Tips for a Wise Buyer
If you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss and have been told that you need hearing aids, take heart! 48 million Americans are dealing with hearing loss, and you have options. But how do you know what choice to make when selecting a hearing aid?
There are three crucial – and universal – decision-making criteria in our mission to find the best hearing aids around: price, quality, and support. So before you make the commitment, take a look at these wise buyer tips first:
Hearing Aid Price
While hearing is invaluable, investing in your hearing has a definite cost. A White House hearing aid report reveals the average cost of one hearing aid is a staggering $2,300. Need two? You’re looking at $4,600.
Be aware of hidden costs
It is important that you understand the background to the price and exactly what is on offer for the money. What you might not realize is that figure generally includes not only the cost of the hearing aid but also all of the ongoing office visits and services supplied by the audiologist or ENT (Ear Nost & Throat) plus repairs covered under warranty.
Before you buy, it’s important to find out what are the bundled services that come with the price tag, because unlike diamonds, hearing aids aren’t forever – they last anything from seven to 10 years.
Many people focus on price, because choosing based on price seems easy, however, it rarely tells the whole story, nor gives you the information you need.
Inexpensive – but subpar – online hearing aids can actually damage your ears by blasting incredibly loud sounds into your ear. Likewise, mainstream hearing aids with subpar service may not deliver what you need for as long as you need it. Don’t let your hearing pay the price for a small cost reduction
Hearing Aid Quality
All hearing aids aren’t alike. It doesn’t matter how much a hearing aid costs, if it doesn’t work for you – it’s worthless. And it turns out hearing aids aren’t all created equal. The biggest measurement of quality in a hearing aid is consistency. After all, you want to consistently hear without annoying sound effects like beeping or excess background noise. Also, depending on your specific hearing deficiencies, you will need a hearing aid that can be tuned to meet your specific needs. The best hearing aids will allow greater amounts of fidelity with fine tuning.
Hearing Aid Technology Levels
In general, most mainstream hearing aid brands and providers offer hearing aids in four
technology level tiers. They are basic or entry level, then there are two mid-level offerings,
lower and upper, then there is a premium level.
Let your lifestyle determine your hearing aid technology
Understanding hearing aid technology levels and which one might be right for you is important. In essence, each technology level guarantees better hearing in varying sound environments. Basically, the more active your life, the better the technology you should consider.
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, with basic needs such as listening to the TV, radio and the ability to converse easily with small groups, well then basic hearing aids are ideal for you. However, if your lifestyle needs are a little bit more complex than that, one of the mid-level tiers is something you should consider.
If you want the best possible hearing in lots of different and complex sound environments because that is what your lifestyle demands. Well then, you should consider the premium level. It really is as simple as that. Speaking to a good professional will allow you to explore your needs and the technology that might match them.
Hearing Aid Maintenance
Ongoing maintenance will be needed to keep your hearing aids functional and programmed to your needs. Your doctor may be available to support your hearing aids, but it’s important to select a hearing aid company that stands by their product and offers additional customer support in the form of a warranty or guarantee and ongoing service. You will need ongoing service to ensure that your hearing aids are delivering what you need to hear better.
Maintenance is required
During the life of your hearing aids (again, seven to ten years), your hearing may change. So the hearing aids may need to be re-programmed. Again, ongoing service will ensure that this will happen.
It is also important that you understand that you need to follow your own ongoing clean and care routine. It differs from hearing aid type to hearing aid type. However, whatever it is for yours, you need to do it on a daily basis.
Whether you prefer shopping online or behind the wheel to pick out your custom hearing aids, our selected companies all offer unparalleled support (e.g. 24/7 customer support via a toll-free phone number or online assistance, or thousands of office locations for appointments). It’s a big decision to invest in hearing aids and just like with any investment, you should be able to easily make contact with a company representative to go over any questions or issues.
Our Search For The Best Hearing Aid Companies
1. We searched for a comprehensive list of hearing aid companies
2. We evaluated hearing aid providers based on our expert guided buying criteria: price, quality & support
3. We brought you the best hearing aid companies for consideration
If you’ve finally decided you’re ready to buy hearing aids, making an purchase is the next step. To help scrutinize the options, we reviewed government data, analyzed consumer reviews, consulted with seniors and talked to experts in the industry.
The approach we took to narrow down the top hearing aid companies was as follows:
1. We considered multiple hearing aid companies
We began our search with 13 well-known hearing aid companies. These companies produce a spectrum of hearing aids that run include of budget-friendly options ($500+) items, to hearing aids that cost a several thousand dollars each.
2. We checked with experts
We scrutinized these hearing aid companies based on our expert-guided buyer criteria in three categories: price, quality, and level of support. Along the way, we checked with industry expert Lise Hamlin, Director of Public Policy for the Hearing Loss Association of America. Only companies respected by industry experts were considered.
3. We listened to consumers
We narrowed our scope to shorten the list. We only included companies that had 4 of 5 stars in online customer reviews. We honed in – and removed – companies with an overwhelming amount of reviews including negative trigger words. For example, if a number of reviews alluded to hearing aids that “beeped,” “clicked,” or produced muffled “noises.”
4. We put the best companies on your radar
We delivered the best brands to put on your radar if you or a friend or family member is
suffering from hearing loss. We picked a hearing aid manufacturer who has a country wide
network of approved Independent providers. A Co-Operative of Independent hearing aid
providers who have their own label of hearing aids and finally, an online provider with their
own label of hearing aids online staff to support buyers.
Hearing aid reviews
After our evaluation, we selected three best hearing aid companies: Oticon, Miracle-Ear and Embrace Hearing. Each of these companies were good picks, and also stood out in a unique way.
Best Quality Products
Oticon is the leading hearing aid manufacturer that connects to mobile phones and the internet, giving you the power to stream audio from movies, music and TV shows directly into your hearing aid. And Oticon recently made music history when the company transmitted a live performance of the legendary rocker group Styx’s show straight into Oticon hearing aid users’ devices, allowing them to fully experience the concert.
Oticons latest hearing aid technology is truly dramatically different than any hearing aid that has gone before. Their entirely new way to handle sound, which has gotten rave reviews, makes them a leader in the hearing industry.
Price: This advanced technology is going to cost you, depending on how many extras you want. Their models go from the high $1,000s to several thousand dollars – each.
Quality: High, to accommodate the litany of extras these hearing aids offer. The hearing aids are generally reliable and can be exceptionally well customized to suit your needs. The company has earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Support: Oticon has a large and detailed section of online resources for troubleshooting and maintenance, and a large network of Oticon-licensed hearing care professionals for offline support.
Shopping can be simple if you start with going to Oticon’s website, where you provide your ZIP code to contact the closest Oticon-licensed hearing care professional. A hearing aid specialist will recommend a specific hearing aid model, which you can have fitted within a couple of weeks.
Miracle Ear Review
The power player has been a mainstay in the industry since it was first started as an electronics company in 1948. Since then, it’s constantly evolved and has operations in thousands of locations across the globe. There are over 1,300 Miracle-Ear locations in the U.S. alone. Miracle ear is, in fact, a co-operative of Independent hearing aid providers with a country-wide network. That co-operative work together under the Miracle Ear name to provide a brand that is synonymous with good hearing care. It is the best of both worlds, small local Independent hearing care providers with a country-wide support network.
Miracle Ear has the main hearing aid brands bid to build the Miracle Ear label of hearing aids. This means that the technology in Miracle Ear hearing aids is completely in-line with what is offered by the mainstream hearing aid brands.
The company’s chief pledge is “commitment to excellence,” and the company ensures you’ll experience that commitment first-hand no matter which Miracle-Ear location you visit across the world. Their notable hearing aid recycling program demonstrates a commitment to increasing accessibility to hearing aids.
Price: Miracle-Ear is cryptic and refuses to reveal any official costs on its website or over the phone. So how do you find out the final number? You need to make an in-person appearance and swing by your local Miracle-Ear office for a free hearing test. From there, an employee will share models that would work for you along with their prices.
Quality: A 4.5 star rating according to ConsumerAffairs means that the brand is overwhelmingly viewed by the public as reliable. One big way Miracle-Ear backs up its said “commitment to excellence” is with its generous 30-day hearing aid satisfaction guarantee, allowing you the opportunity to be comfortable and happy with your new purchase. The company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Support: With 3,600 Miracle-Ear service centers and 1,750 affiliates worldwide, chances are you are a quick ride away to a Miracle-Ear center. From this point of view, Miracle-Ear is a good option if you want face-to-face interaction for support.
Embrace Hearing Review
The hearing aid world hasn’t been the same since two innovators launched Embrace Hearing as a first-of-its-kind 100% online hearing aid start-up in 2011. Creators Ross Porter and Sam Tanzer, who both went to Stanford University, saw an opportunity to shake up the hearing aid business model by eliminating the middleman. See, traditionally the industry worked like this: A hearing aid manufacturer would sell hearing aids through an audiologist or ENT, who would then sell them to customers AKA hearing aid users, often at a major mark-up. Tanzer and Porter realized that cutting the middleman – ahem audiologists and ENTs – equals cutting the price tag, and thus the Embrace Hearing business operation was born.
Embrace Hearing has a second line hearing aid manufacturer build the Embrace label of hearing aids. Overall the hearing aids seem to be generally well received, however, it is difficult to compare them like for like with other mainstream brands.
So what makes Embrace Hearing a top pick?
Price: Models range from $449 an ear (many other brands cost at least four times as much) up to $949 an ear, which is still cheaper than the typical model.
Quality: Embrace has earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. It also received an overall 5 stars on ConsumerAffairs.com, where customers suggested the products are high quality.
Support: If you’re an online shopper then you’re going to love how Embrace Hearing works. Simply email/fax your hearing test (which you can take with a local audiologist or ENT – see more on our Frequently Asked Questions page) to Embrace Hearing. Their expert team will recommend custom hearing aids for you and upon placing your order, your pre-programmed hearing aids will arrive at your door within eight days. If you need repairs or maintenance, you can drop your hearing aids in the mail and Embrace Hearing will fix them for free during the 3-year warranty period. Embrace Hearing employees are also available to answer any questions or concerns via their 24/7 toll-free phone line or online.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if I need hearing aids?
Most run of the mill hearing loss is about clarity, not volume. That means that most people with hearing loss can hear the voice, they just aren’t sure what they are saying. If you think you are experiencing hearing loss, you’ll need to see an audiologist or an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) for a full and proper diagnosis.
Why are hearing aids so expensive?
The research and development costs for manufacturing hearing aids can be high – especially for companies committed to product innovation. There are also many consumer safety regulations and insurance challenges impacting healthcare product companies and healthcare service providers.
Beyond that, hearing aids, in general, are provided by retailers along with a host of ongoing services and support. Many providers have bundled this into one price, rather than detailing exactly what you receive in a detailed manner. This means that many people have been fooled into believing that the price is all about the device, it’s not, the price reflects the device or devices as a small part aligned with all of the ongoing
What’s the story with the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017?
President Donald Trump signed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017. The legislation means you’ll be able to buy hearing aids over-the-counter (OTC) – just like you were buying cold medicine. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has three years to devise new rules and regulations for OTC hearing aid manufacturers to abide by before these products are available for sale. A hearing aid price drop is expected around 2020, but if you need hearing aids now, don’t wait to buy. Your brain’s ability to interpret sounds and language will decline with extended hearing loss.
Does Medicare cover hearing aids? What about Medicaid?
No to Medicare. However, Medicaid may be able to help. The government does not require Medicaid to cover hearing aids, so each state set its own coverage criteria. Currently, 28 states offer some type of coverage. Here’s the breakdown:
- CA, IL, IN, MN, MO, NH, NV, NY, OH, SD, TX and VT: Hearing aids are covered for “mild” or greater hearing loss.
- FL, MT, NJ, ND, OR and WY: The criteria is “moderate” or greater hearing loss.
- HI, IA, MA, NE, RI and WI: There are no official standards, hence these states defer to opinions from audiologists and physicians.
- AK, CT, KS and NM: Zero criteria set.
- Contact your state agency to find out if you’re eligible.
And know this – most states’ Department of Health and Human Services office offer financial assistance programs to help cover the cost of hearing aids.
Is a hearing aid the same thing as a hearing amplifier?
No. Hearing aids are different from hearing amplifiers. What’s the difference? Hearing amplifiers are essentially a “one ear fits all” product. They “amplify” sounds and make them louder. Hearing aids are programmed to make sounds louder but also differentiate noises based on your hearing loss severity. Medical experts warn that hearing amplifiers can damage your hearing by sending excessively loud sounds into your ears.
What’s the number one thing I should look for in a hearing aid?
That’s a case by case question. But overall the consensus is – look for a hearing aid that fits your lifestyle needs, you also need to look for a professional who you can trust to look after you and your ongoing needs. Don’t forget, your relationship with them may well be between seven and 10 years long. Lise Hamlin is the Director of Public Policy at Hearing Aid Association of America. Hamlin tells us, “You need to know your own needs: Are you a working person who needs all the features that are offered regardless of price, or is price important and worth considering (even the most basic hearing aids are a lot more sophisticated than those available 20 years ago, and may serve well for people who simply want to talk to friends and family).”
Hamlin also offers this insider tip, “…Shop around to find the professional you can best work with before purchase. There are many professionals who are qualified and do a good job. But this is a long-term relationship…The consumer must (make) sure the professional is properly credentialed, and that they explain the terms of their sales.”
No matter which hearing aid company you choose, keep in mind that you should carefully select the hearing aids you buy – because not all hearing aids are created equally. While some of the hearing aid companies we selected are adding cutting-edge new technology and others are more budget-friendly, we found these three share one invaluable characteristic…they’re high-quality.