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Many would benefit from hearing aids, but only
Hearing aids are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated medical devices that are worn in or behind the ear. Whether you can easily afford them or not, hearing aids can be expensive. On average, a set of hearing aids may cost anywhere from $900 to $6,000 or more.
Hearing aids vary significantly in cost, but this doesn’t always reflect their overall effectiveness. Like most things that we want to fit to our bodies, what works for one person may not work for another.
In some instances, more expensive hearing aids may come with high-end features, such as Bluetooth wireless connectivity or tinnitus masking.
Types of hearing aids
There are several styles of hearing aids:
- behind the ear (BTE)
- in the ear (ITE)
- in the canal (ITC)
- completely in canal (CIC)
No matter how they’re worn, each style has the same basic parts and works in a similar way.
A set of hearing aids may cost anywhere from $900 to $6,000 or more. They are meant to last for years with maintenance.
The full cost of hearing aids may include services and add-ons. This common practice is called “bundling” or “bundled pricing.”
Bundled pricing vs. unbundled
Bundled hearing aid costs include services such as:
- a hearing test
- consultation with a hearing professional
- fitting and adjustments as needed
- hearing aid cleanings
- a warranty that may include a one-time replacement of hearing aids
When costs of hearing aids are unbundled, you have the ability to pick and choose the line items you wish to buy. This may reduce your overall cost.
Your location and healthcare professionals
Other factors that affect the price of hearing aids include your state of residence and the hearing aid dispenser (audiologist) you are working with.
Hearing aid technology is constantly evolving. The newest hearing aids on the market are better than ever at clarifying sound. Some even have advanced features like artificial intelligence, Bluetooth connectivity, and features that help mask tinnitus.
That said, basic options are available for a lower cost if you’re on a budget. At a lower price point, you can expect less customization, limited fine-tuning, and the need for manual adjustments.
But that doesn’t mean you should settle for a low quality product. Even affordable hearing aids come in options with:
- wireless functionality, allowing two hearing aids to work together without a wire
- directional microphones, which enhance sounds in front of the hearing aid wearer
- noise reduction, by analyzing the sound signal and reducing background noise and static for better sound quality
In 2015, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology compiled a report on hearing technologies. This report identified several factors that escalate the cost of hearing aids. These factors include:
- lack of health insurance
- improved innovations in technology but not reduced consumer costs
- bundling of costs associated with hearing aids (discussed in detail below)
- manufacturing and sales practices, plus state regulations that inhibit consumers from cost-comparison shopping
These sales practices pertain, in part, to hearing aid dispensers who work with just a few handpicked manufacturers. When this happens, you may not be offered a complete range of hearing aid brands or models, including those that are budget-priced.
Hearing aid manufacturers may also have a very high markup on their base costs, which include parts, manufacturing, and employee salaries. These costs are built into the price of hearing aids.
In some instances, the high cost of hearing aids may be a barrier to getting them. To address this issue, the
OTC hearing aids will function the same way prescription hearing aids do. They’re different from personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), which only amplify sound.
The new OTC hearing aids are meant for people with
The hearing aids will be available at brick-and-mortar retailers like pharmacies. They will also be available online.
There are many online retailers that sell hearing aids at a reduced cost. Some manufacturers sell their own devices, too. Most online retailers are able to work with an existing copy of your audiogram (hearing prescription), and some provide free online hearing tests or phone consultations with a specialist.
Online hearing aids retailers include:
Lively sells their own brand of hearing aids online. To purchase Lively hearing aids, you’ll take a free hearing test online. Lively hearing aids connect to an app. Through the app, the Lively audiology team can adjust your hearing aids as needed.
Your hearing aids will come with 3 years of audiological care and a 100-day, risk-free guarantee.
Eargo hearing aids are sold directly to consumers online. Eargo hearing aids are self-fitting and don’t require an audiogram. Through an app, you can personalize Eargo hearing aids for sound environments such as windy outdoor areas and noisy indoor environments. A free Eargo hearing screening can be accessed online.
These hearing aids are nearly invisible in the ear and come with a 45-day, risk-free guarantee.
Costco hearing aids
Costco Hearing Aid Centers provide hearing services and devices to Costco members. In addition to selling brands like Phonak and Philips, Costco also has its own Kirkland Signature brand hearing aids.
Costco offers free follow-ups for hearing aid clients. This includes free cleanings and fittings. Most devices also come with a generous 180-day trial.
The downside is that you need to be a Costco member to shop at the center.
|Lively||yes||• free and online||• hearing aid connects to app|
• Lively audiologist team can help adjust settings
• 3 years of care
• 100-day, risk-free guarantee
|Eargo||no; self-fitting||• free and online||• can personalize aids for sound by environment through app|
• 45-day, risk-free trial
|Costco Hearing Aids||–||• free, but in-store|
• need to be a member
|• free follow-ups and cleanings for clients|
• 180-day trial period
Very few insurance plans cover the full cost of hearing aids. Some insurers provide partial coverage.
Original Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids. Some Medicare Advantage Part C plans may cover them, though.
Here’s what you might ask when calling your insurance provider to ask about coverage:
- Does my plan cover hearing aids?
- Does my plan include a stipend for the purchase of hearing aids? If yes, is the stipend per ear?
- Is coverage only through certain providers? Which ones? Can you send me a list of approved providers in my area?
- Can I use my stipend or claim a benefit for any kind of hearing aid? Or is coverage only for specific models?
- Is there anything else I need to know about coverage eligibility (e.g., does the degree of hearing loss play a role in coverage amount)?
Never buy hearing aids assuming your insurance will cover them. Most insurance providers require you to go through a process before filing a medical device claim, including getting a cost estimate, before they can guarantee any kind of coverage.
- Deals at some stores. Many people report getting better-than-expected deals through wholesale clubs and at big-box stores.
- Online stores. Online retailers may also provide cost savings by cutting out the middleman and showcasing a large variety of models and brands for you to choose between.
- Certain Medicare coverage. If you know you need hearing aids and are eligible for Medicare, shop for a Part C plan that covers the cost or partial cost of hearing aids.
- HSA or FSA, with insurance coverage. If you currently have a high deductible health insurance plan, you may be able to benefit from using a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) so you can pay for your hearing aids with pretax dollars.
- Ask for the itemized breakdown of costs. Ask your hearing aid dispenser to give you the unbundled breakdown of costs for your hearing aids. If there are items you feel you do not need, do not buy them.
- Choosing basic models. Eliminate expensive bells and whistles, such as Bluetooth capability and voice recognition.
- Clubs, organizations, or associations you may be part of. Check to see whether organizations you belong to, such as your school’s alumni club, provide discounts on hearing aids.
- Insights from healthcare professionals. If cost is a barrier, talk with your doctor, nurse, or audiologist. They may be able to identify affordable hearing aids that are priced within your budget. They also may be able to point you toward leasing options that allow you to make low monthly payments rather than paying the whole sum upfront.
Some hearing aid manufacturers provide payment plans that allow you to make monthly payments over a set amount of time, such as 1 year.
Be wary of “healthcare credit cards.” These may have terms that make it hard to manage or to pay back, such as interest rates that change and are high.
Organizations like Help America Hear work with people of all ages who have limited resources.
OTC hearing aids are a
Currently, the hearing devices you are able to purchase directly, without getting examined first by an audiologist, are personal sound amplification products, or PSAPs.
PSAPs are not hearing aids and are not recommended for people with hearing loss. They’re designed for people who wish to amplify sounds in noisy environments, such as parties.
Unlike hearing aids, PSAPs are not FDA-regulated medical devices.
They’re less expensive than hearing aids but can’t provide the same benefits to people with hearing loss. PSAPs can’t distinguish or separate speech from noise. They also cannot be customized to meet your specific needs.
PSAPs may even cause damage to hearing due to the increase in sound volume they provide.
Untreated hearing loss can have severe effects on quality of life, especially in older adults.
Untreated hearing loss can make it difficult to interact with others, causing people to isolate themselves socially. If you’re struggling to hear like you once did, you might also find yourself being quick to anger when you’re not easily understood.
Loss of hearing can also contribute to increased stress levels and depression. In older adults, hearing loss may increase the risk of developing neurological disorders like dementia, according to a
Using hearing aids can help people maintain independence. Since they eliminate a barrier to effective communication, hearing aids can enhance the social lives of people with hearing issues. They can also restore simple pleasures, like listening to music.
Ideally, you’ll visit an audiologist right when you start to notice hearing loss.
Why is it crucial to get a hearing test? Some forms of hearing loss happen because of underlying conditions. For example, some neurological conditions can cause hearing loss. In this case, getting a hearing aid won’t necessarily treat the issue.
An audiologist is also qualified to set you up with the best hearing aid option for your needs. They can even customize devices to your specific form and degree of hearing loss.
Hearing loss may be present from birth (congenital hearing loss) or occur later in life (acquired hearing loss). Here are some causes of hearing loss in adults:
- Otosclerosis: This disease makes it difficult for the bones in the middle ear to move. It usually requires treatment with surgery.
- Ménière’s disease: Doctors don’t know what causes this inner ear disorder. It can lead to vertigo, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and a feeling of fullness in the ear. Hearing loss comes and goes but may eventually become permanent.
- Autoimmune inner ear disease: This rare disorder happens when your body’s immune system attacks healthy cells in your inner ear. Hearing loss happens quickly.
- Ototoxic medications: Some medications can cause hearing loss, including aminoglycoside antibiotics, high doses of aspirin, and some chemotherapy drugs.
- Very loud noise: Loud noises can cause permanent damage to the ears and loss of hearing. Chronic exposure is the most common way this happens, but an extremely loud sound could cause sudden hearing loss.
- Acoustic neuroma: This tumor can cause ringing in the ears and hearing loss.
- Physical head injury: A traumatic brain injury (TBI) or damage to the middle ear or eardrum can cause hearing loss.
- Presbycusis: This sensorineural hearing loss occurs with age. Speech and sound may begin to sound muffled or unclear.
It may not be possible to prevent all causes of hearing loss, but there are some measures you can take to protect your hearing.
Because noise exposure is a major cause of hearing loss, wear ear protection when you’re exposed to loud noises, such as when using power tools, riding a motorcycle, or attending a concert. Also, turn down the volume on your headphones or earbuds, and take breaks from using them.
If you have health conditions that could lead to hearing loss, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you should work with your healthcare team to manage these conditions.
Smoking is also a risk factor for hearing loss, so it can be helpful to find a smoking cessation tool that works for you.
Lastly, attending regular health and hearing screenings is important, especially as you age. Early detection and treatment of any problems may help prevent or slow the progression of hearing loss.
Does Medicare cover the cost of hearing aids?
No. Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of hearing aids. Medicare Advantage C plans may provide some coverage, but it’s unlikely.
Can you buy just one hearing aid?
Of course! Most retailers allow users to buy hearing aid devices in singles or pairs.
Are hearing aids tax deductible?
According to the IRS, you can only deduct medical expenses, such as hearing aids, if they surpass 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.
How long do hearing aids last?
Most manufacturers claim their hearing aids will last on average about 3 to 7 years. This can vary depending on use.
Hearing aids are FDA-approved medical devices designed to improve hearing in people with hearing loss.
Hearing aids can be very expensive. Many, if not most, health insurance plans do not cover hearing aids. Neither does original Medicare.
There are strategies for reducing the cost of hearing aids. Financing and payment plan options may be available.
In some instances, your audiologist may be able to help you identify hearing aids that are affordable for you.