Why Do Hearing Aids Cost So Much in the First Place?
Before we get into cheap hearing aids, let’s understand why traditional hearing aids cost so much.
To start, traditional hearing aids cost an average of $2,300 and upwards of $5,000 to $6,000 according to the American Association of Retired Persons.
Your purchase usually includes the hearing test, consultations, initial fitting, and all the follow-up adjustments, routine cleanings, and a warranty that can range from one to three years. This is because hearing aids are FDA regulated medical devices that are tailor-made just for the specific patient. When all of the procedures are included (a bundled service), the cost to manufacture the actual device ends up only being a small part of the whole price tag. A bundled service cost may be considered as an investment taking into factor that the state of your health is always in fluctuation and will be in need of periodic check-ups.
Although most hearing aid cost includes the whole nine yards from consultation to aftercare, make sure to ask your audiologist what is exactly included in the purchase.
Now that you know the inner workings of hearing aid costs, let’s understand how cheap hearing aids keep their costs down.
Is It Possible to Buy Hearing Aids Online?
The short answer "No - as of now."
Hearing aids are medical devices that the FDA regulates and administers, which means that patients will need medical examinations by licensed doctors to purchase one. As the FDA puts it, “hearing aids continue to be restricted devices, for which sales must follow applicable federal and state requirements”. Although some sellers offer online hearing tests that are able to diagnose you with a certain degree of hearing loss, they cannot determine physical attributes for example, having too much ear wax, as a possible cause of loss of hearing.
Therefore, to purchase a hearing aid, it is required to see a doctor who specializes in hearing issues.
Just like every person is unique, every hearing issue is unique. Hearing aids need to be prescribed to fit each patient’s precise ear canal shape, hearing condition and also their lifestyle; especially considering that once purchased, they will be a part of your every day life.
So, although there are many “low-cost hearing aids” available online or at retail stores, they are not actually hearing aids regulated by the FDA, and one should take caution since it may be falsely marketed. Most of them simply make all of the sounds in your environment louder, which can make you feel more discomfort and even make your hearing loss worse.
So, if you are looking into the hearing aid market and are looking to purchase a device online, remember that you can only buy legitimate hearing aids with a prescription and that you should get professional help from an audiologist before purchasing.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids – What Are They?
Remember that as of now, you can’t buy hearing aids online. This may change in the near future as OTC hearing aids become readily available. So, what are they?
OTC hearing aids are a new category of hearing aids that will soon allow consumers to be able to buy hearing aids directly from stores without visiting a hearing health professional. These devices will be intended to help adults who believe they have mild to moderate hearing loss. OTC hearing aids will still be regulated by the FDA, but with a different standard than a traditional hearing aid that needs prescriptions.
Also read our article on OTC hearing aids.
When OTC hearing aids become available, you will be able to buy them directly in retail stores and online, so be sure to check us out periodically or the FDA website for hearing aids for the most up-to-date information.
Risks Involving Cheap Hearing Aids and Devices
Although you can’t buy hearing aids online, you can purchase hearing aids through an “unbundled service” to keep your costs low.
Remember though, that this still inhibits risks compared to the traditional “bundled services”.
You may pay more in the end than a bundled service
Keep in mind that many people require multiple appointments to adjust their hearing aids. If you are the type of person who likes to pay for services as you go, considering the possible number of times you are going to have the hearing aids repaired may mean that you may end up paying more in the end than if you bought the hearing aids through a bundled service. A complete re-casing can cost up to $600 and a standard electronic piece can run you about $300-$400 to replace. Always consult with your audiologist what your plan includes, so you know exactly what you are paying for.
If you are about to make a purchase online for a hearing device, keep in mind that:
They are not medical devices nor are they FDA registered
Hearing devices and other sound amplifiers not designed to be medical devices are not adequate for treating hearing loss and are not registered by the FDA. Because they are not manufactured in accordance with the FDA’s international standards for medical-grade hearing aids, their build quality may lack compared to traditional hearing aids.
Most cheap devices amplify ALL sounds equally
Most sound amplifiers, aptly named for what they do, amplify not just the sounds you want to hear, but the ones you do not want to hear as well. While many other medical-grade hearing aids (and our Olive Smart Ear) target certain frequencies, most cheap hearing devices do not. This in turn, may be potentially dangerous and deteriorate your hearing abilities even further by sending high pitched noises straight into your ear canal. Considering the long term use of your hearing device, over many months or years, this can be extremely taxing on the brain and can lead to various other health problems like dementia.
They do NOT cater to your state of health
Most hearing devices are one size fits all kind of products. While the devices may help with your hearing for a given time period, if your hearing issues worsen, they most likely not cater to your changed state of health.
Considering Hearing Aids Over Hearing Devices? Which One is the Best For Me?
The answer to that is a lengthy one, considering that, as explained, hearing aids come in a great variety of sizes, features, and styles.
Styles and Sizes: Discreet or Lots of Features?
Is discretion your top priority? - Completely in the Canal (CIC)
A CIC canal hearing aid is molded to fit inside your ear canal and it is the smallest and least visible type of hearing aid.
- Less likely to pick up wind noise
- Small batteries mean shorter battery life
- Usually does not include features such as volume control or directional microphones
- susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker
A midway point between the two - In the Ear (ITE)
An ITE hearing aid is either molded to cover the entire bowl-shaped area of your outer ear or only the lower part.
- Usually includes features that smaller counterparts do not
- Larger battery means longer battery life
- Also susceptible to earwax clogging the speaker
- May pick up more wind noise
- More visible to other people
The most common - Behind the Ear (BTE)
A BTE hearing aid hooks over the top of your ear and rests behind the ear. A tube connects the hearing aid to a custom earmold that fits in your ear canal. Although biggest in size, it commonly packs the most amount of features listed in the features section.
- Comes in traditional larger styles or streamlined for your liking
- Capable of amplifying more sound than its counterparts
- Larger battery means longer battery life
- May pick up more wind noise
Other Key Features to Look For
Noise Reduction: While most hearing aids come with some degree of noise reduction, the amount varies by type. Look for added speech enhancers that distinguish noise and speech for a more specific noise reduction.
Directional Microphones: Aligned on the hearing aid to provide improved sound pickup, it is capable of focusing in one direction allowing you to hear better in an environment with a lot of background noise. Without these, you may be constrained to sitting with your back on the wall in atmospheres such as restaurants.
Rechargeable Batteries vs. Disposable Batteries: Hearing aids with disposable batteries are far more common, but ones with rechargeable batteries do exist. Where rechargeable battery has a longer shelf life than disposable batteries, the added cost of and dependence on charging units may persuade you to go with disposables.
Telecoils: With compatible phones, telecoils makes it easier to hear voices over calls by reducing background noise.
Wireless Connectivity: Do you listen to music or watch videos on your phone a lot? Some new hearing aids offer Bluetooth connectivity that will make your entertainment life more comfortable.
Remote Controls: Relieving you from touching your hearing aids to adjust volumes or activating features, having remote control features may make your hearing aid experience more streamlined with your life.
Direct Audio Input: A feature found in some BTE hearing aids, this will let you bypass the microphone and directly speak into a device such as your phone and computers.
Synchronization: If you have two hearing aids, the two can be programmed to function together so that adjustments made to one ear will also be made to the other aid.
Before You Buy…
Be sure to read our “Prices of Hearing Aids and PSAPs: What's the Difference?” to start off your hearing device journey!
The information in this guide has been written using the following reliable sources: