Today, I wanted to talk about the cost of hearing aids. Let me ask you hearing people how much do you think we deaf people pay for hearing aids. Just take a wild guess. I’ll wait.
If you thought $500-$1000, you’d be wrong. A good quality digital hearing aid can cost anywhere from $1000 to $5000 EACH hearing aid, depending on the severity of the hearing problem. I said EACH hearing aid because many deaf people wear a hearing aid in each ear, so their cost could be anywhere from $2000 to $10000 for a set of two hearing aids. That’s a lot of money involved right there.
And yet – many insurance companies will not cover the cost of hearing aids. Why? Because they consider them to be “optional” like, say, a nose job or other types of plastic surgery. Which is bullshit in my opinion. It’s not an option for us deaf people to wear a hearing aid. It’s a MUST.
I only wear a hearing aid in my right ear, which still has about 25% hearing left in it. My left ear is a near total loss, so I don’t wear anything in that ear. I used to wear an older $500 analog hearing aid, but when it died a few years ago, I dreaded have to pay a couple grand or so for a new digital hearing aid. I didn’t want another analog hearing aid because all it does is amplify everything around me and I mean everything such as background noise when I’m trying to have a conversation with someone.
So I looked into the cost of a digital hearing aid. I stopped at a local audiologist to talk about it. I had a hearing test and nothing changed from my last test. 90% loss in the left ear and 75% loss in right ear. Then the audiologist surprised me with something. She showed me a used Phonak Supero, an entry level digital hearing aid with one program. She said it was sold to her from the estate of a deaf man who passed away. And that I could buy it at cost for just $120. I was like, sold. I went through a trial period in which a few adjustments were made and in time, I liked it. It was my first ever digital hearing aid after wearing an analog hearing aid for much of my life. While it’s an entry level digital hearing aid, it was far better than the analog hearing aid that I used to have. It filtered out many of the background noise around me, which allowed me to focus on my conversation with my companion.
But even though I like I’m wearing now, I know there are better models out there with far more features such as Bluetooth and the ability to program it via an app on a smart phone and that is just for starters. But those hearing aids are definitely not cheap. With no insurance to at least help defray the cost, most deaf people are stuck wearing entry level hearing aids or none at all.
The subject of the cost of hearing aids came up during some comments on a photo on Instagram. Jessica Flores, a deaf YouTuber, posted a photo of her hearing aids that she decorated and the cost of hearing aids were discussed among the comments in the photo.
“I got lucky with mine because I worked at a place for 3 plus years and they set money aside to cover any medical expenses that I had,” said Jessica. “I didn’t use it at all when I was working, so when I left, I had enough money to buy new ones. But I’m not sure if I’ll have enough in the next 5 years when I need to get another pair.”
That is the reality that we deaf people face today – trying to find the money to pay for new hearing aids because they are not normally covered by insurance. I would not mind paying a deductible or copayment or even a percentage of the cost of the hearing aid like I would for any other medical expense. $500 would be acceptable to me with insurance covering the rest.
But sadly, that is not the case. Hopefully someday this will change. And I think the only way for this to change is to get the word out to your local lawmakers and try to pass a bill to require the insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids like they would on other medical expenses.
I want to thank Jessica Flores for her input on the cost of hearing aids. Check out Jessica’s YouTube channel where she advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing.
A message was sent to a representative at Phonak, a hearing aid manufacturer, to attempt to get a comment for this article. The message was not returned. If I do hear back from Phonak, I’ll write a follow up article.
Until then, stay tuned 🙂