August 31, 2010

Ask the Audiologist

Flint,-RachelBy Rachel Flint, AU.D.
Audiology Consultants, P.C.

Why Do Hearing Aids Cost So Much?

You know the feeling you get when someone has just quoted you a price that is much higher than you expected? Yeah, that one! When was the last time you had that feeling? Was it a car repair? A home repair? Maybe a service charge on your cell phone? Maybe it was when you were purchasing a new pair of hearing aids! Many people are surprised by the seemingly high cost of hearing aids, and that is understandable. What is it, exactly, that you are purchasing for that amount of money?

The most obvious answer may be the cost of the parts and production of the device. However, a lot more goes into a hearing aid than the parts and pieces. Before a hearing aid is designed, a lot of research goes into what that hearing aid will do and how it will accomplish that task. For example, many hearing aids now have background noise management technology. It takes a team of researchers to study how background noise effects conversations, what makes noise different from the speech you are trying to hear, and how we can make a hearing aid sort the noise from the speech. Others determine what components will be necessary to make this new technology work. Then, other researchers look into how to make this new hearing aid attractive. It can have the best technology there is, but if it’s an ugly hearing aid, how many people are really going to wear it? Each new design of hearing aid and each new development in hearing technology comes with the cost of the research behind it.

Then, there is the audiologist. Many audiologists bundle in the charge for their services with the purchase price of the hearing aid. This means that you are purchasing the audiologist’s time and expertise as well as the hearing aid. An audiologist uses his or her training to help prescribe the best hearing aid technology for you and your hearing loss. This decision is based on both the results of your hearing test and your report as to the situations in which you are having the most difficulty. Once the hearing aid is ordered, the audiologist then programs, or sets, the hearing aids to get you the right amount of volume for your hearing loss. When the audiologist fits you with your hearing aids, there are tests done to make sure the hearing aids are working as well as they should be. Often, the audiologist will need to make adjustments to this programming based these tests and on your listening experience. This may take a few visits. After that, there is the routine maintenance and repairs- just like any other mechanical device, hearing aids do sometimes break down.

There are many different types of hearing aids available today. Some have all the latest technology and all the “bells and whistles.” Some aids have very basic technology and others are somewhere in between. The level of technology that is used in the hearing aid has the most bearing on the cost of that hearing aid. When purchasing new hearing aids, be sure to discuss your listening needs as well as your price-range. Ask the
audiologist to explain what comes with the purchase of your hearing aids. What kind of a warranty will you receive? Do you get services such as programming and maintenance? If so, for how long? Does the audiologist do anything to verify that the hearing aid you purchased is really doing what it’s supposed to do? Your audiologist is willing help you find the best possible solution that will give you the best listening experience possible with your budget.

So, what’s the bottom line? You are not just purchasing hearing aids! The price tag may seem high at first, but remember- you are investing in your hearing! Hearing is your connection to the world around you and the people you love- which is priceless!