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Hearing Aid Consumers Getting More Bang for their Hearing Buck

Prices have gone up. Oh, you hadnt noticed? Of course youve noticed. It hurts to fill up the SUV! Grocery bills are through the roof; forget holding the line on health insurance, home cooling/heating, electricity, taxes. The average American can NOT catch a break on rising costs. Everything costs more today than it did just a few months ago. Remember when oil hit $70 a barrel? Analysts were apoplexic. Now, we may never see $70 a barrel again.

But there is one bright spot in the economy, especially for people who experience hearing loss, from mild to severe. The annual Hearing Journal/AudiologyOnline survey of hearing aid dispensers, conducted in January, 2008, revealed inflation-appropriate increases in the price of hearing aids over the past three years. Check to see how much your heating bill has increased in three years. Yikes!

But its not unusual for prices to hold steady in a highly-competitive market. Competition keeps down prices. In addition, consumers expect more features for less money within these competitive market segments. Look at your computer. Today, you get more features, faster processors, more memory, better monitors for less than you paid for your five-year old unit that, can now, be used as a doorstop its so out-of date. Because the computer industry is so competitive, buyers can expect more and more in the way of features and freebies as prices actually drop. More features for less. The hearing aid industry is actually very similar to that of the computer industry.

More Hearing Aid Features for Less

In the April 2008 issue of the Hearing Journal, Earl Johnson, Ph.D. provided a summary of the annual survey. One finding from the survey found that hearing aid dispensers are fitting patients with advanced features that not too long ago were only found in high-end hearing aids.

As seen in Figure 1, features like directional microphones, noise reduction and feedback suppressions are now standard features in hearing aids being sold over a wide range of price points. Each year, as the graph shows, consumers get more bang for their hearing buck.

Lets Look at the Numbers

In the survey summary Dr. Johnson reports: the average price of the hearing aids that participating dispensers reported selling in 2007 was $1986, only marginally higher than the average prices of $1912 and $1868 in 2006 and 2005, respectively.

According to Dr. Johnson this is actually an inflation appropriate increase in cost. Yeah I know the prices above are a bit of a sticker shock considering this is just the cost of one hearing aid. However, the positive aspect for consumers purchasing hearing aids is you are now getting more features and technology for the money you are spending. And the improved features and technology, may translate to you higher satisfaction and improved hearing.

Hearing Health Technology Marches On

A high-end hearing aid can set you back $5,000. (X 2 = $10,000). Got that kind of cash in the stash? Who does? So, maybe youve put off the whole hearing thing, not because you deny a noticeable hearing loss, but because of the cost of these thinking machines.

Today, mid-priced units deliver many of the same features and levels of performance as the premium units of a few years back and todays top-end hearing devices do everything but let out the cat. One even reminds you of your next hearing aid appointment. The technology is always improving and as it does, these improvements work their way into less expensive units.

The reason is simple. The hearing aid market is highly-competitive. Only 2% of all Americans wear a hearing aid, though that number will increase as the baby boom bubble moves into hearing aid range. With a total market of just 2% out of the entire population, hearing aid manufacturers have found ways to make their products more attractive to buyers. Automated convenience, once standard only on high-priced units, is now available in mid- and lower-priced units.

Give consumers more product for less money. And that, of course, works to the benefit of the consumer, aka, you.

Handling the High Cost of Hearing Health

The average hearing aid costs around $2,000, times two is $4K to hear better and improve the quality of your life and the lives of those close to you the ones always shouting at you to get a hearing test, for goodness sake, and turn down that TV!

Thats average price. Indeed, it comes with a bunch of features standard but $4,000 is a big bite for most families. Fortunately, financing and a future tax credit may just be the incentives you need to check out your hearing.

This year, the survey asked the hearing healthcare respondents a question about long-term financing and found that 15% of the healthcare professionals that responded are allowing their patients to pay off their hearing aids over time. Some respondents also reported that a much higher percentage of their patients financed their purchases.

So, when shopping around ask the hearing healthcare professionals if they allow payment plans. According to this survey, some will be happy to arrange terms you can live with and still afford gas at $4.00 a gallon.

Imagine thisYou walk out of the hearing healthcare professionals office with your new, smart, self-adjusting, discreet or flashy hearing aids to hear the birds for the first time this millennium and smile that smile of recognition. I remember that! Now, you hear it the way it used to be. And if this was you starring in a MasterCard commercial the next line would be Priceless.

The meaning of priceless is something you cant put a price on. Well, actually, you can for hearing aids. Its $4,000. But when you pay a little each month, it brings a better quality of life within the financial grasp of many more consumers. And it really is a quality of life thing, not just a hearing thing.

Federal Hearing Aid Tax Credit

Hearing aids are not covered under Medicare and are typically not covered under personal health insurance plans. In fact, according to the Better Hearing Institute, 71.4% of hearing aid purchases involve no third party payment, which places the entire burden of the purchase on the consumer.

This burden of cost typically results in the consumer not purchasing hearing aids and according to a 2005 Better Hearing Institute study titled "The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income", untreated hearing loss results in a loss of income per household of up to $12,000 per year, depending on degree of hearing loss.

Currently there is legislation, the Hearing Aid Tax Credit Act H.R. 2329/S. 1410, that would provide consumers a tax credit towards the purchase of a hearing aid of up to $500 per hearing aid, available once every 5 years. It would be available to 1) individuals age 55 and over, or 2) those purchasing a hearing aid for a dependent.

To learn more about the legislation and how you may youre your support visit: www.hearingaidtaxcredit.org.

Life Is Too Short to Miss a Sound

And, according to the annual Hearing Journal/Audiology Online survey, you dont have to miss a sound, a note, a whisper, a coo. Survey results clearly show that in the competitive hearing aid market, prices hold steady as features to improve convenience, wearing and hearing comfort, and style are added.

It may be a lot of money, but do you know what youre missing each day? Youll wonder why you waited so long.

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