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Why are hearing aids so expensive?

Why do hearing aid costs seem so high, and how do I get the best buy?

There are several reasons hearing aid costs seem high. I will try to shed some light on the cost versus value for correcting your hearing. I will discuss 3 distinct areas to help bring some perspective.

1st. When Medicare was being formed, the American Medical Association partnered with Congress to developing the strategies and defining benefits for the Medicare system. Although your dentist, chiropractor, optometrist, and audiologist may have the title of Doctor in their field, the AMA and Congress eliminated these professions because they were not part of the AMA or physicians. So, as Americans, we can get some exotic surgeries, but not help for our eyes, ears, and teeth because they are not part of the AMA who controlled Congress. There are some attempting to add these benefits to Medicare, but at best it is a long way off because of current funding from the federal government. Unfortunately, the current environment is more about cutting than adding.

2nd. Research and Development or R&D for short is another reason hearing aid prices seem high. With the advent of the digital age in audiology, the manufacturing cost to design a new hearing aid from concept to market runs between $85 million and $200 million. There are really only six major manufacturers in the world. They operate under different name plates with digital chips and software production. The other manufactures are actually just assemblers. There used to be thousands of manufacturers across the world, but the cost of business and R&D became too much for most. The FDA requirements for approval of new technology are burdensome, time consuming by years, and extremely expensive. What that means for you and me is that technology is fantastic and growing, but for that to continue, the cost of development and approval has to be met or no one will invest in the R&D. This is a much larger subject than I can present here, but hopefully you get an idea on the expense side for the manufacturers.

3rd. Your professional and their practice. Hopefully, you have a professional working with you on your hearing health and not just a person or box store selling hearing aids. Hearing is not a commodity you just buy. That approach is usually unsuccessful at best and has been a major reason why only 20% of those needing to correct their hearing are doing so. That means 80% of the people who need help don’t seek it, and they and their love ones suffer the silent pain of hearing loss in their lives! Those 80% often don’t recognize the damage untreated hearing loss is causing them and those close to them.

There are two main reasons that it is extremely seldom that just buying a hearing aid without further care will work for the purchaser. First, it’s not just about the ears. It’s also about the brain and the signal you are sending it. Have you ever put someone else’s glasses on and tried to see clearly? How did that work for you? It was most likely blurry, right? Just like you need an individual prescription for your eyeglasses, you need your individual prescription for your ears. Plus, since hearing ability is often lost gradually and people don’t often take steps to correct it for many years, over time your brain forgets some of the signals that it used to receive from your ears. Getting it all back at once can be uncomfortable and unproductive because your brain can no longer process those signals. To make regaining your hearing ability more effective, rehabilitation is the next step. This usually takes 3 to 6 weeks of working with your hearing professional to gradually work up to your full prescription. It’s not just about hearing more sounds, that’s easy. It’s about processing the signals and your ability to understand speech in quiet and noise. That requires a quality professional trained in aural rehab to help you recover as much as possible.

The second reason just purchasing a hearing aid from a big box store isn’t a quality option is that most hearing professionals practice bundling services. That means the cost of the hearing instrument you selected, the professional fees for the exam, the fitting, fitting rehab follow-ups, and quarterly check-ups and wax management are factored in, and that determines the bundled price. Usually, a bundled price is based upon 5 years of service. This way, you have a hard figure of your total expenditure and can budget accordingly. The hearing professional assumes some risk, but doesn’t have to constantly bill for every service rendered.

Some practices are beginning to unbundle the prices to present a lower hearing aid price to appear more competitive. Lower prices sound great, but the ongoing care you will be losing can very negatively affect your success rate. When you just buy a hearing aid and only visit a hearing professional when you feel like something is wrong, you will often find excuses not to visit your professional for the fitting rehab follow-ups and quarterly check-ups you need to have the most beneficial results. We all do it. Life gets busy, and we put things off. But just like you can’t tell what your blood pressure is without a test, you can’t tell what your hearing and understanding level is without your hearing professional.

So, how can you reduce the cost of your hearing instruments and still get what you need? Ask your hearing professional for their recommendation. Listen to them and ask questions. They are there to help you. Current technology is doubling about every year, but that doesn’t mean you need the latest and greatest available. Usually, you can go back about two generations of technology and still meet your needs effectively. For manufacturers, once they cover their R&D cost the product cost greatly reduces when the next greatest thing becomes available. So ask about those options. If you have a need but don’t have the budget, something is better than nothing. Your brain needs the help, and the old saying “if you don’t use it, you will lose it” is true in hearing. So start where you can. If your hearing professional refuses to help you in your journey, LEAVE. It’s not where you start but how soon and progressing toward the final destination of hearing your best that matters

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How to Talk to a Loved One about Their Hearing Loss

Hearing loss, as well as other important health issues like blood pressure and glaucoma, often go unnoticed by the individual who suffers from them until they lead to major, potentially irreversible problems. Screening is critical to identify these health issues. At your doctor’s, you’ll have a blood pressure test. At your optometrist, you’ll have a glaucoma test with your eye exam. Similarly, you should be receiving a yearly hearing screening. Sadly, hearing loss, the pain and long-term damage it causes, and the links between hearing loss and dementia were not on many people’s radar until recently.

Previously, doctors and other healthcare professionals received little education in audiology. This often lead to a “just deal with it” attitude towards patients with hearing difficulties. Plus, hearing loss was associated with a negative stereotype of aging for many. Often, this lead to denial and resistance from someone suffering hearing loss when a loved one would attempt to address the problem.

Many sufferers would defend their stance with such phrases as “I can hear everything I want to”. Interestingly, they could be right in terms of the volume of sound. There are several different types of hearing loss, and some do not result in a sense of loss of volume. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t missing out on important sounds in their life. Many are not “hard of hearing”. They are “hard of understanding”—especially those suffering from noise exposure and damage. These issues led many to avoid seeking help. Meanwhile, families and friends suffered communication breakdowns and the trauma they produced. Everyone involved suffered some degree of pain or detachment.

So, how do you talk to a loved one about hearing loss? Everyone is different and circumstances surrounding each individual and family can and should influence choices. However, when applied, there are principles that can help your loved one accept and take steps to correct their hearing loss.

Principle 1:

When discussing potential hearing loss, use the term “find truth”. Finding truth is the goal. Buying something is not. This can be done simply with a baseline hearing screening. A baseline screening should be done annually to track any changes, and most hearing professionals will perform this screening free of charge. Plus, it only takes about 10 minutes or less. This allows your medical team to note any changes, keep track of your hearing health, and establish treatment options if necessary before exceptional damage is done.

There are many advantages to having your baseline hearing level established. Once determined, it becomes part of your medical records. If accident or illness were to befall you, you’d then have proof of your hearing levels prior to the event. Attorneys and insurance companies would no longer have the ability to claim that your loss was preexisting.

Principle 2:

Don’t try to trap. Everything that feels trapped will try to escape. If the person you’re trying to talk to is your spouse, significant other, or close friend, simply mention that you were reading about the importance of a baseline hearing screening for legal and medical reference. Suggest that you would like to go together to get hearing screenings and establish these records. The new healthcare laws actually include hearing screenings as one of the four screenings in the preventative healthcare mandate for which your doctor can be reimbursed. If you choose this option for your screening, the nurse does the screen panel, and you do not receive results or consultation, but these newly implemented procedures are just further proof of how important hearing has become in today’s medicine.

Principle 3:

Seek knowledge and share it without pressure or emotion. The amount of information available on the web today is amazing. Use the knowledge you’ve gained from personal research to share the importance of annual hearing screenings, establishing your baseline, and early diagnosis. These are all critical in keeping or improving your ability to understand for the rest of your life and improving quality of life for yourself and those you love.

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New Year, New Ears!

3 reasons why better hearing should be a top priority for you, your health, and your life this New Year and every year.

Reason 1: Family and Friends.

Of the 5 senses God gave us, only hearing and the changes that come with hearing loss affect everyone in our life as much or more than they affect us personally. When hearing loss is denied or ignored, it sets the stage for frustration, avoidance of things, people, and places that enrich our lives.  Simply stated, what appears as a little problem begins to rob us of quality of life and the joys we enjoyed, and it hurts those we care about.

Reason 2: Quality of life.

Helen Keller, the noted blind and deaf hero who overcame so much to become a beacon of light and hope to the world said that if she were given the choice between sight and hearing she would chose hearing. Why? Because “when you lose your vision, you lose contact with things; when you lose your hearing, you lose contact with people.” When you have hearing loss, many times the simple pleasures of entertainment and drama from TV and movies become impossible to follow and enjoy. Conversations in noisy places become difficult; people sound as if they mumble. It’s interaction with people that brings and keeps the warmth, care, and love in our lives, and when that is diminished so is your quality of life.

Reason 3: Your health.

Years ago when you had surgery, the doctors kept you in bed for weeks to heal. Now days immediately after surgery, they have you moving non-stop. Why?

Your body is not a compilation of parts, but a whole unit functioning together and controlled by a fantastic computer called the brain. A recent study by John Hopkins University found that those with untreated hearing loss were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s than those who didn’t. You can find and read the study here. While the exact links are yet to be defined and further studies underway, it appears that defective signals from the ears to the brain may cause confusion and instability. Years ago, our generation had a statement we used for food, computers, personal knowledge and many other things. “Garbage in, garbage out”. It appears that is still true today in more ways than we ever considered.

In summary, our three reasons to make Better Hearing a critical priority this year are:

    1. Family, friends, and yourself.

    2. Quality of life

    3.  Your Health

Contact us today to start the journey to recovery and retention of your hearing and all the benefits that come with it.

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Hearing Loss Linked to Dementia

Can getting a hearing aid help prevent memory loss?

Download a recent study about the connection between hearing loss and memory loss by filling out the form below!

To download the study

just fill out the form below and you'll be redirected to a page to download all the information you'll need.
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Ringing in the Ear: Tinnitus

Understanding Ringing in the Ear: Tinnitus

Are you hearing ringing, whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing sounds?  You may be suffering from tinnitus.

What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears which can only be heard by the affected individual.  It has also been described as whistling, hissing, buzzing or pulsing in the ear.  These sounds may come and go; however, most sufferers experience symptoms 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The effects range from slight annoyance to severe disruption of everyday life.  The American Tinnitus Association estimates that over 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus.

Causes of tinnitus are varied and the condition is typically accompanied by hearing loss.  Your hearing healthcare professional can properly diagnose and treat both conditions.

Tinnitus Treatment
Due to the personal and unique nature of each tinnitus condition, proper evaluation and specialized treatment is necessary.  Although there isn’t a single cure for tinnitus, hearing healthcare professionals are experienced at providing individual solutions on a case-by-case basis.  After completing a hearing test, your professional may refer you to an otolaryngologist for further examination.

In many cases, the distressing combination of tinnitus and hearing loss can be relieved with advanced hearing technology.  While worn, a hearing system can restore ambient sounds and help eliminate the effects of tinnitus.  An electronic device call a Masker may also be worn to distract from the ringing sensation.  Maskers fit in the ear much like hearing aids and produce low-level sounds.

Your hearing healthcare professional will also evaluate other treatment options, including drug therapy and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT).  Your professional can explain the possible side-effects of various medications with you.  Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) combines low-level, steady background sounds played through a device with intensive counseling.  TRT is an involved process that can take 12-24 months to reduce the effects of tinnitus.  

Causes of Tinnitus may include:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss and nerve damage
  • A buildup of earwax
  • Some prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Ear infections or eardrum rupture
  • Head and neck trauma
  • Cardiovascular problems, such as hypertension

The most important step you can take to find relief from tinnitus is to speak with a hearing healthcare professional and complete a thorough hearing evaluation.

Source:  American Tinnitus Association


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