The lifetime cost of hearing aids versus other electronics

Contributed by | Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

One of the most frequent comments we hear from our readers is that hearing aids are too expensive. The fact that hearing aids are expensive isn’t in dispute, but a reader got our attention with an email regarding our recent article about the cost of hearing aids. He suggested we hadn’t taken certain factors into account in our comparison of hearing aids and consumer electronics.

A pair of hearing aids sitting on an iPhone
If you break down the price of hearing aids
over time, they are actually less expensive
than many consumer electronics.

The reader said, in part, “You draw a relationship about economics of the devices and purchasing an iPhone. I think you left out a significant bit of information people should think about. There are hidden fees associated with an iPhone that you didn't mention. Most people don't realize what they actually spend to use modern technology. I feel that in discussing the services related to hearing devices it is also important to remind the reader that the purchase of an iPhone is not the end of the cost of use. With other technology people buy merchandise but have after-purchase service fees to use the technology. With hearing devices, that is an upfront cost that misleads people into thinking it is expensive. What are they actually spending to use their phone? They think of what they paid for the phone but rarely consider the long-term cost they incur just to own it.”

The reader had a good point. So we thought it would be worth taking another look at some common electronics and services and comparing those costs to that of hearing aids over the same period of time. Bear in mind, however, that the costs of these goods and services can and do vary from company to company, so we have presented average costs to the best of our ability.

In order to present an accurate comparison we will use as a jumping-off point the average age at which a person first begins using hearing aids, which is age 74. For the sake of argument (and based on actuarial tables) we will assume the average life span beyond age 74 is 12 years.

The average price of a hearing aid in the U.S. is $2,400, or about $5,000 a pair. Hearing aids typically last about five years, depending on use and care. So if you need three pairs of hearing aids over the course of 12 years, that adds up to $15,000. A hefty sum, to be sure. But look at it another way: $15,000 divided by 12 is $1,250 a year. And $1,250 divided by 12 is $104 a month. So, if you spread the cost of hearing aids over time, they will cost you about $104 per month.

At this point, you might be grumbling that $104 is still a lot of money. And you’re right; $104 is nothing to sneeze at. But ask yourself this: do you own a smartphone?

If you are like most Americans, the answer is yes. According to a Pew Research poll, 64 percent of adults in the U.S. own smartphones, and that number is growing. Among the four major carriers alone, the average monthly cost of a cell phone is $138. Taking all carriers into account, the average cell phone user pays about $110 per month. So, for the same twelve year period of time as mentioned previously, the average person is paying anywhere from $15,840 to $19,872 just for their smartphone. But that isn’t all. Hidden costs incurred in larger data plans, overages, apps and more memory can cause that monthly bill to skyrocket even higher. 

Of course, you might be one of the 26 percent of American adults without a smartphone. You might be perfectly content with your landline, and since you are not online very much your home computer might be all you need to access the Internet. But what about your monthly bundled cost of cable, phone and Internet? According to a recent report by market research firm Mintel, the average monthly bill for just Internet and cable is $132 per month, while a triple-bundled service of Internet, cable and phone is $165 per month. So over a twelve year span, the average user will shell out $23,760 to the cable company. Is $15,000 for hearing aids starting to sound better? We think so.

Our reader had more to say regarding the perception of hearing aids as unreasonably expensive: “If [readers] multiply their cell phone bill, cable TV or satellite TV and Internet access, the real truth comes out. With mobile phones, TVs and computers, the after purchase service fees somehow seem separate and are seldom a consideration as part of the decision to buy. These costs will vary depending on what they want. I have had conversations with people who thought that $3,000 for hearing devices was too expensive. This same person came to realize they have been paying $200 per month for their bundled technologies ... Which technology do they use the most? Which of those choices will help them improve personal relationships, reduce frustration, allow them to interact more naturally, participate more actively in all social circumstances? Perhaps if we paid for hearing devices more like a phone bill that may help.”

We thank our alert reader for pointing out that looking at hearing aids as devices similar to smartphones or monthly services such as cable TV might change the perception of hearing aids as “too expensive.” Just like your smartphone and Internet, or perhaps more so, hearing aids allow you to remain connected to the world and those you love. So ask your hearing healthcare provider if they offer the option of a monthly payment plan, whether through their office or through a hearing care finance company. In the long run, hearing aids will be worth the price.

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