Middle-aged woman with hearing aids speaking to her team in a meeting.

Why Are Hearing Aids So Expensive

Published: July 14, 2020

Updated: July 19, 2022

There are many hearing aids available today. They range from very expensive to only a couple of hundred dollars. If you have hearing loss you might be wondering if all good hearing aids are expensive. Will you compromise on your hearing health if you buy a more affordable hearing aid? Let’s look at why some hearing aids are more expensive and address some hearing aid myths.

Why are some hearing aids more expensive than others?

When new hearing aids are released, the best and most advanced features are always the most expensive. This is most noticeable when the hearing aid user is in a complex sound environment. Hearing aid manufacturers refer to these features as ‘Speech Enhancer’ and ‘Sound Smoother’. The advanced algorithms in the hearing aid’s microchip can distinguish between speech and noise. It then adjusts the balance so you can hear the person you want to hear. It then helps eliminate overwhelming background noise. Features like this need a lot of research and development. The hearing aid also needs to make millions of tiny adjustments every second. The more expensive the hearing aids, the better and more efficient these features. The hearing aid user will also cope better in a noisy setting.

Other expensive features deal with undesirable sounds. Advanced feedback management systems help prevent whistling sounds that older hearing aids often made. Wind noise managers allow you to hear clearly when you are outdoors, especially important for people who love hiking or cycling. Features that suppress sudden loud sounds need fast hearing aids with strong compression. This keeps you from getting a fright when a door slams or the dog barks. Affordable hearing aids may have basic versions of these features. They get better and more intuitive as the price goes up.

More expensive hearing aids also have more advanced classification systems. This refers to the way that modern hearing aids identify what kind of sound environment you are in. This allows for automatic adjustment. This means that the hearing aid user doesn’t have to continually adjust the hearing aids. This provides a more natural listening experience in different sound situations. The more expensive the hearing aid, the more automatic classifiers it has. So, it can quickly and precisely adjust itself.

As the price rises, hearing aids have more channels and bands. Channels and bands refer to the different frequency ‘zones’. These can be adjusted separately from one another when programming a hearing aid. If you only have one channel, you will only be able to make the hearing aid louder or softer. This won’t affect low- and high-pitched sounds. If you had 40 channels, you would be able to set tiny differences in amplification at 40 different places. This allows for much more natural sound. Having enough channels and bands is the best way for hearing healthcare practitioners to manage hearing losses. This includes losses better in low frequencies and poorer in high frequencies.

Your needs as a patient

Does this mean that everyone must get the most expensive hearing aids? Well, many people would like to drive a Rolls Royce, but that does not mean everyone needs to. There are a lot of factors that contribute to whether someone needs or can afford the top-of-the-range option. If you have significant hearing loss with differences between the low and high frequencies, you will need more channels and bands. If you have poor speech discrimination, you will need hearing aids that have the features to support your hearing abilities. This is why a full diagnostic hearing assessment is so important. Very basic hearing aids on complex ears might not provide the sound quality that they need. The person will then continue to struggle.

As important, if not more important than the hearing test, are the lifestyle needs of the patient. Remember that the most expensive features in hearing aids are the ones that assist with background noise and groups. If you are social, attend lots of meetings, or live for music, you might need more expensive hearing aids. If you prefer to stay at home, have one-on-one chats, a more affordable hearing aid could be enough. Some specific people need certain features, like a hiker who needs an advanced wind-noise manager. The demands of your life will dictate the level of technology you need. This determines how much money you will need to spend to get hearing aids that will work for you.

Does this mean buying affordable hearing aids is a waste?

If a patient has a tricky or complex hearing loss, or if their lifestyle or work requires them to be in challenging listening situations, they might not benefit from budget hearing aids. However, this does not mean that everyone should have premium technology. Most people do not need the most expensive technology for hearing aids to change their lives. Most hearing aids with advanced features are the most expensive. New technology means that some of these features or simpler versions are more affordable. It is possible to buy hearing aids that meet many needs but at a more budget-friendly price point.

Myths about affordable hearing aids

There are a few myths about affordable hearing aids. The main difference between affordable and expensive hearing aids is features and sound quality. A lot of people think that other things affect the price too.

  • The smaller and prettier the hearing aid, the more expensive it is. This is a myth! Generally, the outside look of the hearing aid does not really affect the price. You can find hearing aids of all styles and looks across the price range, even at entry-level.
  • The more powerful the hearing aid is in terms of volume, the more expensive it will be. This is also not true, as you can purchase hearing aids of different power levels at all price ranges.
  • Hardware features like direct call streaming make hearing aids more expensive. When made for iPhone and direct streaming capabilities were first released, this feature was only available in the most expensive hearing aids. As the feature has become more standard, you can now find it in affordable hearing aids too.
  • Rechargeable hearing aids are more expensive. These are now regularly available as an option for hearing aids at all price points.
  • You need to sacrifice cool features like smartphone apps if you buy an affordable hearing aid. Almost all hearing aids, even budget-friendly options, have access to smartphone apps. The apps allow you to make adjustments to your hearing aid at any time you want.

Are all good hearing aids expensive? No, at all! Most people can buy an affordable hearing aid that has the features to meet their hearing needs. When considering purchasing a hearing aid, it’s important to think about what is important to you, and what your needs are. If you have advanced hearing and lifestyle needs and can afford to purchase premium hearing aids, they might be the best fit for you. If you’re looking for a smart device that connects to your phone, is small, discreet, and gives you the amplification you need, you can find an affordable option. If you aren’t sure what your needs are, speak to a Lexie hearing expert.

Image of post writer Marcellé Swanepoel.

Written by Marcellé Swanepoel

B. Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology

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