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Buying a hearing aid is worse than buying a car…part 2.

January 21, 2013

So, now that you have found you will have to pay out for a hearing aid, what do you do?  The hearing aid market is like that for most medical equipment.  It is almost impossible to find out prices or comparison shop.  Most hearing aids are sold by audiologists (hearing professionals with a doctorate degree, comparable to optometrists).  Audiologists are great for fitting hearing aids, but the problem is in this setting they are also selling the hearing aids.  They tend to carry a limited selection of brands and make more money the more you spend.  Not much incentive to help you get the best hearing aid within your budget.

In researching this subject, I found some excellent articles offering advice for negotiating this maze.  Consumer Reports did a study in which they followed 12 people shopping for hearing aids and using them.  They also surveyed 1100 people who had bought hearing aids about their experiences.  You can read all about what they found here.  Tricia Romano, a blogger for the New York Times, wrote about her experiences in 30 years of hearing aid use and buying her latest aid in her article The Hunt for an Affordable Hearing Aid.  Her experiences were quite eye opening.  One thing that surprised me was that you can buy a hearing aid at Costco.  Both Ms. Romano and Marilyn Weinhouse (a blogger who writes about hearing aids and related technology) reported that it is indeed possible to get high quality aids at Costco and the prices are somewhat lower than the industry average.  As one would expect, the level of service will not be what you would get from an audiologist or from a brand-name store.  You would need to do your research ahead of time and understand the various features available and the circumstances in which they are useful.  The Consumer Reports article mentioned above does a good job explaining these.

As I discussed in my last post, Medicare and most insurance do not cover the cost of hearing aids.  This cost will come out of your pocket unless you are extremely lucky and have a policy that offers good coverage.  I posted a petition on We the People, the White House petition site, asking the Obama administration to address this issue.  If you think Medicare should cover the treatment of hearing loss, follow this link to sign the petition:

One Comment leave one →
  1. Andrew permalink
    May 8, 2013 11:27 am

    Under no circumstances should hearing aids be covered by insurance. The reason aids are so expensive now is largely the fact that they are regulated as medical devices. All we need now is to have a guaranteed payor to drive the prices up even more.

    An ipod has much more sophisticated circuitry than a hearing aid and cost a lot less. 5 of the 6 major manufacturers use the same chips from ON semiconductor, and refresh their lines whenever ON Semiconductor comes out with a new version. If I could make and sell hearing aids without FDA approval, I could make a high end one for $50 or less (and sell them for $500, of course).

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