Why should I buy hearing aids from an audiologist and why do they cost so much?
That’s a great question and one that I will answer one at a time.
first, an audiologist is a highly trained and well educated professional. Entry level is a doctorate degree in hearing healthcare — meaning no less than eight years of college. They are health care professionals who evaluate or test, diagnose, treat and manage the hearing mechanism and hearing loss, tinnitus and balance disorders from newborns through geriatric populations. They make sure there is no medical reason for your hearing loss, tinnitus or balance disorders.
They can also bill their services to Medicare, Medicaid and insurance. This is why the testing is not free. Medicare requires a comprehensive testing to include certain aspects and therefore is not a screen nor a threshold test disguised as an evaluation. The hearing aids are prescribed by an audiologist.
Now, onto the cost portion of the question. Hearing aids today are instruments of precision with digital programming more advanced than that of the first space shuttle. The level of technology should be custom and prescribed for your specific hearing loss and needs as well as your lifestyle. It is similar to eyeglasses. You can get cheaters but they are not prescribed for you and may even cause you harm. The Better Hearing Institute, a nonprofit center for hearing advocacy, published a consumer warning against “do-it-yourself hearing care,” writing that “the process requires a complete in-person hearing assessment in a sound booth; the training and skills of a credentialed hearing healthcare professional in order to prescriptively fit the hearing aids using sophisticated computer programs; and appropriate in person follow-up and counseling. This is not possible when consumers purchase one-size-fits-all hearing aids over the Internet or elsewhere.”
So why the cost? In building a hearing aid the manufacturer requires space, assembly machinery and equipment to test hearing aids. Then they have technicians, scientists, administrative personnel, the equipment and employees to perform research, development, assemble, market and distribute the hearing aid information and hearing aids. Don’t forget to add in the cost for those employee’s life insurance and health insurance, vacation, sick leave, training, computers, supplies, a safe workplace, contribution to social security, pensions and taxes. Last but not least there is the number of federal and state laws governing workplace regulations and distribution of the medical devices. Oh, and be ready for the repair and replacement cost of your hearing device.
And I’m not done yet. The manufacturer is a business and in order to continue to operate they need a return on investment. They are continuously making improvements and developments on the technology. We want this process specified to each individual patient. Remember hearing aids are not electronic devices like iPad, iPod or televisions. Once you get to the hearing health care professional, the services are often “bundled.” This means the cost for the counseling on the care and recommendation of treatments, earmold impressions (if needed), probe microphone verification, re-evaluation with hearing aids in sound booth, orientation, instructions, routine follow-up visits for three years, unscheduled visits for adjustment over the coming years, minor repairs, loss and replacement of devices, rehabilitation services, audiologist’s time and business expenses.
Today’s hearing aids have more technology (up to four computers). This is to provide the assistance the wearer needs. There is financing available just like buying any other big item. If the provider is in network and willing to accept insurance, the insurance may pay a portion of the hearing aids.
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Patricia Larson Shields, AuD FAAA MA CCC-SP/L is a doctor of audiology with her degree from The School of Audiology of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in February, 2003. She has been in business in Mitchell, SD since September, 1991.