What I Hear

Life with hearing loss

Where Is the Steve Jobs of Hearing Loss?

Why are hearing aids so expensive and so ineffective? Noted composer and classical record producer Richard Einhorn, who has severe hearing loss himself, explains. Read More

Hearing Aids

You are not just paying for the physical hearing aid. You are paying for ansi testing devices, computer programming equipment and software updates, rem devices, current and future maintenance, audiometers, sound booths, office and expenses, audiologist counseling and time through a lifetime of service and the list goes on. If hearing aids could simply be put in the ear and work great, you wouldn't need any of the above. If your hearing stayed the same and a hearing aid never needed adjusted you wouldn't need the above. If that were the case, you could buy them at Walmart for cheap. Since it doesn't work that way, you can't. You do need the help of a professional in most situations. There is a reason an audiologist or HIS needs years of training and experience to program and properly fit a patient with hearing aids. Usually a patient will not have perfect hearing because the patient has nerve damage. If the hearing aid is Beethoven and the nerve endings are an old, out of tune piano, the sound can only sound so good, even with a high end hearing aid. The patient may have very poor results or be unable to benefit from an entry level hearing aid. A patient with less damage may do great with the same hearing aid. So basically hearing aid results differ from person to person. A trained professional will know if you are getting the most out of your aids and be able to explain and counsel you with your expectations.

I know the the pain hearing loss can cause. The best advise I can give is to get a free hearing test. During the evaluation, you should evaluate the professional. Did he/she ask about your situation and listen to you. Determine if that person showed empathy or just wants to sell a product. If it is only to sell, find someone else. I hope everyone out there can find someone who truly cares and wants to help them!

What Sean has said is

What Sean has said is correct; you are paying for more than just the actual device. Keep in mind that millions of dollars can be spent developing a hearing aid, and due to the relatively small market, prcies are higher to re-coup costs and develop further devices.
While it's easy to be negative about hearing aids and clinicians the basic thing to remember that has been touched on it that hearing aids are unable to fix the hearing loss. This is because the majority of hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells in the cochlear, so that there can be dead regions of the cochlear. There will never be a hearing aid that can restore the hearing of frequencies within the dead region of the cochlear.
The very name of a hearing aid should tell us that it is only an 'aid', it cannot be expected to restore hearing loss back to normal. A competent clinician will counsel the patient that hearing aids can help, but they will also need to employ hearing tactics to hear effectively. Realistic expectations must be set. No competent clinician expects that DSP will fix the problem of poor SNR; they understand that hearing well in background noise will remain a challenging environment and will require more work than just putting a hearing aid in the ear. In regards to the initial question of 'Where is the Steve Jobs of hearing loss', it would be useful to get someone who conducts research into hearing aids and isn't affiliated with a hearing aid manufacturer to respond.

Costs of Hearing Aids

I have high-frequency hearing loss and tinnitus. I am retired after 30 years at the University of Washington working in the field of Underwater Acoustics and teaching classes in Electrical Engineering and Speech and Hearing Sciences. After UW, I co-founded and was President of Sound Metrics Corp. a company that designs and manufacturers high resolution sonars used in fisheries management and underwater inspection. After 7 years, I retired again.

During my Sound Metrics days, I went to an ENT for possible treatment of tinnitus which to me sounds like high-frequency hiss in both ears. Year after year, it had been getting louder. I had a fan that masked it at night, but when the fan was not enough, I said “enough” and sought treatment. The ENT showed me my audiogram with HF loss and said there was no cure for tinnitus at this time. His theory is that it is a phantom sound generated by the brain as a substitute for the sound lost with my hearing loss. He said I did not need hearing aids to understand speech, but I could get some and see if they helped. Some research suggested that amplifying sound at frequencies poorly heard would diminish tinnitus.

I went to a recommended audiologist that presented me with a pair of WIDEX Passion 440 aids priced at $6,300. When I expressed my surprise at the expense, she said that she received only $300 (possibly each) for her time. I found the exact aids on-line for under $4000 a pair and emailed her if she would allow me to purchase the aids that way and pay her $300 for her time. She responded that they no longer fit aids purchased elsewhere. When they did, the cost was $500 per aid and $90 per 30-minute adjustment visit thereafter. Such was my introduction to audiologists.

I am retired; had time, residual talent in research, and sufficient curiosity to find information on the cost of hearing aids not given by audiologists. Please check out:


Cost of Hearing Aids Not Justifiable

Certainly anyone needing a hearing aid would expect part of the cost to go towards covering a retail location and staffing/expertise. However, over the past few years with the wide spread adoption of smart phones, ipods, various digital products, the cost of high technology digital component parts has been dropping 8-15% a year. Over the same period of time the cost of hearing aids has been rising by the same amount or more on an annual basis. Those parts include digital amplifiers, A/D converters, miniature microphones. These are the same chips that are used in phones, cameras, tablets, etc. In terms of personal health issue scams, the costs of glasses (particularly frames and hearing aids are the worst.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Katherine Bouton, a former editor at The New York Times, is the author of Shouting Won't Help: Why I—and 50 Million Other Americans—Can't Hear You.


Subscribe to What I Hear

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.