Hearing aids play a crucial role in assisting individuals with hearing loss, but their prices can be a significant concern. Currently, the cost of hearing aids can range from $1,500 for basic technology to as high as $7,000 for top-of-the-line models, including accessories. These prices have remained relatively consistent over time. However, with recent changes in the hearing aid industry, there is speculation about potential price reductions in the future. To understand the factors that contribute to these prices, you can explore this article.
The availability of OTC hearing aids provides consumers with more options and stimulates increased competition among companies. As a result, it is possible that the prices of professionally fit hearing aids may shift as the direct-to-consumer market becomes more competitive.
Now, let’s delve into the factors influencing the price of hearing aids and how these prices reflect the quality differences among the devices.
Hearing Aids Have Always Been Costly
Since I began my graduate degree in audiology, I have been aware of the substantial cost of hearing aids. I distinctly recall quoting someone the price of their new hearing aids and realizing that those hearing aids cost more than my car. It is worth mentioning that my car is likely to last longer than those hearing aids.
Hearing devices are undeniably not cheap. However, when we consider the cost of many medications, hearing aids are not exorbitant in comparison.
Let’s break down the projected cost of a high-end pair of hearing aids, which typically need replacement every five years:
|$6000||for the cost of hearing aids and initial fitting|
|$300||for 5 years of zinc aid batteries (or $300 for rechargeable hearing aids)|
|$400||for 2 out-of-warranty repairs|
|$200||for extra wax traps and domes|
|$6,900||The total 5-year cost of hearing aids|
Thus, the high-end hearing aids would amount to approximately $3.78 per day.
Comparing Hearing Aid Costs to Other Medical Expenses
Suppose you were diagnosed with diabetes; in that case, your daily treatment cost would be $15.
Treating high blood pressure costs approximately $1,200 per year, equating to a daily expense of $3.28.
High-end contact lenses amount to around $720 per year, resulting in a daily cost of $1.97.
The daily cost of antidepressant medication is approximately $8.
Furthermore, surgeries such as heart or back surgery can easily cost $50,000 or more at a time.
When comparing the cost of hearing aids to other medical expenses, the prices do not appear exorbitant. However, the fact that most insurance companies, including Medicare, do not cover hearing aids, makes the out-of-pocket cost of hearing aids significantly more challenging for consumers to bear.
Comparing Hearing Aid Costs to Consumer Electronics
Hearing aid costs may not be out of line with other medical expenses, but they are sometimes viewed more as consumer devices than medical devices. Some patients have even mentioned that their brand-new Apple iPhone costs around $1,200 and appears to offer far more capabilities than a hearing aid.
It is true that iPhones are incredibly powerful compared to hearing aids. However, hearing aids have to contend with challenges such as their small size and exposure to moisture in the ear canal. Moreover, hearing aids run on significantly less power, around 1.4 amps, compared to iPhones.
However, the fundamental difference lies in the scale of production. Apple sells approximately a billion units of the iPhone, while any hearing aid model is fortunate to sell a million units. Consequently, the cost of research for an iPhone can be spread out over a hundred times more units than that of a hearing aid, making it easier for Apple to recoup their investment compared to hearing aid manufacturers.
Why Do Hearing Aids Have High Costs?
Hearing aid manufacturers charge audiologists or hearing aid dispensers specific prices for hearing aids based on the volume of purchases. For example, let’s consider the hypothetical scenario of the manufacturer Starkey and a fictional practice called Hearing Aid Associates. If Hearing Aid Associates purchases 5 top-of-the-line hearing aids in a month, Starkey would charge them $2,100 per hearing aid. However, if the practice orders 25 top-of-the-line hearing aids, Starkey would charge them only $1,450 per hearing aid.
Since most practices are unlikely to sell 25 hearing aids, they end up paying $2,100 for each unit. Audiologists also need to cover the overhead costs of running their practices and ensure they make a profit to compensate for their full-time job managing the hearing aids. Consequently, running a hearing aid practice is not highly lucrative, and audiologists do not earn as much as their medical counterparts.
The main factor driving the cost of hearing aids is the ability to order them in larger quantities, which lowers the cost per unit. This is why Costco, for example, can sell hearing aids at a lower price compared to other audiology providers. The research and development costs associated with hearing aids are also substantial. Manufacturers invest significant resources in improving the ability of hearing aids to understand speech in noisy environments, leading to continuous advancements in product lines.
Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids Offer Potential Cost Savings
Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids present an intriguing prospect for individuals who are price-sensitive but may be concerning for those who have pursued audiology degrees. Nonetheless, OTC hearing aids are expected to have a positive impact overall.
The concept behind OTC hearing aids involves eliminating the need for professional services, which can result in cost savings. These hearing aids can be purchased online or in stores, and users can connect them to their cell phones, conduct hearing tests using mobile apps, and adjust the hearing aid settings themselves. This convenience and potential cost reduction are likely to make OTC hearing aids popular among consumers.
However, one potential concern with self-fit hearing aids is the need for repairs. Hearing aids often require frequent repairs, and it remains to be seen how successful individuals will be in managing self-fit devices in this regard.
Considering the anticipated increase in competition, prices of OTC hearing aids are likely to be low. This competition will be driven by the entry of new companies into the market, including major players like Apple, Philips, Bose, and Google, alongside the established hearing aid manufacturers. It is projected to become a $7 billion market per year, fostering intense competition among numerous companies.
As a result of this heightened competition, the prices of over-the-counter hearing aids may decrease, which could potentially drive down the cost of professionally fit hearing aids as well.
Will insurance ever start covering hearing aids? Insurance coverage for hearing aids is contingent upon the coverage provided by Medicare. Despite annual bills being introduced to the US Congress for hearing aid coverage, none have passed both houses and been signed by the president. Consequently, unless significant lobbying efforts occur, it is unlikely that hearing aids legislation and insurance coverage will change.
Are Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs) the same as hearing aids? PSAPs are simple amplification devices that do not meet the criteria of medical devices regulated by the FDA. Some PSAPs are advanced and effective devices, while others are low-quality products sold for as little as $20.