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.
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
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
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
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.
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