TruHearing: What It Is, How It Works, and Is It Right for You?
TruHearing is the leading administrator of hearing healthcare benefits in the USA. The company offers a wide selection of discounted hearing aids and provides professional services through a national network of licensed hearing care professionals.
If you're looking for hearing aids that don't break the bank, TruHearing sounds like great value. TruHearing says their hearing aids cost 30-60% less, on average, and prices can be further reduced with the right insurance coverage. But even if TruHearing is covered by your insurance, you may still want to investigate the alternatives.
We'll help you find out whether TruHearing is right for you.
What is TruHearing, and are you eligible?
TruHearing is a third-party managed-care provider. They say their goal is to "improve the lives of people with hearing loss through affordable hearing healthcare and innovative technology."
The company partners with care providers and insurance companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Health Alliance, VSP, and Humana, to offer premium hearing benefits. TruHearing works with 85-plus health plans to provide over 160 million Americans with hearing aids and full-service hearing healthcare.If you're wondering whether you're eligible, either check with your insurance or call TruHearing directly to verify coverage.
The TruHearing HQ is located in Draper, Utah.
While TruHearing isn't a hearing aid manufacturer, it's part of WS Audiology (WSA), the world's biggest hearing aid conglomerate. WSA owns two of the brands available through TruHearing, Widex and Signia, and manufactures the TruHearing brand of hearing aids sold by the company, which appear to be functionally equivalent to WSA's Signia devices.
Pros and cons of TruHearing
TruHearing established hearing care as a health-plan benefit through major medical insurance providers to make hearing aids more affordable. But not everyone has access to those health plans, and more affordable alternatives, such as Costco's hearing aids, do exist. When you're trying to decide between TruHearing and other options, keep the following pros and cons in mind.
|Streamlined process||You're limited to the TruHearing network of providers and brands|
|More affordable on average||Not the cheapest option; alternatives or going directly through a provider can be more affordable, especially in the long run|
|Health plan benefit||Not included with all health plans, and your insurance might permit more affordable out-of-network providers|
|Available separate from healthcare coverage through Vision Service Plan||Providers offer free visits for one year; additional visits cost up to $65 each|
|Brand-name unlocked hearing aids||Annual check-ups may cost extra|
|TruHearing provider can handle insurance claim submission||Consultations might not be as thorough|
|Teleaudiology option||Remote care does not include important tests like Real-Ear Measurements (REMs); in-person care might lack REMs too.|
How does the TruHearing process work?
TruHearing offers a simple step-by-step process:
- Call TruHearing for an appointment - TruHearing's toll-free number is 1-800-334-1807. A hearing consultant will take your information and verify your coverage. They will also find a provider in your area and schedule your first appointment. You can let them know if you prefer the teleaudiology option,i.e. a remote hearing screening and consultation; more on that below.
- Receive a consultation - The TruHearing provider will perform a comprehensive hearing exam, discuss the results with you, and make a hearing aid recommendation. Be sure to bring all your questions to this consultation, as you may be selecting a hearing aid that day.
- Order hearing aids - The care provider will order the hearing aids you selected. TruHearing can handle the insurance claim submission on your behalf.
- Pick up your hearing aids - During your next visit, the audiologist will fit and fine-tune your hearing aids and show you how to use and care for them. Once you feel confident that the devices are working to your satisfaction, you'll take your new hearing aids home.
- Get help when you need it - Your TruHearing package includes one year of free follow-up visits.
The streamlined process is one of the major upsides of TruHearing. You won't have to find a provider on your own, TruHearing handles the insurance paperwork, and the cost to you is defined by your coverage. If your insurance covers out-of-network providers, however, reaching out to a few different audiologists and comparing what they offer compared to TruHearing might pay off.
How does TruHearing's teleaudiology option work?
In some states, TruHearing offers a remote consultation for those who would like to limit in-person visits. While this is available nationwide to patients (after their fitting appointment), TruHearing told us that hearing assessments and hearing aid fittings must be performed in person in states that have more prohibitive professional licensure regulations.
After calling TruHearing (1-800-334-1807), if the teleaudiology option is available to you and you opt to proceed with it, here's what will happen:
- While you're still on the phone, the TruHearing representative will schedule a remote consultation with a care provider in your area.
- Next, TruHearing will email you a link to their online hearing assessment, which you'll complete prior to your consultation appointment.
- Once you've completed the assessment, the results are automatically shared with your local care provider.
- At the appointment time, your provider will call you to review your results and make recommendations. If your screening results reveal significant hearing loss, your care provider may recommend an in-person visit for a comprehensive hearing exam.
- If you decide to order hearing aids, you can either receive an in-person fitting at your provider's office or choose a remote fitting.
TruHearing says that all providers who offer the teleaudiology option use the same online hearing screener powered by Shoebox Online. The hearing screener, the company reports, is clinically validated for an accuracy of 95 percent for ears with loss and 91 percent accuracy for ears without loss.
TruHearing's initial online screener only takes a few minutes. It's automated, and you can take it from your smartphone, computer, or tablet. The hearing screening requires earbuds or headphones. It assesses your left and right ear individually at five different frequencies. You'll also fill in a questionnaire to provide additional personal information. Both the screening result and your questionnaire answers will be shared with your TruHearing care provider, which will help them evaluate your hearing and plan the next steps.
Is TruHearing's teleaudiology option sufficient?
TruHearing told us that members who were screened and fitted remotely were satisfied with their hearing aids, but ultimately TruHearing recommends in-person testing for the best possible outcome. "While the teleaudiology option can be a successful solution for members who live in remote locations, have mobility challenges, or are concerned about potential exposure issues, we do recommend in-person testing to our members. Working face-to-face with a hearing care provider is the gold standard for comprehensive hearing testing and evaluation and for ensuring the greatest success with their hearing aids."
There is currently no way to objectively validate hearing aid amplification levels through teleaudiology. Real Ear Measurements (REMs), pictured above, require an in-person visit. TruHearing does not mandate the use of REMs by its network providers.
Which hearing aid technologies does TruHearing offer?
TruHearing offers hearing aids categorized into four different levels:
- Basic: For people with mild to moderate hearing loss who live a quiet and less active lifestyle.
- Standard: A good option for people who spend most (but not all) of their time in quiet environments. You'll have a choice of hearing aid styles, but the technology is limited.
- Advanced: Great for people with an active lifestyle, whether it's eating out, traveling, or otherwise spending time away from home where background noise can interfere with hearing. This option is available in many styles and includes advanced features, like automated digital processing, artificial intelligence, rechargeable batteries, and more.
- Premium: Best for when you need to communicate in noisy environments, like at events or in restaurants. Includes state-of-the-art technology, such as adaptive directional microphones, and other premium features. Available in all styles of hearing aids, though not all features might be compatible with every style.
If your insurer works with TruHearing, they'll offer you one of the following plans:
- TruHearing Choice: You'll have access to all technology levels offered by TruHearing and a wider selection of brands. You may or may not have a co-pay, depending on your insurance plan.
- TruHearing Select: Your custom health plan will include hearing aids that fall under the premium and advanced technology level. You may or may not have a co-pay, depending on your insurance plan.
While the Select plan is often cheaper (depends on your insurance plan and co-pay), you may be locked into one specific brand, depending on which formulary your insurance chose for its members. With the Choice plan, you might pay more, but you'll also have a wider selection of hearing aid brands and models. This will allow you to pick a hearing aid your care provider is skilled to handle. Be sure to inquire exactly what your choices are with your specific TruHearing coverage.
Accessing TruHearing through Vision Service Plan (VSP)
You may be eligible for hearing aid discounts through Vision Service Plan (VSP). Here's how the company describes it to HearingTracker: "This partnership grants more than 80 million VSP members access to TruHearing services and discounted pricing. VSP members can work with one of the more than 7,000 accredited, quality clinics in TruHearing's network to evaluate their hearing and purchase the most up-to-date technology hearing aids at prices of 30% - 60% off retail." TruHearing also explained that "in addition, VSP members that use the TruHearing program to meet their hearing healthcare needs, receive the services TruHearing offers to all its patients including a 60-day trial period, a 3-year warranty for the hearing aids, batteries for non-rechargeable hearing aids, a year of visits to the hearing care provider to ensure success with their hearing aids, and ongoing support from a TruHearing Hearing Consultant."
How much does TruHearing cost?
The cost to you depends on your insurance coverage and whether your health plan requires co-pays.
TruHearing applies a 30 to 60 percent discount on its hearing aids, which TruHearing claims would typically run from $1,294 to $4,928 on the open market. Moreover, your health-plan benefits will potentially bring your cost down even further. TruHearing says its customers save an average total of $3,400 per pair. Depending on your benefits plan, your co-pay might be zero dollars. TruHearing says you'll pay at most $2,250 per TruHearing hearing aid. Other sources claim the price can be as low as $675 per device. Hence, you can expect to pay between $1,350 and $4,500 per pair of TruHearing hearing aids, or less depending on your insurance coverage.
The TruHearing package includes the hearing exam, professional consultation, hearing aids, the initial fitting and fine tuning, and one year of free follow-up visits. Additional services cost extra—your provider can charge up to $65 for each additional appointment. Keep in mind that the $65 appointment fee may not cover certain services that may be critical to your follow up care, including services like REMs, tinnitus management, and earwax removal.
Why is TruHearing more affordable?
The reason TruHearing can offer competitive prices is volume. They've partnered with dozens of insurance providers, thousands of credentialed hearing-care providers, and all of the leading hearing aid manufacturers. TruHearing purchases hearing aids in bulk and resells them to consumers through its provider network. This enables the company to negotiate significant discounts with both hearing aid manufacturers and providers.
The vertical integration of WSA and TruHearing is also a factor. TruHearing no doubt has a special relationship with the brands manufactured by WSA. And while TruHearing is able to sell those brands at a comparatively affordable price, there is likely a healthy profit margin built in.
It is possible that you might find providers that offer a better value than TruHearing. If your insurance lets you choose between TruHearing and in- or out-of-network providers, ask around and see whether you can get a better deal elsewhere. Keep in mind that you'll be using your hearing aids for many years, and you might need tune-ups, hearing tests, and other services on a regular basis, some of which won't be included in a TruHearing package.
George, a retired hearing-care provider, had this to say about TruHearing: "In my experience, a good number of professionals won't use TruHearing because they only pay a minimal fitting fee and many professionals can't afford to fit the instruments for the price they have to charge. Then after the sale, follow-up can be very limited. The professional simply can't afford the time to do it all."
What brands are available through TruHearing?
To date, TruHearing sells the following hearing aid brands:
- Oticon - Oticon is the flagship brand of Demant A/S of Denmark, the world's second largest hearing aid manufacturer.
- Phonak - Phonak is the world’s largest hearing aid brand. Founded in 1947 in Zurich, Phonak quickly emerged as a leading developer of early electronic hearing aids.
- ReSound - ReSound is the flagship brand of GN Hearing, the world's fourth largest manufacturer of hearing aids.
- Starkey - Starkey hearing aids are the flagship brand of Starkey Hearing Technologies, the only US-based hearing aid manufacturer.
- Signia (WSA brand) - Signia is one of the largest hearing aid brands in the world. Signia hearing aids are manufactured by WSA, the same parent company that manufactures TruHearing, Widex, Rexton, and Miracle Ear hearing aids.
- Widex (WSA brand) - Widex is one of the world’s most popular hearing aid brands, and best known for their hearing aids’ sound quality, which is preferred by most musicians.
- TruHearing (WSA brand) - TruHearing hearing aids are considered by some (see below) to be Signia hearing aids in Rexton clothing.
Who manufactures the TruHearing brand of hearing aids?
TruHearing brand hearing aids are manufactured by TruHearing's parent company WSA. According to one audiologist (Greg Bonistalli, AuD), TruHearing hearing aids are "Signia hearing aids in the shell of a Rexton." The hearing aids run on the same software platform as WSA's Signia AX models, and audiologists program the hearing aids using the exact same desktop application they would use to program Signia AX models. However, the exterior, or device “case” (referred to as "shell" in the quote above), of TruHearing-brand hearing aids appears (to our source) to look more like Rexton (another WSA brand), so the aids are really a unique WSA mashup.
TruHearing brand hearing aids
Are TruHearing hearing aids locked?
None of the hearing aids sold by TruHearing are locked. This means you could take your TruHearing-purchased hearing aids to another provider and have them adjusted. Locked hearing aids, like AGX-brand hearing aids, cannot be adjusted by anyone outside of a special network of providers who have access to proprietary fitting software.
Who are the providers of TruHearing? Where can you get TruHearing?
TruHearing works with providers in over 7,000 locations across the U.S. The providers include doctors of audiology, audiologists, and board-certified hearing-instrument specialists credentialed to NCQA (National Committee for Quality Assurance) standards. All providers must have current state licenses.
TruHearing doesn't provide a public list of providers. You can enter a zip code on their home page, but the website returns a map with map markers and no provider names, addresses, or phone numbers. You can call TruHearing and inquire about providers in your area. The number is 1-800-334-1807.
Costco, Miracle Ear, and Sam’s Club are not TruHearing providers.
TruHearing refund and warranty policies
TruHearing offers a 60-day no-risk trial period with a money-back guarantee. However, before you can take your hearing aids home, you'll pay upfront for the hearing aids and any portion of the exam not covered by your plan. Moreover, custom-fit earmolds, which are necessary for some cases of moderate to severe hearing loss, are non-refundable, though they do come with a 90-day remake warranty from the manufacturer.
If a member realizes during the trial period that the hearing aids do not work for them for whatever reason, they may return the hearing aids for a full refund of the hearing aids. Members are not charged a restocking fee or a penalty if they decide to return their hearing aids during the risk-free trial period. Members will receive a full refund for the hearing aids.
Your hearing aids come with a three-year warranty. TruHearing and the hearing aid manufacturer cover repairs and a one-time replacement (for lost or irreparable hearing aids) for three years. A replacement fee may be charged by the manufacturer and a new fitting fee charged by the provider. In a Phonak product warranty reviewed by HearingTracker, we found that the replacement fee would not “exceed $150 per hearing aid, plus shipping”, and that the “provider may charge up to $125 for reprogramming and refitting” a “replacement hearing aid”. Replacement fees may run as high as $350/device, so be sure to check the terms of your specific product warranty.
If you purchase a hearing aid with replaceable batteries, you'll get 48 free batteries for each hearing aid. Note that you might have to replace batteries every three to 10 days, so in the best case, 48 batteries will last you about 16 months. After that, you'll pay out-of-pocket: $39 per 120 batteries.
Reviews of TruHearing
While care providers, including YouTube-famous audiologist Doctor Cliff, generally appear to be dissatisfied with TruHearing, particularly its professional rates, reviews from patients are mixed. Some users report satisfying results and cost savings. Others had frustrating experiences and would have preferred to pay more.
A seasoned hearing aid user who tried TruHearing decided to switch to an audiologist who follows best practice guidelines. Her TruHearing care provider wasn't specialized in TruHearing's Signia hearing aids and struggled to tune the hearing aids within the allotted time. Despite being part of an ENT practice, this provider also didn't perform specialized tests indicated by the diagnosis, including real-ear-measurements, speech-in-noise, or tympanometry. This review confirms what some professionals have said — that TruHearing providers have to operate within a limited amount of time, which could result in a lower quality of care.
In another case, TruHearing providers couldn't offer hearing aids with sufficient gain for a user's hearing loss, due to the provider offering only Signia and TruHearing brand hearing aids. The user ended up buying the Phonak Naída Paradise hearing aids themselves and is hoping to get reimbursed by their healthcare provider.
One user summarizes the downside of TruHearing, commenting, "While a provider may offer different packages to include free batteries, wax guards, cleaning, and hearing aid adjustments, when a customer is referred to a provider by TruHearing, that provider is bound by contract to discuss only the TruHearing package with the customer."
So even if your care provider would like to offer additional options, their contract with TruHearing prevents them from doing so. That's unless you ask.
Another user responded that they had a very good experience with TruHearing because their audiologist was competent, experienced, and efficient. But they also added that they paid extra for annual hearing exams and real-ear-measurements.
What HearingTracker gathered from the reviews is that people with mild to moderate hearing loss might have an easier time when obtaining hearing aids through TruHearing. The quality of care also depends on the provider and their willingness to provide service that exceeds the conditions negotiated with TruHearing.
Alternatives to TruHearing
TruHearing isn't always the most affordable solution, particularly if your insurance isn't part of its network. If your insurance covers out-of-network options or if you have to pay out-of-pocket, have a look at the TruHearing alternatives below.
Costco Hearing Aid Center
Costco isn't a TruHearing provider, but it sells hearing aids for as little as $1,399 a pair. Depending on the model or extras you require, you may end up paying as much as $2,700. A professional fitting with real-ear measurements, free follow-up appointments, hearing aid cleanings, Costco's standard three-year warranty, and two years of damage coverage with no deductible are part of the deal. Even before you make a purchase, you can get a free hearing test and product demonstrations.
Next to its own Kirkland Signature brand, Costco offers models from Jabra, Philips, Phonak, and Rexton. The selection covers a range of hearing aid styles, including custom-molded, rechargeable, and Bluetooth-capable models.
The downside is that Costco doesn't work with insurance providers, so be sure your insurance covers out-of-network costs. While Costco does provide all the same services as TruHearing providers, the quality of care at your local Costco could be hit-or-miss. Finally, you have to be a Costco member to enjoy its Hearing Center products and services.
Hearing clinics and hospitals
Independent audiology clinics, ENT clinics, or hospitals with an audiology program might accept your insurance, even when TruHearing doesn't. The downside is that it's harder to find these places. Here are some tips:
- Check whether hospitals in your area have an audiology department or a hearing aid program.
- Find audiologists in your area that are also Medicare/Medicaid providers.
- Check with your insurance provider for a list of in-network providers
- Take to Google and search for "audiologist" and the name of your insurance plan
Medicare and Medicaid coverage
While Medicare doesn't cover non-medically-necessary audiograms, hearing aids, or hearing aid fittings, yet, you can get coverage for a diagnostic hearing and balance exam if your doctor or healthcare provider recommends it. Medicaid coverage varies by state.
Over-the-counter hearing aids
You don't necessarily need to go through an audiologist to get functional hearing aids. Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids should be available in early- to mid-2022, following a ruling by the FDA. This will be an affordable option for people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. And, if you can't wait for 2022, Bose sells an FDA-cleared self-fitting hearing aid that can be ordered online today.
But keep in mind that you'll be missing out on a professional diagnosis and fitting of your hearing aids. Be sure to have your hearing checked by a professional before purchasing an OTC to be sure that your hearing loss isn't reversible or cause for medical concern.
TruHearing offers benefits that may help some people with hearing loss reap savings on their hearing aids. However, TruHearing does not mandate that its network of audiologists and hearing aid dispensers provide best-practice audiological services, and your follow-up care may cost more than anticipated if you access services like earwax removal and real-ear measurements (which may be critical to your success with hearing aids). Do your research before committing, to make sure TruHearing is the best option for you.