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Why Do Hearing Aids Cost So Much?

Have you asked that question, too? Here's a breakdown of what they cost and why

Hearing Aid Costs Explained

Research accounts for a substantial portion of the cost of hearing aids. — Corbis

En español l Just as you can buy $3 reading glasses at the supermarket, you can get a pair of hearing aids for a few hundred dollars online or at a big-box store. But if you're looking to purchase a custom-fitted, quality pair from an audiologist, you can expect to pay anywhere from about $2,200 to more than $7,000 a pair for devices with the latest tech, such as the ability to wirelessly stream sound from your television and link up to your smartphone.

According to a survey recently published by the Hearing Review, the average price of a mid-level pair of aids hovers between $4,400 and $4,500. Prices vary by region. At UCLA's Audiology Clinic, for example, the average price is $4,200, says audiologist Alison Grimes. Audiologist Janice Trent says the average price is $4,000 at her suburban Maryland clinic.

The same survey found that the average prices of both high-end and mid-level aids have dropped since 2005. The price of most budget-oriented aids has remained steady.

No matter how you look at it, hearing aids are expensive. So why exactly do they cost what they do? Experts say you are not only buying a high-tech device that requires extensive research, but also likely paying for services from highly trained hearing specialists during the life span of your hearing aids.

On the manufacturing end, materials such as microprocessors and microphones may be about 10 percent of the final cost for some hearing aids. Research may account for as much as triple the cost of materials.

"It is a substantial part of the price: All the major companies have phenomenal research," said Patricia Kricos, an audiology professor at the University of Florida and president of the American Academy of Audiology. Between electrical engineers, audiologists, computer programmers and musicologists, an immense amount of technical knowledge is required to produce these miniature devices. Once made, the hearing aids must then be marketed and sold, an expense that also includes the cost of staff responsible for training the audiologists and other hearing specialists in their use.

Next page: Why are aids more expensive at hearing clinics and other outlets?

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