In almost any significant decision, you can be sure that money will be a factor. “Where should we spend our vacation?” “Should we get a new sofa, or spend a few more years on our ol’ reliable?” You may even ask yourself: “Is this medical expense worth my money?”
When medical bills amount to more than some people can count, you can’t blame someone for roughing it through a cold or ignoring an occasional headache. However, when it comes to your hearing, ignoring any problems you notice will more than likely lead to further loss of hearing, or perhaps even worse issues.
Hearing is one of the five main senses – the all-important ways we experience the world. It should be carefully maintained and treated with respect. But when the reported costs of looking after your hearing are full of conflicting information, it’s hard to know whether you’re putting your money in the right place.
To help you understand the pricing behind hearing aids, we’ve put together a cost guide to make sure you understand where your money is going, as well as helping you make the wisest investment. We’ve taken the most prescribed hearing aid manufacturers and supplied their lowest and highest prices for a single hearing aid, to show you the general range you’d be looking at when considering the average cost of hearing aids.
|Single hearing aid prices||Phonak||Oticon||ReSound||Widex||Signia|
Information updated May 2019
These prices are based on an average of multiple online prices. The final price given by your hearing specialist may vary from what we’ve given. To find out exactly how much a hearing aid will cost you, fill in this form for a consultation with a professional hearing specialist.
But I’ve seen hearing aids for sale at a tenth of the price!
If your response to the prices above sounded a little bit like that heading, allow us to explain.
It’s possible that you did your research before arriving at this article. If you did, you would have seen prices in the low $150 to $300 range. However, what you’re seeing is not a hearing aid. Instead, you’ve been looking at personal sound amplification products (PSAPs.)
If a hearing aid is a car, a PSAP is a bicycle. On paper, they serve the same function – “get me from A to B” – but in reality, they are entirely different concepts. Obviously a car costs a lot more than a bike, but the intricacies, research, and resources behind a car are far more complex than those behind a bike.
While hearing aids and PSAPs both serve the same function – “help me hear better” – they are as far removed as a car is from a bike. A PSAP is a basic rig comprising a simple microphone and speaker, whereas a hearing aid is much more complex. For more information on this, check out our “9 Reasons Not to Buy Hearing Aids Online” (spoiler alert: this is number 9.)
So why are hearing aids so much more expensive?
The technology behind PSAPs is one of the 21st century’s more common creations: the microphone and the speaker. Is a hearing aid really that much more complicated?
Firstly, when you’re buying a hearing aid, what you’re really buying is a package. Warranties, check-ups, services, and tunings are all generally bundled with the purchase of a hearing aid.
Secondly, modern hearing aids can do so much more than amplify nearby noise. Hearing aids can balance frequencies, manage feedback, account for direction, and perform wireless streaming (like Bluetooth.) As you can see, this is a much more powerful piece of equipment.
Finally, hearing aids are not lined up on the store walls to be taken and worn immediately. Ears are all shaped differently, and a hearing aid should be specifically crafted to fit your ear. This process involves creating a cast of your ear, and undergoing other tests to determine the severity and reasoning behind your hearing loss.
What is the cost breakdown?
So we’ve discussed why hearing aids are more expensive, but there are still more questions to be asked. Let’s see what this money is going towards.
In 2016, a human interest group known as The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) performed a comprehensive breakdown of the costs behind a $4,400 pair of hearing aids, which it calculated to be the average price. It should be stressed that these numbers are mostly averages.
The first bit of research was done to calculate the costs of the manufacturing. These costs are the essential bare minimum needed to produce the hearing aid:
- Research into creating the best product: $1,320
- Materials needed for construction: $440
- Total: $1,760
This means it costs a retailer $1,760 to buy a pair of hearing aids from the manufacturer.
After that, the AARP then looked further into the costs of the retailer, AKA your hearing specialist:
|Initial purchase from manufacturer||$1,760|
|Further product testing||$352|
|Operating licenses/company insurance||$132|
Information updated May 2019
While it may sound as though you’re being swindled by such a high price on such a small device, after looking at the numbers, you can see that only slightly more than 10% of your payment is going towards actual profit toward your hearing specialist (less if you account for the taxes they’ll have to pay.)
10% markup is on the very low end of the average markup spectrum, especially in the healthcare industry, where markups are commonly known to reach 1,000%. Need we mention the infamous case of the daraprim markup, where the price of a pill was raised by over 5,000% after the manufacturing company went through an acquisition?
Keep in mind, this theoretical $4,400 also goes toward the other aspects of your hearing aid package that we mentioned before, like the warranty and check-ups. This adds even more value to your purchase.
If, after reading this breakdown, you’re still somewhat tempted by the low price of the PSAP, allow us to dispel the illusion of the deal that these PSAPs are supposedly offering. The previous breakdown was performed by the AARP, but no such breakdown of PSAPs had been investigated.
Taking apart the PSAP
PSAPs are mainly made up of five components: a microphone, speaker, amplifier, volume control, and power source. We’ve taken the price of an average quality unit (found on the RS Components website) for each of these components to see if you’re getting your money’s worth.
|Speaker (per 1 unit)||$4.57|
|Power source (rechargeable battery)||$2.50-$7|
|Total (assuming highest price)||$34.71|
Information updated May 2019
Let’s be very generous and say $60 is spent on the PSAP in total, since we don’t know what is spent on packaging, shipping, and general production costs. And while we can’t know exactly what is spent on research, the system is fairly simple when it comes to electronics.
Even with this generosity, looking at the average price of the Google shopping results for “buy hearing aids online,” we can calculate a rough average of around $250. This is a markup of 316%. While you may be paying less, a smaller portion of your investment is going towards you.
Despite the effort we just went to, this is not to discount the usefulness of PSAPs. This is simply to demonstrate that if you are undergoing hearing loss and are concerned about getting your money’s worth, hearing aids are actually the smarter investment.
If you are undergoing hearing loss, don’t spend your money on an appetizer when your ears need an entrée. If you’d like a good jumping-off point, check out our article on the best hearing aids of 2019.
So how do I figure out prices for my hearing aids?
Even though we’ve given you plenty of information on the cost of a hearing aid, it is understandable if you still feel unsure.
This is because the only concrete way to really know how much your hearing aid is going to cost is to consult a hearing specialist. Their retail price will vary, and the type of hearing aid they recommend for you will obviously impact the pricing as well.
What’s the best way to meet with a hearing specialist?
Hopefully this article has helped your understanding of how much hearing aids cost, and why they cost what they do. There’s a saying: “A verbal contract is worth the paper it’s written on.” A similar expression could be made regarding hearing aids: “A hearing aid will only be as good as the person who is trained to fit it for you.”
If you follow this link, you’ll be directed to a form which will lead you to your nearest free consultation. During this consultation, you’ll be able to discuss prices with your specialist, and be told the exact numbers behind your purchase. The specialist will also be able to diagnose any further problems with your ears or hearing, and offer you further analysis and understanding of your condition.