Why do the cost of hearing aids vary?

The cost of hearing aids – Did you know there are over 1,400 unique models of hearing aids available in Ontario? That’s a lot of hearing aids with many different features and technology levels.

Hearing aids are microcomputers. As with all computers, the speed of processing, size and capabilities related to your specific needs vary the cost. Some hearing aids come with one processor and some with two processors. They process an enormous amount of input information in less than a blink of an eye. Wearing the most advanced hearing aids is like wearing two computers for each ear that are wirelessly linked to acting like a supercomputer! They process input sounds in nanosecond speeds (in case you were wondering that is a millionth of a second), analyze them, and then reconfigure those sounds to transmit information that makes sense for your hearing ability through your ear’s mechanics to your brain.

Hearing loss is as unique as a fingerprint. This means that different hearing aids will benefit each individual differently. A Hearing Instrument Specialist’s task is to gather information to determine which product will provide the optimum benefit to their patient and then make a recommendation to the patient based on that information. In order to make the best recommendation, the Specialist must take the time to learn about the person – How do they spend their time? Who are the people they interact with? What are they hoping to gain by improving their hearing ability? They combine this information with the results of the hearing test to determine which technology level is the ideal level to achieve the patient’s hearing goals. Low-cost technology works well in a quiet one on one setting for most people, but being in a group of friends or family outings and meetings with background noise, changes everything. Higher, faster and greater processing will need to be considered for these noisier situations, which increase the product cost. Again, that’s why we have 1,400 different choices.

There is a lot of misconception about the cost of hearing aids. This seems particularly true in Ontario, where the hearing aid industry is regulated by the Ministry of Health as part of the Prescription Act. But the cost of the hearing aid device itself is only one portion of the final cost – like a prescription at the pharmacy. The truth is that each clinic charges the same manufacturer’s cost price for the same model of hearing aid, but like all of our high tech devices today; the more technology a hearing aid has, the higher its price will be. There are additional fees for services added to the basic device cost and it’s those costs that create the variance by a clinic. You get what you pay for!

Other costs include varied hearing testing, selection of the appropriate device, dispensing fees, verification after the fitting, programming for multiple environments needed specifically to the patient needs, extended warranties, lost, stolen and damage coverage, office and in-home service plans. I’d like to talk about these different costs and, in doing so, I hope to dispel some of the current apprehension around investing in your hearing health.

It is worthwhile to explain that hearing evaluations (tests) are not covered by OHIP in any hearing aid office. In order to keep prices reasonable and fair, Hearing Instrument Practitioners in Ontario are part of a professional association that helps them to regulate their practices, as are Audiologists. The governing body, Association of Hearing Instrument Practitioners of Ontario (AHIP) provides a recommended fee guide that details the maximum cost of any service provided by a hearing clinic, including testing services. This fee guide is posted in each office so you can clearly understand the potential costs. The maximum fee allowed for testing is $84. Each clinic must determine their own fees for testing to that maximum guideline provided by AHIP. Some clinics, like Hear Well Be Well™, offer to test as a free service. There are fees for each service performed by the Specialist and fees are charged when completed. Again, you get what you pay for!

A comprehensive schedule of follow up care and fine tuning programming at regular intervals within the first 90 days compared to a one time follow up visit in the first 30 days will vary the charges for office fees.

In the end, receiving a higher degree of testing, assessment and follow up care is an expense that has a great deal of value.

Office Service Plan

Some clinics offer an Office Service Plan with the purchase of your hearing aids so the cost of future office visits are bundled for lower ultimate cost to you and higher value; and that means you can come in worry-free for assistance with cleaning, repairs, reprogramming or general care and never be out of pocket when you need help. Lower costs and ongoing service when you need it are vital ingredients to a successful hearing aid fitting.

The next item that is built into the final cost of your hearing aids is the warranty. Different manufacturers provide warranties of different lengths, from 1 to 3 years. This warranty covers you for manufactures defects and repairs only. Repair costs are high after the warranty expires so having as long of a warranty is preferable. Hear Well Be Well™ even offers a no charge 5-year extended warranty on some of the products they dispense. The longer the coverage, the more value it provides in the end.

Loss, stolen and damage coverage is also very important and can vary from a one year only, some offer a two year and some will offer a three-year policy at no charge. Warranties are there to help us be prepared for the unexpected – like forgetting to take them out before we dive into a pool, or the dog chewing one to bits!

What about protection for drastic changes in hearing. We don’t expect sudden changes but head injuries in a car accident or a fall, a stroke or even ototoxic medication can cause these sudden changes. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that if your hearing declined drastically within the next 2 years you would be able to replace your hearing aids with technology that will meet your new needs without paying that bill again? Hear Well Be Well™ has a solution with one of the leading manufacturers at no charge.

And finally, some warranties are only in effect within Canada, while others cover you no matter where you travel internationally. For people who travel outside of Canada, this type of coverage is crucial for peace of mind. Hear Well Be WellTM works with one manufacturer that honours your warranty in 50 countries and has over 1,500 independently owned outlets across Canada and the USA. Now that’s impressive!

Understanding the warranty being provided with your hearing aid is very important and a critical component in the value of the hearing solution you are purchasing. If you are comparison shopping, be sure to understand and compare the features of the warranty of each device you are considering before choosing. Some manufacturers charge $1,000 for extended coverage for one year on each hearing aid and others include three-year coverage free. It makes you wonder which one believes in their product.

When we say “accessories” that can include everything from batteries, to cleaning solutions and other Assistive Listening Devices (ALD’s), like wireless TV streamers and remote microphones. Accessories like TV streamers and remote controls that are included for FREE are actually not free. They are built in costs from the hearing aid manufacturer in the price of the hearing aids so you get them even if you don’t need them or want them. You’re paying for them anyways!

Batteries are the primary consideration when we are thinking about accessories with hearing aids. There are different sizes of batteries as well as different manufacturers and this means each type can last a different amount of time. On average, when properly stored and used, the smallest hearing aid battery will last 3-4 days for a full-time wearer and the largest batteries can last upwards to two weeks or more. Some Hearing Aid Clinics provide you with a package of 4 batteries and others will include a full box of 60 batteries with your hearing aid purchase. So this will vary your total invoice cost. Future cost to replace batteries also varies by the clinic. It’s something to consider when you’re budgeting the ongoing cost of maintaining your hearing aids. (One of the big differences we offer at Hear Well Be Well™ is that we provide 4 years of free batteries with your hearing aid purchase when you buy the first year supply with the hearing aid purchase. Details are available in office).

At the end of the day, there are many components in the price of hearing aids. Understanding hearing aid pricing may help to increase your overall satisfaction with your decision to invest in your hearing. Having confidence that you are getting the best solution for health provides peace of mind that is invaluable. The first step in determining which hearing solution is right for you is always to have a comprehensive hearing test completed. To arrange a free, comprehensive hearing test, please contact us today!

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