When you look at it, it is tiny, it runs on a tiny battery and in all intense and purposes it is pretty much a glorified amplifier….or is it?
A hearing aid has certainly changed shape, size and functionality over the last 15 years…it’s almost mind boggling.
Back in the day, and I mean not THAT far back in the day, in the 80s we were contending with quite simplistic hearing aid models, I’m talking about analog.
With analog hearing aids, sounds were pretty clear…but soft sounds remained soft and loud sounds remained loud. With hearing impairment, it’s really the soft sounds you can’t hear well, so effectively, we needed to make the soft sounds LOUDER and the loud sounds not any louder. *Beam* in the digital age of hearing aids.
Unfortunately, even back then the prices of analog hearing aids remained pretty high, somewhere in the $000’s which wasn’t that great a bang-for-your buck, especially if the only trimmers were low frequency or high frequency and volume at the best.
But with the evolution of digital hearing aids, things quickly progressed and boy did they what. For the same prices as you may have paid in the not so distant past $000’s, you could get a digital hearing aid that focuses more on speech in front of you and less so on the sides and backs, with directional microphones and better algorithms. However, the stigma had been tainted. The knowledge of the hearing aid function/features of the public, certainly did not keep up with the actual advancements in technology….and then there were the $000’s that people had spent.
Still a large number of people are unaware that hearing aids are digital, blue tooth capable and are pretty tiny. What you are effectively paying for these days is a mini computer analysing the sound scape (environment) at many thousands of times per second, with features centered around the multiple characteristics of human speech patterns.
All in all, why are they so expensive? Hearing aids are still classified as a medical device. I guess we don’t question the cost of a pace maker being $40,000 because the value of it – that is, keeping our heart pumping which is surely and most definitely important.
It therefore also comes down to how much we value our hearing. One of the most important, if not arguably most important senses in order to connect us with the world.
There is a lot of research and development that goes into the hearing instruments and, meeting strict medical regulations before it can be produced for the public.
There are also a whole heap of reasons and financial gain of course which is inevitable when there is an exchange of money and profit, especially when you deal with very large corporations (see previous blog), but sadly, that is the nature of the beast.
It would make life a whole lot easier if one model was available, top of the range with all the bells and whistles and trimmings designated to improve hearing ability – to the best of the current technology, for the end user. That would be the ultimate, as who doesn’t deserve the best?
But the best also comes with the price, the price in which all that medical research and development (R&D) went into. So we are therefore look to identify your current goals and needs to find a solution that should last your current lifestyle, within a price that you may be comfortable to pay.
At the end of the day, some people may need to compromise on some important features in order to be able to pay for the devices. Maybe that is the reason why a lot of them are in the drawer? Perhaps the settings needed to be altered? Perhaps more information and education is needed in order to get the best outcome from the hearing aids (see blog 2).
There are certainly many factors that might influence why a hearing aid ends up in the drawer and the outcome was un-successful, I will discuss that in more detail in another blog.
But definitively, the bang for-your-buck has improved. You do get far more features than you used to.
I do believe whole heartedly that hearing aid prices need to be much more affordable, that the government could do more in order to help this. But largely, the prices are set by the manufacturer’s themselves which is somewhat out of our control.
Ensuring you are seen at a clinic that has low over heads and less ‘running’ costs might probably ensure that the cost is some what fairer. There’s just effectively less ‘middle management’ to pay for.
If there is any consolation or hope that I can offer, when you look at purchasing a hearing instrument, it is something that you won’t need to do often. Most people change vehicles much more often than hearing aids. You should expect them to last and work well for you at least 6-10 years. And, there might not be any reason why they shouldn’t, provided they are cared for well (not blocked with wax, kept in a dry container when not in use like when you are sleeping). Additionally, if your hearing changes, the hearing devices are programmable and is able to be adjusted to your change in hearing. Something of which is not possible in spectacles.
It is not perfect by any means the situation about hearing aid prices, but I hope this has helped better understand where the cost comes from.