According to recent research, hearing loss continues to be a significant problem for seniors — affecting 27% of people in a recent population-based study of those aged 70 years and up.
Studies have shown that when hearing loss goes untreated, 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 health and overall quality of life, most people don’t seek treatment. In fact, 79% of hearing-impaired seniors who could benefit from hearing aids have never tried one, 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.
Don’t let the cost of a hearing aid hold you back. We’ve got some great options when you’re on a budget.
Costco, Sam’s Club among the best places for hearing aids
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, finding the best hearing aid is a very individual process. It depends upon the type and extremity of your hearing loss, how active of a lifestyle you have, and how good your hands are at manipulating small devices.
Consumer Reports 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, Ga., told the magazine.
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.
6 ways to save more money on hearing aids
1. Get free screenings at warehouse clubs
Warehouse clubs like Costco Wholesale offer free hearing tests — even to non-members. However, you will need a membership if you want to buy a hearing aid…unless you follow this advice.
Ditto for Sam’s Club when it comes to free annual follow-up screenings.
2. See if a civic organization near you offers free hearing aids
Certain charitable organizations like Kiwanis, Rotary, Elks, Knights of Columbus, Lions Club and others may make free reconditioned hearing aids available based on your income from time-to-time.
Check this list from the American Speech Language Hearing Association to begin your search.
3. Use your HSA or FSA
2018 limits for health savings accounts with high-deductible insurance plans are $3,450 (individual) and $6,900 (family). This money can be used to pay for a hearing aid with pre-tax dollars.
If you have a flexible spending account at work, FSA limits for 2018 are $2,650. That’s pre-tax money you can use for hearing aids, batteries and maintenance.
4. Check your Medicare Advantage policy
In addition to covering what basic Medicare covers, Medicare Advantage plans may also offer partial coverage or discounts on hearing aids. More info is available here.
5. Some veterans can get hearing aid coverage
6. Certain states have mandated coverage of hearing aids
At a national level, both Medicare and most insurers don’t have to cover the cost of hearing aids. Yet certain states have laws on their books requiring health benefit plans to cover hearing aids for their residents.
These states include Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island for adults, according to ASHA.
Other affordable hearing aid options
The iHEAR hearing aid
iHEAR is the world’s first high quality invisible hearing aid that allows you to select settings at home for $399 per ear.
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 $69. (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. Money expert Clark Howard has earned the ire of a lot of professional audiologists who don’t like him 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 they’re not a medical device. But they are really cheap.
Kim Drobes, the Executive Producer of Clark’s radio show, got a pair a few years back 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.
If you’re interested in this ultra-cheap option, check out the K-80 Best Sound Volume Amplifier Adjustable Tone Hearing Aids Ear Aid and the Small In The Ear Invisible Best Sound Amplifier Adjustable Tone Hearing Aids Aid.