Q: Why do hearing aids cost so much?
There are many factors involved in the high cost of hearing aids but here are a few of the biggest reasons.
- Professional Services Required for Maximum Benefit
In order to receive the most benefit from hearing aids, a professional audiologist is involved in the fitting process which typically involves several office visits the first year—on average about 5 hours. Most audiologists will provide unlimited service during the warranty period (from one to three years) or beyond, for no additional charge. This follow-up care may be “bundled” into the upfront cost of the hearing aid. In other words, when a hearing aid is dispensed, these services are part of a package. Purchasing a bundled package may also include other services such as ear impressions, selecting/ fitting/adjusting/reprogramming the hearing aid, patient and family counselling regarding hearing aid use, maintenance and realistic expectations and follow-up appointments. I find it benefits everyone to be able to come to the office and get help without feeling like you are getting nickelled and dimed.
Mail order or budget clubs may sell hearing aids at lower prices because they usually have older technology and minimal office time. Mail order does not give the buyer any counselling or verbal instruction. Buyers may be charged for return visits and adjustments. In the long run, the patient may pay as much or possibly more than they would from a full-service audiology practice.
In the past, the minimum training required for a dispensing audiologist has been a master’s degree, which is now transitioning to a doctoral degree (Au.D.). I earned my doctorate degree in 2010 from A.T. Still University in Arizona. This was an additional 2 years of training that took place for me after graduating with my master’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 1989. Anyone going to college for a degree in Audiology now will need a doctoral degree and that is an 8 year program, which is quite an investment.
- High Tech/Low Volume
Hearing aids are sold in relatively low volume when compared with other electronic devices. For example, approximately 1.7 million hearing aids are sold in the U.S. per year as compared to several million stereos! And yet the amount of time and resources hearing aid manufacturers spend on development and research is considerable. One manufacturer reports spending more than twenty million dollars developing a single model.
- Return for Credit Policy
“Return for Credit” policies are standard among hearing aid manufacturers and required by state and federal hearing aid guidelines, allowing new hearing aids to be returned within 45 days in the state of Minnesota. The costs associated with these policies are considerable, especially for custom products, and naturally must be absorbed in the overall pricing structure. This adds to the overall cost of hearing instruments.
- “Because they are worth it!”
A patient of mine sent me a card after being fit with his hearing aids. In the card he thanked me for helping him hear better and then he wrote, “When people ask, “Why do these cost so much?” Answer: “Because they are worth it!”
Many studies show that wearing hearing aids improves relationships with their friends and family and allows people to retain their independence. Hearing the conversations also allows a person to be more social and this can help decrease depression and possibly even prevent dementia. So if wearing a hearing aid can do all that then the cost becomes more justifiable.
More information can be found at The Academy of Doctor’s of Audiology website