Hearing Aid Affordability

Hearing Aid Cost

Many people with hearing loss believe that hearing aids are far too expensive, and that audiologists and dealers get a huge markup on them. One potential salvation is the growing trend for health insurance to cover hearing aids.

Another idea with growing support is that of a tax credit for hearing aid purchases.

Doctor creates affordable hearing aids costing less than $200

February 2013 – General Hearing Instruments Offers Hearing Aids Online

February 2013 – The Case for Unbundling Hearing Aid Prices

February 2013 – Hearing Aid Prices Much Higher Than Their Actual Cost

February 2013 – Inexpensive Hearing Aid Available Online

January 2013 – hi HealthInnovations Extends Hearing Aid Marketing Push to Veterans

November 2012 – Affordable Hearing Aids Now Available to U.S. Veterans

October 2012 – Why Medicare Should Pay For Hearing Aids

October 2012 – The Hunt for an Affordable Hearing Aid

 

September 2012 – Can a Low-Cost Hearing Aid be Effective?

 

September 2012 – Hearing Aid Dispensers Try to Block Sale of Hearing Aids as Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs)

 

September 2012 – Smaller, Hipper, Less Expensive Alternatives to Traditional Hearing Aids

 

June 2012 – Americans Are Paying Too Much for Hearing Aids

 

April 2012 – Can Two Young Entrepreneurs Solve The High Cost Of Hearing?

 

April 2012 – United Health/hi HealthInnovations Pulls Online Test

 

April 2012 – FDA Halts hi HealthInnovations’ Online Hearing Test

 

April 2012 – HearPO Extends Hearing Healthcare Benefits to Millions of Americans

 

March 2012 – UK’s National Health Care Includes Siemens IMPACT Hearing Aides

 

February 2012 – HLAA Favors More and Less Expensive Hearing Aid Access

 

January 2012 – TruHearing to Provide Discount Hearing Services to 56 Million VSP Vision Care Members

 

October 2011 – Health Insurer to Provide Reduced Cost Hearing Aids

 

September 2011 – UW-Madison program provides reconditioned hearing aids

 

August 2011 – Encouraging Transparency in Hearing Aid Pricing

 

May 2011 – HLAA Tries To Make Hearing Aids More Affordable

 

May 2011 – Survey Highlights Gaps In Consumer Knowledge of Hearing Loss

April 2011 – NIDCD Works to Make Hearing Health Care More Affordable and Accessible

 

February 2011 – Hearing Healthcare Reform: Making Hearing Aids Affordable

 

September 2010 – VA Contract for Hearing Aids – Minutes from VA Meeting in Washington, DC

 

July 2010 – HLAA Convention: How to Pay for Hearing Aids

 

March 2010 – Doctor creates affordable hearing aids costing less than $200

 

January 2010 – Need help paying for that hearing aid?

 

July 2008 – $200 hunter aid better than $1500 hearing aid

 

January 2008 – Lions Clubs International Foundation/Rexton Program for Low-Cost Digital Hearing Aids

February 2006 – Think hearing aids cost too much? Think they should be covered by insurance? How about tax credits? Then you should read Charlea Baker’s article on this important topic.

October 2005 – Here’s an article on an organization that provides reduced-cost hearing aids to people with modest means.

June 2005 – And here’s what some of our readers thought about Dr. Ross’ article on OTC hearing aids.

May 2005 – Here’s Dr. Mark Ross’ objective and dispassionate look at the hot issue of over-the-counter hearing aids.

May 2004 – Here’s an excellent article on hearing aid costs by Cheryl Heppner of NVRC.

February 2004 – The Lions Clubs have long served people with hearing loss by providing financial assistance to who can’t afford hearing aids. Now they’re taking that concept one step farther bydeveloping their own low-cost hearing aid.

October 2001 – There has been a flurry of activity recently regarding requiring health insurance companies to cover hearing aids. Talk about an idea whose time has come! Here’s an article on a bill in the U.S. House to require Medicare to cover hearing aids.

Not everyone is in agreement with that opinion, of course. Here’s an audiologist with the opinion that hearing aids have normal markups.

 

Here’s an eloquent expression of the opinion that hearing aid markups are too high.

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The Case for Unbundling Hearing Aid Prices

February 2013

First, let me just say that-the last time I looked-the practice of bundling prices for hearing care services and products is not on the list of mortal sins. I know a ton of dispensing professionals-probably some of the best in the nation-who do not unbundle their prices. And I understand that there really are a few good reasons (besides the old answer “because that’s how I’ve always done it”) why most professionals prefer to keep their prices bundled.  However, as our market continues to change and new threats to the conventional distribution system emerge, I think it’s in every hearing care professional’s best interest to unbundle their product and service pricing. In this issue of HRP, long-time contributor Amyn Amlani, PhD, gives us perhaps the most persuasive reason yet: increased perceived value. With unbundled pricing, this study shows that there is a transparency that the experienced consumer perceives. For the inexperienced consumer, unbundling provides an enhanced sense that, in Dr Amlani’s words, “minimizes the value that a hearing aid is a high-risk, low-reward investment.”  Full Story

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Hearing Aid Prices Much Higher Than Their Actual Cost

February 2013

Even though consumers can pay thousands dollars for a single hearing aid, a CBC News investigation has found that the actual cost of making a hearing aid averages around $150. That figure comes from the operator of Audicus Inc., an online company that distributes hearing aids direct from the manufacturer at a reduced cost to customers around the world. Audicus president Patrick Freuler says he has broken out the cost of a typical hearing aid, based on his own research with manufacturers. “The typical cost to produce a hearing aid [is] anywhere between $50 to up to $200,” Freuler said in an interview from his office in New York. He said the price depends on how many features are within the hearing aid, whether or not it hasBluetooth capability, or multiple channels and microphones. “It can go all the way down to the tens of dollars. But if you want to take an average cost, it is $150,” said Freuler. Prices of hearing aids at Audicus.com range from about $400 to $600.  Full Story

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hi HealthInnovations Extends Hearing Aid Marketing Push to Veterans

January 2013

Fresh on the heels of an order from the Food and Drug Administration to remove a hearing test from its website last spring, hi HealthInnovations is pushing further into the hearing aid market with a new discount program for military veterans and their spouses. The company, an affiliate of insurance behemoth UnitedHealth Group, made a controversial entry into the hearing aid market in 2011 when it offered direct-to-consumer hearing aids at sharply discounted prices with no out-of-pocket costs to some Medicare Advantage members. Veterans could prove an extremely lucrative market for the company. Hearing aid sales to the Department of Veterans Affairs comprised 20 percent of more than 2.1 million total units sold through September, according to the Hearing Industries Association. (HIA Statistical Reporting Program. Third Quarter 2012.)  Full Story

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Affordable Hearing Aids Now Available to U.S. Veterans

November 2012

hi HealthInnovations, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company and Optum business, has launched a new program to make hearing aids more affordable for U.S. veterans and their spouses. The new program offers veterans and their spouses high-quality, custom-programmed digital hearing aids for as little as $649 to $849 each, depending on the model chosen. That compares to some hearing aids that retail for as much as $4,000 each. Hearing loss is a growing health concern for some veterans, in part because of their history of noise exposure experienced during their time of service. Hearing loss is the second most common health condition among veterans, affecting more than 670,000 members of the armed forces nationwide, according to The Hearing Journal. To access the discount program, veterans work with a health professional, such as an audiologist, hearing aid dispenser or primary care physician, to get their hearing tested.   Full Story

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Why Medicare Should Pay For Hearing Aids

October 2012

I watched as my husband climbed our hardwood steps and stopped to pick up a coin that fell from his pocket; he had heard it bounce on the floor. Earlier in the day, he had called me at work to ask if we should “do something” about the black crows that have nested in our front yard tree. “They make a racket,” he told me. Last night at dinner, we were able to have our first conversation in five years that didn’t require shouting to be heard and later, as we watched “Parenthood” in bed, the TV volume was comfortable for both of us. Yes, my husband just got hearing aids — one in each ear. They sit diminuatively and hidden behind each ear, truly invisible to the eye. How something so small can function so large is a wonderment. They set us back $4,000, which means we will be making budget sacrifices to pay for them. And here’s the real rub: Medicare won’t pay a dime for them. My husband is 77 and one of the 38 million Americans who needs help hearing. There is a strong relationship between aging and hearing loss: 18 percent of American adults 45- to 64-years-old, 30 percent of adults 65- to 74-years-old, and 47 percent of adults 75-years-old or older have a hearing loss problem, reports the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.  Full Story

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The Hunt for an Affordable Hearing Aid

October 2012

The crackling noises coming from my left ear weren’t a good sign. Last year, when my decade-old analog hearing aid started making popping sounds, I knew I had to replace it. But because hearing aids are so costly and generally aren’t covered by insurance, I had put it off. I soon learned that in the last 10 years, purchasing a hearing aid had become even more difficult and confusing than buying a new car – and almost as expensive. The first salesman I visited, in Los Angeles, looked at the hairline fracture on my wax-encrusted aid. He warned me that it could shatter in my ear and advised me to get a new one on the spot. Alarmed, I visited Hearx, the national chain where I had bought my previous aids. There, a fastidious young man spread out a brochure for my preferred brand, Siemens, and showed me three models. The cheapest, a Siemens Motion 300, started at $1,600. The top-of-the-line model was more than $2,000 – for one ear. I gasped.  Full Story

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Smaller, Hipper, Less Expensive Alternatives to Traditional Hearing Aids

September 2012

To many people, hearing loss represents another step in the dreaded march to old age. In fact, only about 20% of the 36 million Americans who could benefit from a hearing aid actually use one, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Diseases Many audio-speaker manufacturers are jumping into the hearing-aid market due to a recent FDA ruling that hearing-assist devices could be sold over-the-counter. Melinda Beck has details on Lunch Break. Photo: Patrick Conlon/The Wall Street Journal. Now, a wave of new devices that are smaller, hipper and sold over-the-counter are trying to win over more consumers-and appeal to the growing number of younger people with hearing damage from loud music. One upcoming model is a smartphone app. Others look like MP3 players or Bluetooth headsets. Some can barely be seen at all. They’re also less expensive: Traditional hearing aids can cost more than $4,000 per ear and aren’t covered by Medicare or most insurers. Often likened to “reading glasses” for the ears, many of the new models come preset to boost sounds in the high frequencies that most people lose first. That lets consumers bypass audiologists, who have traditionally controlled the market by giving hearing tests and selling custom-programmed hearing aids. Technically, many of the new devices are “personal sound amplification products,” or PSAPs, intended to help people with normal hearing better hear in situations like noisy restaurants and large gatherings, according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines issued in 2009. Hearing aids, by contrast, are medical devices for the hearing-impaired and subject to FDA approval, the agency says.  Full Story

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Americans Are Paying Too Much for Hearing Aids

June 2012

The healthcare industry is failing to address a massive, treatable epidemic. 36 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, a number that is only increasing as the population ages. Hearing loss has been linked to chronic disease, depression and even reduced earnings, and the health benefits of treatment are clear, with studies showing that hearing aids profoundly improve quality of life, and can even prevent brain atrophy. Nonetheless, the hearing care industry seems content with a status quo characterized by inflated costs and low adoption, in effect turning a deaf ear toward untreated hearing loss. America’s hearing aid market is broken. Given the benefits, a consumer might reasonably expect the free market to provide a selection of affordable hearing aid options. That consumer would be sorely disappointed. Today you can walk into an Apple store and take home an iPhone for $650, but if you want to buy hearing aids you’ll have to shell out around $5,000. To put this number in perspective, Apple spent about 23 times as much on research and development last year as William Demant, the manufacturer of Oticon hearing aids. Hearing aid adoption has stagnated around 25% for years and increasingly high prices have surely played a role.  Full Story

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United Health/hi HealthInnovations Pulls Online Test

April 2012

The online hearing test developed by hi HealthInnovations and designed to prescribe amplification for the company’s hearing aids has been taken down for “enhancements”, according to the company as originally reported online by the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). There is no mention about when the test will go back online, and hi HealthInnovations did not immediately respond toHR. Currently, the test is preceded by a Web page that provides instructions on how to get a hearing test that states: “Ask your physician for a hearing test. We have provided hearing test kits to many physicians, but if your physician does not have a kit, please ask them to call [phone number].” When one clicks on the “Start Hearing Test or Enter Audiogram Results”, which at one time brought visitors to the “Home version”- the most controversial of the company’s hearing tests-it now only allows visitors to enter values from an audiogram.  Full Story

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Can Two Young Entrepreneurs Solve The High Cost Of Hearing?

April 2012

You may be starting to get an understanding of why this is not a simple problem to tackle. And, really, it’s just the beginning, as the Embrace Hearing co-founders tell us that there’s even more friction when it comes to distribution. Audiologists (health care professionals who specialize in hearing, and the loss thereof) control the majority of sales in the U.S. market. While these specialists provide essential services, they use the sale of hearing aids to their own gain, often charging markups of three to five times – because they can. Not only that, but the clever business people they are, they bundle re-fittings and follow-up visits into the cost, generally using this as the explanation for why hearing aids cost so much. The Embrace co-founders say that the reality of the situation, however, is that only 20 percent of customers make five or more visits to audiologists in the year after being fitted for the device. For those who fall into that category, the insurance and other benefits might make sense, but for most it doesn’t.   Full Story

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HLAA Favors More and Less Expensive Hearing Aid Access

February 2012

HLAA likewise has always encouraged consumers to work closely with a hearing health care professional they trust as the best way to become a successful hearing aid user. But let’s take a step back and ask ourselves if this traditional approach is reaching most people who could benefit from hearing aids. We all know the answer is no. With 75 percent of people who could benefit from hearing aids not taking steps to treat their hearing loss, we are failing a large percentage of people who could improve their quality of life, remain independent into old age and stay on the job without retiring early. The hi HealthInnovations approach is new and untried. A lot hinges on the accuracy of the test they plan to use to triage the best candidates for open-fit amplification, how well the devices work, and whether or not first-time users can be successful hearing aid users without face-to-face care. Is it going to work? Only time will tell. But let’s give it a chance and not sabotage it from the outset so that consumers can be the ultimate judges.   Full Story