Any hearing aid user can tell you that hearing aids are expensive. Both patients and medical professionals agree that the cost is high, sometimes too high for patients to afford. That often leads people to put off getting a hearing aid, resulting in the problem becoming even worse.
This leads us to the obvious question, why are hearing aids so expensive in the first place? Today we’ll answer that question by breaking down what goes into the cost of a hearing aid. First, however, let’s cover how expensive hearing aids are for those who might not know.
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How Much Do They Cost
According to the American Association Of Retired People, the average cost of a mid-level set of hearing aids is between $4,400 and $4,500. That breaks down to $2,200 to $2,250 per ear.
That’s a big expense, especially when you consider that most hearing aids need to be replaced every three to seven years. If someone needs hearing aids throughout their life, they could easily end up in major debt. So, why are hearing aids so expensive?
Necessary Research and Development
A lot of research and development goes into the creation of hearing aids, due to the constant changes in medical technology. Every year millions of dollars go into making hearing aids smaller, more natural-looking, and better at re-creating a natural sound quality.
These changes require the involvement of sound engineers, electrical engineers, computer engineers, programmers, and audiologists. That’s a lot of people to keep on the payroll, which definitely contributes to the overall cost of hearing aids.
When you put all of that together, it’s plain to see that a lot of money goes into the R&D side of hearing aids.
When it comes to actual manufacturing costs, there’s no set price attached to making a hearing aid. In general, most experts estimate that the cost to manufacture a hearing aid is between $100 and $300 dollars.
With that in mind, it’s clear that the retail price is severely marked up compared to what it costs to make the aid. That markup might be challenged if there were more manufacturers or more consumers for the product, but currently, it’s largely unchallenged.
A Limited Market
Approximately two million hearing aids are sold per year in the U.S. While that sounds like a huge number, it’s actually considered a pretty small market when you compare it to the total number of people in the U.S. which is around 319 million.
That means that only around 1% of Americans are buying hearing aids, resulting in the manufacturer’s upping prices to ensure that they make a profit. The limited market also means that there are limited options when it comes to choosing a hearing aid. That allows the companies that do make them to essentially charge what they want, without the fear of losing business.
Hopefully, more manufacturers will arise in the future to help combat this issue. Until then, the FDA has offered some hope to consumers in the form of mandating that hearing aids may be sold over the counter in some cases.
This is mostly aimed at helping consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss, who may not need as much intervention. It does however offer hope that the prices of hearing aids may be challenged in the future as more options become available.
Doctor Costs and Overhead
Another important factor to consider when calculating why hearing aids are so expensive is the cost of doctors, who need to make a profit and cover their overhead. In order to ensure a hearing aid will work properly, a doctor needs to fit the patient with an aid.
This takes roughly three to six hours per patient and the doctor will need to perform a hearing exam, evaluation, fitting, and then program the hearing aid. That all costs money, and so does the office, receptionist, equipment, and time of the doctor. That adds up fast but is necessary to ensure the patient gets the most out of their hearing aid.
Sometimes, doctors will say that they aren’t charging a fee for the exam. In those cases, the cost of the exam is usually rolled into the cost of the hearing aid itself. This results in the hearing aid looking more expensive than it actually is.
If you believe you may have a hearing problem a hearing doctor can help you decide if you need a hearing aid.
In-ear hearing aids need to be molded to a patient’s ear in order to fit correctly. This customization takes time, skill, effort, and training to master. All of those things come together to make the best hearing aid possible, but they also cost a lot of money.
Customization costs can add up quickly and it’s a huge contributor to the overall price of a hearing aid.
Return Policies and Extended Warranties
Most hearing aids come with money-back guarantees. This means that if a patient isn’t happy with the hearing aid they receive they can return it and receive part or all of what they paid.
These returned hearing aids can’t be resold, so the cost of the return falls on the provider or manufacturer. In order to avoid losing profit, these providers and manufacturers roll the potential return costs into the cost of their hearing aids.
This means that even if the return is “free” it was still paid for by the markup that was applied to the aid’s overall price. These markups are also designed to cover the cost the company incurs if they have to take back a defective product that’s still under warranty.
There are many factors that influence the cost of hearing aids, but there are also companies fighting to provide affordable options to patients. Do your research before buying an aid and fight the provider that’s right for you, and your budget.
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