One of the most common questions we hear from people is “Why are Hearing Aids So Expensive?”. It's a valid question to ask and we want to help you understand what you're paying for when you invest in hearing aids.
The Price Breakdown
The cost of hearing aids generally includes three main components that are standard to most audiology clinics:
|Acquisition Cost from the Manufacturer (per hearing aid)||Varies on model, technology level, and features included in the hearing aid; Price is set by the hearing aid manufacturer.|
|Dispensing Fee (per ear)||Accounts for: the time and effort your clinician spends with you in fitting the hearing aids; ensures the hearing aids are functioning properly; training on how to get the most use of your hearing aids; and your initial follow-up visits. Some clinics may bundle service plans into this fee for a specified amount of time. These service plans may include annual hearing assessments, programming adjustments, in-office repairs, in-office cleaning, wax removal, and cleaning supplies at no additional charge.|
|Prescription Fee (per ear)||Accounts for the time and effort that your clinician spends with you in assessing your lifestyle and listening needs. This ensures the right hearing aid is prescribed for you.|
The dispensing fee includes relevant services to the care and maintenance of the hearing aid. Depending on the clinic, these services may include: hearing assessments, reprogramming of the hearing aids, real-ear verification of the hearing aids (to ensure the performance of the hearing aid is meeting your unique prescription), earwax removal, in-office cleanings of your hearing aid, and in-office repairs. Different clinics may also include the cost of batteries for the hearing aids for a specified amount of time.
How long these services are provided as part of the dispensing fee varies depending on the clinic. Some clinics offer these services at no additional cost for the time the hearing aid is within warranty, while others may choose different lengths of time for different reasons. Long story short: the dispensing fee covers the professional services and time required to ensure the hearing aid is functioning the way it should be.
“What is the recommended care and maintenance schedule for hearing aids?”
The first year is usually the year you spend the most time with your audiologist or hearing care professional (HCP). It will take some time to get used to wearing new hearing aids, especially if you are a new hearing aid user.
Once you have purchased hearing aid(s), you can expect the following services within the first year:
- Programming the hearing aids based on your most recent hearing test results.
- Real-ear verification of the hearing aids to ensure they are meeting your unique prescription while in your ears (not all clinics offer this service).
- Education on how your hearing aid works, and how to properly use it (e.g., how to make volume adjustments).
- Education on how to properly insert the hearing aid(s) into your ears.
- How to use any accessories that may come with your hearing aids (e.g., remote control, TV streamer, phone app).
- Education on how to clean your hearing aids to ensure they continue to work properly for a long time.
- 2-week follow-up and 30-day follow-up to ensure you're doing well with the hearing aids and to make any adjustments to the hearing aids (as needed).
- Wax removal (as needed).
After the first year, the following maintenance schedule is recommended:
- Minimum of annual hearing assessments to monitor for any changes in hearing.
- Reprogramming of the hearing aids based on your hearing test results.
- Real-ear verification of the hearing aids to ensure optimal performance.
- Monthly hearing aid cleanings (which can be done by yourself at home).
- In-office hearing aid cleanings and repairs (as needed).
- Wax removal (as needed).
Depending on the clinic, the dispensing fee may cover some or all the above services at no additional cost. The average lifespan of a hearing aid is approximately 5 years. Depending on the clinic, the dispensing fee may not cover all or some of the services listed above for the whole five years. If that's the case, you may have the choice of paying for individual services a-la-carte or to purchase an annual service plan until you purchase new hearing aids.
As you can imagine, you may need several services in a single appointment. So if you pay a-la-carte, you may end up paying more than if you purchase an annual service plan per ear. In Ontario, eligibility for access to the Assistive Devices Program (ADP) government grant for purchasing hearing aids renews every 5 years.
The acquisition cost of the hearing aid is set by the hearing aid manufacturer, not the clinic. One of the biggest factors behind differences in hearing aid cost is the technology level in the hearing aid. Hearing aid manufacturers offer different levels of technology available in their hearing aids. The technology level that is best for you is determined by your lifestyle and listening needs. As a rule of thumb, the higher the technology level, the more expensive the hearing aid will be.
Whether or not your hearing aid(s) are battery-operated or rechargeable also influences the cost of the hearing aid. Rechargeable hearing aids cost more upfront. However, battery-operated hearing aids require you to purchase disposable batteries regularly, which can add up in cost over time. Depending on the clinic, you may get batteries at no additional cost for a pre-determined amount of time as part of the dispensing fee.
Some hearing aids are eligible for a limited number of complimentary accessories, such as a remote control, TV streamer or even an additional year of warranty. However, if the hearing aid(s) you purchase do not come with complimentary accessories you will have to pay additional for those accessories. Again, this cost and whether the accessories come complimentary with your hearing aids is dependent on the hearing aid manufacturer.
Another factor that determines the cost of the hearing aid is the style. There are many different styles available from behind-the-ear, to in-the-ear hearing aids. Depending on the hearing aid style and the severity of your hearing loss, your HCP may need to take an impression of your ear(s), which can be an additional cost.
Deciding which technology level and style of hearing aid to purchase is a complex decision that requires a thorough discussion between you and your HCP. This will ensure the best hearing aid is selected for you. This requires time and in some cases additional research. Your HCP is also required to generate a formal prescription for your hearing aid(s) based on your discussions with them; hence, the prescription fee. This fee is like the prescription fee you are charged when you go to get your eyeglasses after having your eyes checked.
We hope this answers your questions on why hearing aids can be expensive. Depending on the clinic, additional costs may be added on top of the three main fees discussed above so it is important to talk to your HCP about the cost so that you are aware of what you are paying for. If you have any questions about the cost of hearing aids, please give our office a call: 905-682-3277.