Ask Dr. Abonso
4. Why Do Hearing Aids Cost So Darn Much?

Dr. Abonso: That question sounds a bit hostile to me, but since I know the answer I'll tell you anyway. First, hearing aids could be made and sold like dime store eyeglasses they would sell for about $150.00 each.

Suspicious Consumer: So why do they cost $1400-1600 a pair? Or $2400 a pair? I even heard of someone paying $3800 a pair for programmable hearing aids.

Dr. Abonso: Well, I can tell you where to buy a mail order pair of hearing aids for $750.

Suspicious Consumer: That sounds more like it. Where?

Dr. Abonso: From Excell or Lloyds here in Illinois.

Suspicious Consumer: Are they working hearing aids?

Dr. Abonso: Yes, they are well designed.

Suspicious Consumer: So give me one reason not to save $700 and get my hearing aids from them.

Dr. Abonso: I can do that, but you might be perfectly satisfied with those aids, and pleased that you saved yourself all that money.

Suspicious Consumer: Is that what you recommend?

Dr. Abonso: No.

Suspicious Consumer: Why?

Dr. Abonso: Several reasons. First, one size doesn't usually" fit all" so well, especially without adjustment. Hearing losses are different, just as shoe sizes are different. Second, even though you may be a pretty independent do-it-yourself kind of guy, you could get a lot of help from someone who really understands hearing loss and hearing aids; help not only in choosing the right hearing aids and adjustments in the first place, but in "fine tuning" those adjustments as you report back your experiences.

Suspicious Consumer: You think it is really worth another $700, just for professional help? Maybe I could take a hearing aid course somewhere.

Dr. Abonso: You could. Northwestern University has an excellent 15-month, high-intensity, full-time Masters course you could take for a few thousand dollars.

Suspicious Consumer: I guess some of that $800 goes to pay the audiologist's rent and light bill so I have a reliable place to go for adjustment and repair. Is there any other justification for the high price?

Dr. Abonso: Yes, the most important one, but I don't know if you'll like it. Learning to use hearing aids -- whether for the first time or when upgrading to substantially better ones -- takes time. Your brain has to relearn some old tricks. During that period, it takes a lot of judgment to decide which of the problems you experience are problems with the hearing aids -- requiring their adjustment -- and which are problems of relearning-- requiring "brain adjustment" time. Some people adjust almost at once, enthusiastically praising the brilliance of the dispenser. Others take much longer. If you are one of those others, one whose brain takes 6-12weeks to retrain, it is easy to get discouraged. During that period, it helps to have a really good professional available to make hearing aid adjustments when required and provide sympathetic information otherwise.

© 1993

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