and hearing clinics purchase hearing aids from manufacturers at fairly high prices. The reason is threefold:
First, hearing aids are produced in much smaller quantities than other consumer electronic devices such as iPhones or televisions. Millions of dollars of research go into creating the technology that enables hearing aids to improve people's hearing, and that cost is naturally a component of the cost of the devices that consumers buy.
Second, individual audiology clinics rarely have the ability to buy hearing aids in bulk, so their ability to negotiate volume discounts is limited. By comparison, a company like Lively is able to approach a manufacturer with a much larger purchase commitment, and then pass the bulk savings on via lower prices.
Finally, only a handful of manufacturers and companies are producing this technology. With fewer than ten companies manufacturing hearing aids and dominating the marketplace, there are few forces in the marketplace pushing down the overall cost of hearing aids.
Many people will end up buying what they believe is the "top of the line" hearing aid due to the way the audiologist has positioned it, often by what exciting features they discuss. Some of these features may be very useful, but others are not as crucial as your hearing itself and are really extraneous add-ons that can drive up your cost.
Is more expensive always better?
Some offices may try to sell you the "latest and greatest" hearing aid. Yes, these very expensive hearing aids are great and do have new and noteworthy technology—but are they really necessary for your personal needs? It depends, of course, on what you're looking for.
"For the most part, the more expensive ones are going to be your most advanced technology available and your cheapest ones will be just that, cheap, but there's a whole realm in the middle where you can get pretty great technology that's going to service your needs," says Callahan.
Additionally, according to Callahan, many of the mid-priced hearing aids have the same technology and chip as the most expensive versions. These hearing aids are simply "defeatured" meaning they don't have the same bells and whistles that the expensive versions have.
The hearing aid you end up choosing should be the one that's right for your hearing loss, your budget, and your lifestyle. Hopefully, the trend of making hearing aids more accessible, at a much more affordable price point — as Lively is doing — will continue. After all, everyone deserves to hear the world the way it was meant to be heard.