According to recent research, hearing loss continues to be a significant problem for seniors — affecting 28.6 million Americans age 60 and older and 48 million Americans in total.
When hearing loss goes untreated, studies have shown it can lead to other serious health problems, including depression and a decline in memory and concentration.
But despite the impact hearing loss can have on one’s health and overall quality of life, most people don’t seek treatment. In fact, only 14% of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually use them, according to research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
And you can probably guess one of the biggest reasons why people have avoided treatment — they simply can’t afford the high costs, which typically aren’t covered by health insurance or Medicare.
But all that is starting to change!
Transforming hearing aid industry offers cheaper solutions
The hearing aid industry is going through a radical transformation — as the market for more affordable, over-the-counter hearing aids — known as PSAPs (personal sound amplification products) — continues to expand and offer consumers more choices.
According to a new report from Consumer Reports, the “right hearing aid for you depends on several factors, including the kind and severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle, and your manual dexterity. However, a hearing aid that one person likes might not impress someone else, even if both have almost identical audiograms, a hearing test that also measures the degree of hearing loss.”
CR also says “it’s important to have realistic expectations. Most hearing aids will never completely remove background noise and allow you to hear only the person (or people) talking.”
“It’s going to bring people back to hearing, but because of the way we process sound, it’s not going to bring them back to normal hearing,” audiologist Patricia Chute, Ed.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs at Dalton State College in Dalton, Georgia, told Consumer Reports.
Top 10 retailers to find the best hearing aid for you
So when it comes time to choose the best hearing aid for you and your budget, Consumer Reports has put together a list of the top retailers to help you through the process. Based on consumer feedback on factors like hearing evaluations, product options, staff courtesy and follow-up adjustments, here are the top 10 places to shop for a hearing aid (rank is based on overall customer satisfaction score):
- Connect Hearing: 85
- Costco: 84
- Sam’s Club: 81
- HearUSA: 80
- HearingPlanet: 79
- Audibel: 77
- Miracle-Ear: 77
- Beltone: 76
- Zounds Store: 76
- Starkey Store: 76
For more on hearing aid brand ratings, see the full report from Consumer Reports.
Tips to keep costs down
With cost being a major factor in why so many people avoid getting a hearing aid, Consumer Reports has offered the following tips to help you keep costs down.
1. Check out your coverage: While most insurance plans don’t cover the cost of hearing aids, you may have other options available to help you save.
- Veterans, some children and federal workers, and residents of Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island can â€¨get hearing aids covered.
- A few plans, including some from Medicare Advantage, offer at least partial coverage or discounts.
- If you have a high-deductible insurance plan, you can put up â€¨to $3,400 individual or $6,750 per family in a health savings account to pay for aids with pretax dollars. With a flexible spending account, you can use â€¨up to $2,600 in pretax dollars for aids, batteries, and maintenance.
2. Get a detailed written contract: When you buy hearing aids, make sure you can return them and get all, or at least most, of your money back if you aren’t completely satisfied. You also want to check the length of the trial period as well as the warranty period and what all it covers.
3. Buy only what you need: Figure out what features are most important to you, because some can increase the cost by hundreds of dollars.
4. Ask for a price break: There’s no harm in asking for a discount!
‘Your provider should explain why he or she recommends one brand over another and should go through the pros and cons of each. Wherever you buy, try bargaining or asking for a lower-priced model,’ suggests CR.
5. Look for bargains: Costco offers free screenings at certain locations, as well as very competitive prices — offering hearing aids between $500 and $1,500 each. You can also shop online, which can save you up to $2,000 per pair, and then visit a local specialist to make any necessary adjustments.
6. Seek out organizations that may offer assistance: If you need help covering the costs, there are various programs available that may be able to help pay or qualify you for discounts.
Read more: Low-cost senior medical alert systems
More affordable hearing aid options
Introducing the iHEAR hearing aid
iHEAR is the world’s first high quality invisible hearing aid that allows you to select settings at home for $299.
The patented iHear device — which is advertised as being the size and weight of a kidney bean — fits discretely and safely inside your ear for an exceptional hearing experience. This is a new FDA-approved cheaper hearing aid alternative.
If you’re thinking about getting one, you must first complete with an FDA-approved test for $50. (Requires a personal computer with an Internet connection.)
Using devices for hunters as a cheap solution?
In reality, there are many kinds of hearing aids and many different price ranges from really inexpensive to several thousand dollars per ear. Clark has earned the ire of a lot of professional audiologists who hate him for telling people to go to hunting shops like Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s and buy devices for hunters that are essentially hearing aids.
You’ll pay anywhere from $12 an ear to a few hundred dollars per ear — a fraction of the cost you’d pay to get one from an audiologist.
The audiologists frequently complain that someone could mask a problem that may need serious medical treatment by getting such a self-serve hearing aid. So there’s a definite caveat to Clark’s advice on this one.
Audio amplifiers might be worth a try
If you’re just having problems with directional hearing, you might want to try an audio amplifier. You can’t call these devices ‘hearing aids’ because that’s a medical device. But they are really cheap!
One of our team members recently got a pair from a Chinese seller on eBay. She had to wait two months for them to clear customs, but the price was right: $7.84 for a pair! Hearing aids usually cost thousands of dollars!
This is not something you would have fitted by a medical professional. But many people who have legitimate hearing aids don’t get around to having that professional fitting anyway. So if you’re interested in this ultra-cheap option, try these sellers: