What should hearing aids cost?

For those of us with hearing loss, there are significant social, emotional and cognitive benefits of wearing hearing aids that have been professionally fit and properly maintained.

Why then does only about 25% of the population with significant hearing loss wear hearing aids?

Although the answer to this question is multilayered and complex, one of the perceived barriers to wearing hearing instruments is cost. Hearing aids are typically bundled with the services that support them. These bundled services should include earwax removal, a diagnostic hearing assessment and report, hearing aid selection and fitting using real ear measurements, hearing aid maintenance and any service repairs under warranty, annual hearing testing and hearing aid reprogramming as needed.

Lifetime Services

These services typically last the lifetime of the hearing aid which is on average about 5-7 years. If a clinic provides good follow-up services for this amount of time, it is challenging to get the price of a decent hearing aid much below a thousand dollars per device. Ways to reduce the price of hearing aids lower than this is to either reduce the quality of the hearing aid, reduce the quality of services provided or unbundle the services from the hearing device itself. Many online and mail-order retailers present “sound amplifiers” in an unbundled model in order to further reduce costs. Hearing aids are different from sound amplifiers in that hearing aids are a medical device and regulated by the College of Speech and Hearing Professionals of BC. Because hearing aids are regulated medical devices, they are fit by a licensed professional and require specific procedures only possible in the clinic (such as calibrated equipment, bone conduction testing and real ear measurements).

Cost versus Performance

Research shows that individuals who purchase sound amplifiers as compared to hearing aids are less satisfied with these unbundled devices and tend not to wear them. In the future, artificial intelligence and machine learning may help to improve performance with lower cost, unbundled devices. Currently, for the vast majority of individuals with hearing loss, higher performance and satisfaction will be achieved when they purchase hearing aids from a licensed professional and reputable hearing clinic.