There is no question that hearing aids are very expensive.
Here in New Brunswick they typically run from around $1200 to $4000 each. Within this price, you are not only paying for the device, but you are paying for the services as well. Hearing aids themselves are priced around $400 to $2700 each by the manufacturers. Seeing these prices, you will probably have two questions:
- Why do hearing aids cost so much?
- Why is the mark-up on hearing aids so high?
To answer the first question, hearing aids are essentially mini computers.
There is plenty of research currently being done on amplification. If this research did not take place, we would all be forced to wear Ear Trumpets. Google this and you will laugh at the images that come up!
Hearing aids have even changed over the past 5 years.
- Developers can now place twice as much power inside a smaller instrument.
- They are more cosmetically pleasing, and now have ample gain (volume) to bring your hearing back within normal limits. Hearing aids constantly change the amount of gain as well.
- For instance, if you were in a quiet room and you wanted to hear your wife, the hearing aid would detect the speech and increase the volume appropriately. If your son slammed the door while you were listening to your wife, the device would detect this loud sound and specifically cut it down so that it wouldn’t hurt your ear (or make you wince!).
- You can now hold the telephone up to your ear and hear the talker in both ears at the same time as the hearing aid wirelessly transmits the signal to the other ear.
Technically, a hearing-impaired person can now hear better on the phone than a person with normal hearing! It truly is amazing what they can do. You simply cannot get these features from amplified headphones available at electronic stores where they just turn everything up by the same amount. Hearing aids only amplify what is necessary. For instance, if you have a high-frequency hearing loss, the device only amplifies the high-frequencies and leaves the low-frequencies alone. They are very personalized and fine-tuned to your specific hearing test results.
The answer to the second question is not as straight-forward.
Unfortunately in New Brunswick, there are no regulations on the sales of hearing aids. If someone with no experience or education in hearing wanted to sell hearing aids, they could. I sadly have heard of this far too often. Even worse, they can sell that hearing aid for as much as they choose. Recently, a women came in to our clinic wearing a hearing device that wasn’t working, she paid $5000 for it. Upon looking at the hearing aid I found it was a low-end device and was not setup appropriately for the client’s hearing loss.
Firstly, this device should not have been sold for more than $1200 and secondly, buying a hearing aid will not help you hear better unless it is setup correctly. This is where I, as an audiologist, come in. I went to school for seven years to obtain a Master of Science in Audiology. We not only learn about hearing aids, how they work and how to program them, but we also learn in-depth anatomy of the ear and balance organs. With this knowledge, we can refer you onto an Ear Nose and Throat specialist if we suspect a tumor on the hearing nerve, or detect a hole in the eardrum, etc.
Upon purchasing a hearing aid, when there are no medical contra-indications, it has to be programmed specifically in a person’s ear. We measure the sound right at the eardrum so we know exactly what you are hearing. Without doing real-ear measures, such as this, it’s basically a guess to whether you are hearing to the best of your ability or not.
You could be wearing the best hearing aid, but unless it programmed correctly, it will likely not help you.
You are not only paying for the device, but you are also paying for the service. You cannot get these services over the internet, but you can get the device. You also need to make sure the device has enough (and more!) power to meet your needs. That way, in a year’s time, if your hearing decreased, the hearing aid can be reprogrammed. This is all included in the cost.
All adjustments to the sound quality, all cleaning services and all counselling is included in the price of the hearing aid for as long as it is working (which should be at least five years!). This cannot be done with a hearing aid that has too little power or one that was purchased over the internet. As an audiologist, I went to school to help those with hearing loss, like my grandfather, as it can be a significant impact on quality of life. I did not go to school to be in sales and I find selling hearing aids and explaining why they are so expensive is definitely the hardest part of the job. In saying that, I believe my colleagues have the same view.
We are here to assist you, educate you, and give you an informed choice so that you can make the best decision.