How much do hearing aids cost?
We asked 2000+ consumers about the price of their hearing aids
20 June 2018
Back in February, I received an email from hearing loss advocate Katherine Bouton looking for some information on the current hearing aid market:
Hi Abram, I'm updating my book Living Better With Hearing Loss, and trying to get a sense of the current hearing aid market, and the status of insurance reimbursement for hearing aids.Katherine Bouton
I responded almost immediately, saying that I wasn’t aware of any good data. I also suggested that we should survey our respective followers to try to investigate and find some answers ourselves. Katherine agreed, and we began working on a survey. At some point, we also reached out to our friends over at the Hearing Loss Association of America, who agreed to survey their followers as well.
About the respondents
Through our combined efforts, Hearing Tracker, Katherine Bouton, and HLAA were able to generate over 2000 survey responses, from respondents across every US state. We received about 10% more of our responses from women, and over half of our responses from hearing aid users in the 55-74 age range.
A note about our followers
Hearing Tracker, HLAA, and Katherine Bouton followers represent a unique highly-motivated group of hearing aid users. Survey results should be considered representative of this unique group of individuals, not a balanced group of average hearing aid users.
Income and employment status
We asked our followers about their pre-tax household income and current employment status, which helped us to get a better idea about our survey sample. The reported pre-tax household income for our sample lines up very closely with national averages, while the reported employment status of our sample is more in line with an aging cohort (more than half of the group is retired).
Hearing loss severity
We asked our followers about their hearing loss severity. The chart below shows four major color-coded groups, based on the worst hearing loss level reported. The darkest blue group (26.4% of the total) is profound at worst, while the lightest colored group is mild at worst. Our largest group was severe at worst (39.6%) followed by moderate at worse (31.1%). The smallest group (2.9%) had mild hearing loss at worst.
History of hearing aid use
In general, our followers are more experienced hearing aid users, with over half of respondents reporting over 10 years of hearing aid experience.
First purchase delay
A very common claim in the hearing aid industry is that the average person waits seven years (after learning they have a hearing loss) before purchasing hearing aids. This was not the case for our sample. Over half of our followers reported purchasing hearing aids within 2 years of learning they had a hearing loss. The discrepancy could be put down to sampling bias or issues with erroneous self-reporting.
Hearing aid purchase trends
We asked our followers how many hearing aids they purchased (one or two), what brand and model of hearing aids they purchased, what level of technology they purchased, and what features their hearing aids came with. The bulk majority purchased a pair (84%) of hearing aids. This finding lines up closely with historical trends of binaural (both ear) fittings, as reported by hearing professionals.
Technology level purchased
The concept of technology levels will be new for many readers. Generally speaking, hearing aids come in a variety of technology levels, with higher technology levels representing the cutting edge of what each hearing aid manufacturer has to offer in terms of features and functionality. As you might expect, higher technology levels come at a higher price point.
We asked our followers which level of technology they purchased (top-end, mid-range, or low-end). The majority (54%) reported purchasing top-end hearing aids, about a third reported purchasing mid-range, and less than four percent reported purchasing low-end.
Note: Some hearing aids come in more than three technology levels. The data below should be considered a very rough approximation of the buying trend.
Brand of hearing aid purchased
The results of our survey show that Phonak is the most popular hearing aid brand (among our sample), followed by Oticon, ReSound, Widex, and Starkey. Kirkland Signature (Costco’s white-label brand) came in just below the major brands.
In the chart below, we have included any brand with at least 10 responses. For reference, 522 respondents told us they purchased Phonak hearing aids. We received a handful of responses for smaller brands like Audibel, Sonic, NuEar, EarLens, Eargo, etc, which are not shown on the chart.
Brand purchased vs U.S. market share
Our results are more or less in line with previous research from Bernstein Research (2015). According to Bernstein, Sonova, which manufactures Phonak and Unitron, had 30% market share in 2015. In our survey, Phonak and Unitron owners made up 26.7% of the sample. William Demant, which manufactures Oticon, Bernafon, and Sonic, had 21% market share in 2015. In our survey, Oticon, Bernafon, and Sonic owners made up 19.7% of the sample.
Signia is the new Siemens
The chart above shows market share for Siemens. Siemens hearing aids was sold to Sivantos in early 2015. Siemens hearing aids have been rebranded “Signia” by Sivantos. Oh, and prepare for more change as Sivantos and Widex have announced plans to merge.
Understanding hearing aid brands
In the past, Hearing Tracker has provided a map of all the hearing aid brands to help consumers understand the industry. Click on the image for a bigger view.
Hearing aid prices
The overall average price paid for a single hearing aid was $2372. Purchasing hearing aids as a pair reduced the cost slightly from an average unit price of $2560 (purchased as a single unit) down to $2,336 (purchased as a pair).
|Hearing aids purchased||Average price paid|
|Single hearing aid||$2,560 per device|
|Pair of hearing aids||$2,336 per device|
Price by place of purchase
Hearing aid prices seem to vary little whether purchased from a name brand store (Miracle Ear, Beltone, Etc), ENT office, or audiologist clinic. In each case, the average price paid was just over $2500. Prices at university and hospital clinics was slightly lower at $2432, and the average price paid at Costco was substantially lower, coming in at just over $1200.
Interestingly, internet purchases came in only slightly lower than Costco at $1054 per hearing aid. Hearing aids purchased on the internet either came with no in-person professional service or with limited in-person professional service, as contracted by the internet retailer. Internet purchases that included a professional fitting (websites like hearstore and ziphearing) averaged $1533 while purchases that did not include a professional fitting averaged $704 (audicus, ebay, amazon, etc).
Note: In the chart below, we only included categories with at least 50 responses.
Price by technology level purchased
Surprise, surprise! Those who reported purchasing higher end hearing aids also reported spending more, on average. Higher-end hearing aids came in at an average price of $2,651 per device and low-end hearing aids came in at about $1000 less, at $1,604 per device. Mid-range hearing aids came in at $2,063 per device.
Price by brand of hearing aid
Starkey, Widex, Beltone (GN), and Oticon were on the higher end price-wise, all coming in at over $2600 for a single hearing aid. Most other brands came in at between $2300-$2500 per hearing aid, with Rexton and Kirkland Signature (Costco’s brand) coming in significantly less (closer to $1000 per device).
Note: The prices shown below reflect the average private pay unit prices reportedly paid by our followers and may not reflect actual average prices paid within the retail market as a whole. The reader is also advised to consider the relatively low sample being reported, and in all cases should consult a local provider for realistic regional pricing.
|Brand Purchased||Average price paid||# of responses|
The Costco Effect
Of the hearing aid brands listed above, Phonak, ReSound, and Rexton have historically been available for purchase at Costco. In our sample, we received multiple responses from those who purchased at Costco (45 for Phonak, 40 for ReSound, and 39 for Rexton), and the data we collected suggests that there is an average savings of around $1000 per hearing aid relative to purchasing through traditional channels.
Many will ask how mainstream hearing aid brands like Phonak and ReSound can be purchased for less at Costco. The answer is complex, but to the best of my understanding it comes down to these three factors:
- Previous generation technology - Hearing aid manufacturers that sell at Costco are known to sell products that are one generation behind their latest flagships.*
- Volume purchasing - Costco’s current estimated market share is 11% of all U.S. hearing aid sales.
- Low overheads - Costco’s “shop in shop” model means lower overheads compared to traditional brick and mortar shops. We also see (below) that Costco employs a higher ratio of hearing instrument dispensers, which could translate to lower average salaries for their hearing professionals.
*After publishing our findings, we received feedback from a “Senior Hearing Aid Specialist at Costco” indicating that Costco is now selling (in some cases) current-generation premium-level hearing aids. Our contact also reported that some brand-name hearing aids have features stripped out, and that Costco does not sell certain niche products, like CROS aids.
Audiologist versus Hearing Instrument Specialist
We also asked respondents to tell us whether a hearing healthcare professional was involved in their hearing aid fitting, and if so, whether that professional was an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist. In our sample, 75% of consumers were fitted by an audiologist, 20% were fitted by a hearing instrument specialist, and the rest either weren’t sure who fitted their hearing aids or reported that a professional wasn’t involved.
Price by professional type
The per-unit hearing aid prices reported were about $500 higher when a hearing aid was fitted by an audiologist versus a hearing instrument specialist (HIS). On the surface this makes sense; audiologists have a more in-depth education in the science of hearing and hearing loss, invest more in their education, and command a higher salary (on average).
|Who fitted your hearing aid?||Average price paid||# of responses|
|An audiologist||$2,499 per device||1056|
|A hearing instrument specialist (HIS)||$1,944 per device||337|
However, looking deeper into the data we found many hearing instrument specialists seem to charge the same amount as audiologists when the setting is the same. The lower prices seem largely driven by the higher proportion of hearing instrument specialists in the Costco setting as reported by survey respondents. Our survey placed 40% of hearing instrument specialists at Costco vs 4% of audiologists.
Audiologists were much more likely to fit hearing aids at the local clinic level, including ENT, hospital, and university clinics. Consumers who were fitted at a name brand store had about a 50/50 chance of being fitted by an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist, and consumers who were fitted at Costco were more than twice as likely to be fitted by a hearing instrument specialist.
Note: In the chart below, we only included categories with at least 100 responses.
Why are hearing aids so expensive?
Wondering why hearing aids cost as much as they do? Check out what Dr Cliff, AuD has to say on the matter. He breaks down the costs associated with research and development and audiological service in a very understandable way.
Stay tuned for more
This is the first article in a multipart series of articles covering our hearing aid prices survey. In follow up articles we will be addressing hearing aid preference and recommendation ratings, insurance reimbursement, local service trends, and an analysis of accessory purchases. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates.