If you have been through the process of getting a hearing aid, you’ve probably scratched your head when looking at the bill.
Hearing aid prices can range from $1,500 to $3,500 per unit. According to the President’s Council for Science & Technology, the average price is $2,300 per unit. Double that if you need one for each ear!
To the average American household, this is equivalent to up to 2 months of income! In other words, hearing aids aren’t exactly cheap.
Below we cover a detailed explanation on why exactly hearing aids are so expensive. Understanding why these costs have rocketed can help you understand how it’s possible for us to produce hearing aids that retail for much less. We discuss hearing aid pricing and then move on to the low-cost hearing aid options available.
Escalation of Hearing Aid Prices: Why Are There No Low-Cost Hearing Aids?
While the price itself seems exorbitant, what is even worse is its continuous pace of growth: in the last decade, the price of an average Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aid has more than doubled. Even today, price points are not receding. Typically, we don’t see low-cost hearing aids.
Most hearing aids today are made up of digital signal processors. What is surprising is that digital technology was expected to reduce the production cost of a hearing aid.
After all, digital technology has also made consumer electronics far less costly: think of how the cost of older tech, like a DVD player, has drastically plunged over the last decade. As you might have presumed, lower manufacturing costs and better technology didn’t drive down the cost passed to consumers like expected.
The components of a hearing aid are indeed commoditized: they cost at most $50 to $150 per device but can go as low as a few dollars. If on top of this, most major manufacturers have shifted their production to low-cost China (e.g. Phonak), why do consumers still see rising price levels?
For a while, increasing amounts of R&D spend shifted towards developing sophisticated signal processing software that tackled anything from complex speech recognition situations to effective noise cancellation. However, that has become standard too.
Manageable Hearing Aid Prices: Where Can the Low-Cost Hearing Aids Be Found?
More importantly, manufacturers have spent substantial R&D resources making the devices smaller, more powerful, and packed with myriads of new features: Bluetooth, wireless integration, remote controls, 20+ channels. However, the improvements in alleviating hearing loss are becoming increasingly marginal: for most people, there is no notable perceived benefit beyond 4-5 channels.
Many argue that devices nowadays are over-engineered for the average user with mild or moderate hearing loss – however, it gives manufacturers an excuse to charge higher prices by introducing “newer and better” models.
Think about it this way: if you need to get from A to B, a Rolls Royce would definitely make the ride more enjoyable than a Honda. But the Honda will get you from A to B just as well, in a safe and comfortable manner. It seems that when it comes to hearing aids you don’t have the choice to opt for the Honda: you are forced to buy the Rolls Royce.
By far the most important factor for the current hearing aid price levels has to do with the underlying industry structure; the relationship between manufacturers, audiologists, and end-patients.
Have you ever pondered at how on earth a few components costing at most $100, assembled in China, suddenly turn into a $2,500 hearing aid? While many recent events suggest that low-cost hearing aids might be right around the corner (Audicus is one example) this pricing bubble is material for many posts to come.
Read more about the rising hearing aid prices versus other consumer electronics.
Want more information on affordable hearing aids? Check out our main site for more info.
You can use our comparison of tool, which reviews the best hearing aids for your budget, to help you in your search for reasonably-priced hearing devices. It’s 2021 after all; you shouldn’t have to break the bank in order to hear well.