When you are looking to purchase a digital hearing aid, it is important to have an awareness of the many costs that are associated with hearing aid ownership. The cost of owning a digital hearing aid goes beyond simply the cost of the unit or units; it can encompass everything from doctor visits to adjustment costs to return fees and upgrade costs, depending on the hearing aid dealers you are working with.
Common costs of owning a hearing aid include:
- The medical examination
- The hearing test
- The instruments themselves
- Return and restocking fees
- Adjustment, reprogramming, and service fees
- Upgrade fees
While these costs cannot be avoided completely, you can research various hearing aid dealers to can make sure that you are getting the best value from your investment and that you are not spending more than is necessary.
The Medical Examination
The FDA mandates that before you buy your hearing aid, all hearing aid dealers must advise you that it is in your best interest to visit a doctor to have your ears examined. This step is crucial to the rest of the purchase process because a doctor can diagnose any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your hearing loss so that they can be corrected. Most insurance programs, including Medicaid, will cover the cost of this exam, although you may be required to contribute a co-payment. While you do have the option to sign a waiver and skip this step, it is strongly advised that you do not in case you have a condition that only a doctor could detect.
The Hearing Test
Once you have had your examination and ruled out or corrected any medical issues, you will need to have a comprehensive hearing test performed. You have several options as to where and by whom this test can be performed. A licensed audiologist or ENT can administer this test, and, again, most insurance plans will cover all or most of the cost. Hearing aid dealers may also be able to offer a hearing test. Some hearing aid dealers will provide the test for free. Other hearing aid dealers may attempt to charge you a high fee for the test, which is an unnecessary expense. Shop around and speak to both doctors and hearing aid vendors to determine the best path for you.
The Instruments Themselves
Hearing aid dealers can charge anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 and beyond for a pair of hearing aids. While this cost cannot be avoided, you can make sure that no matter what you pay, you are getting the best value for your money. Research a range of hearing aid dealers to ensure that you are getting top-of-the-line technology with your purchase. When you are comparing different products from different hearing aid dealers, make sure you compare features to features and technology to technology, rather than price to price, and note that well-known hearing aid dealers do not necessarily have better products than those from smaller companies. Here, paying too little or too much is not the issue, the value of what you are buying is.
In addition, find out what the base cost of your hearing aids will include. In some cases, the cost will rise with each additional feature that you add, from directional microphones to windscreens to wax protection to adjustable volume control. Other times, you will find that the price you are quoted includes many of these features. Ask different hearing aid dealers if you can see a list of features that are included with your initial purchase, as well as what the additional costs will be for all add-ons.
Return and Restocking Fees
Another mandate from the FDA requires that hearing aid dealers provide a 30-day trial period during which you can evaluate the hearing aid to see if it is right for you, although you may find dealers who will extend this period up to 60 days. Be aware that there are hearing aid dealers that charge restocking fees of up to 12 percent if you decide to return the product during this time period, fees that can reach upwards of $800. In other words, you will be paying a fee for a product you are not going to use. When you are researching hearing aid dealers, look for one that charges you a small fee for returns, or no fee at all. Ask about this fee before you sign the contract so that you know what charges you are responsible for.
Adjustment, Reprogramming, and Service Fees
Typically, in the contract that hearing aid dealers provide for you to sign when you make a purchase, there will be a specific amount of time — often six months to a year — during which you will not incur any fees for adjustments or reprogramming of your hearing aid. When this time period ends, however, your costs can rise dramatically. The cost for an adjustment can be as low as the cost of an office visit or a flat fee from the vendor, or there can be an additional adjustment fee added per visit. Ask if your hearing aids can be adjusted remotely over the Internet. This is not only convenient but will save you lost work time for office visits and transportation cost. These costs can add up quickly, as the adjustment may not work for you the first time requiring several return visits to resolve your problem.
You also need to find out what sorts of fees you might incur if your hearing aid encounters any significant problems and requires a major repair, such as the replacement of the casing or the microphone. Will there be a flat fee charged that covers any issue, or will more complex problems cost more to repair? Maintaining your hearing aid is crucial, and it can lead to additional expenses over time.
Technology is constantly changing and hearing aid dealers are improving their products every year. As a result, you may find yourself with an outdated product that you want to upgrade after a few years, which can be a significant expense. On the other hand, you may find that the cost to repair your hearing aid is so high that it would not be much more expensive to buy a new product altogether. In either case, it is important to know what costs you will incur when you are upgrading your hearing aid. Will you be able to trade in your old hearing aid for a percentage off of the new one? Will you receive any sort of discount when you make your new purchase? If not, you may be looking at significant costs down the road.
The cost of batteries is an often overlooked long-term expense - until you need to change one for the first time. This is an ongoing cost. While you cannot eliminate this cost, there are things you can do to lower your expenses. First, many hearing aid dealers will give you at least a small starter set of batteries, while some vendors will give you a carton that may last you six months to a year. Once your initial supply has been depleted, you should look to purchase your batteries for the lowest cost possible, which often means going to one of the major chains. Additionally, purchase your batteries from a store that appears to have high turnover to ensure that you are getting a new, fresh product that will last a long time and therefore give you the best value for your money.
By doing research into all of the costs of buying digital hearing aids, you can avoid surprises down the road. Remember that many costs can be avoided or lowered, and where they cannot, you can make sure that your money is being spent well and that your investment will bring you years of better hearing.