Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Hearing Aids cost

  1. Jun 16, 2009 #1

    dlgoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It probably won't be too many years before I'm going to need a hearing aid. I've looked into some of the ones out there and am wondering if the costs are justified. Yes I know they are a miniature and the good ones are digital (making it possible to program for custom spectrums), but the middle of the road ones are around $4,000 (US dollars) per pair. So my question is, are they really that heard to manufacture to justify the, in my opinion, this high cost?

    I'm posting here thinking you engineers might have some experience with them and have some inside information.

    Feel free to move this berkeman if you don't think this post is appropriate here.

    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2009 #2

    berkeman

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Post is fine here, and I'm curious as well. Not really any product liability costs to worry about (that often increases the cost of medical-related stuff). Seems like I saw an advertisement on TV recently for a rechargeable unit that was not so expensive. I'll see if I can find an advertisement for it...
     
  4. Jun 16, 2009 #3

    dlgoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Well I was told by one Audiologist that the better the background rejection the higher the cost. I can understand this but $4K/pr being the middle of the road ones. The higher priced ones were around 5.6K$.
     
  5. Jun 16, 2009 #4

    Danger

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    It really depends upon what level of sophistication you want. You could get a simple amplifier with Walkman-type ear buds for a few bucks. At the other end, you have hidden inside-the-ear remote control models with full-spectrum selectable filtering that cost as much as a car.
     
  6. Jun 16, 2009 #5

    dlgoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Just for fun I bought one of those "ListenUp" amplifiers you see advertised on TV. The ear buds are great with my MP3 player but the amplifier has no noise rejection at all. Outside you can hear the wind really loud and clear. :surprised
     
  7. Jun 16, 2009 #6

    vk6kro

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    It does seem like a bit of a racket. They know that if you are getting deaf, you have no alternative.

    There is some justification, though.
    Part of the cost is the original fitting and moulding and there can be a lot of follow up costs.

    Hearing aids get clogged up with ear wax and some of them have to be taken back for cleaning on an almost weekly basis.

    We had several years of this with my mother's hearing aids. She had one for each ear but we were lucky if there was one working at any one time.

    They were fierce at using batteries, too, and the batteries were expensive and not easy to change for an elderly person.

    When we took her out, we used to carry a $5 kid's toy "Spy listening device" that easily outperformed the $2000 hearing aids and were a lot more reliable. Otherwise she couldn't hear a word we said. She had to wear headphones though.

    So, if you get hearing aids, be sure to get a good service deal with them and consider the ones that sit behind the ear. They seem to be a lot more reliable and cheaper.
     
  8. Jun 16, 2009 #7

    Danger

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    That was something screwy about Alberta Health Care. My mother had one hearing aid (not an expensive one). A couple of years later, she had to get one for the other ear as well. Not long after, the first one packed it up. AHC wouldn't provide a replacement since she had just gotten one. Don't they know that people have 2 ears? (And before anyone points out what might seem obvious, her hearing with the aid was not good enough that one ear would suffice.)

    Hear, hear! (Pardon the expression.) The inside-the-ear ones are totally unnecessary other than from a vanity standpoint. The external ones are actually better from a social standpoint, since someone that you are conversing with will realize that you have a problem and be more likely to communicate clearly.
     
  9. Jun 16, 2009 #8

    dlgoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Thanks vk6kro for your reply. I understand some of the cost involved with the time to have the hearing aid provider fit and maintain the units, the cost of batteries, ect. (These were included in the cost of the ones I've looked at) But is there anything magical about the circuitry that would make them more expensive to manufacture than say my new digital TV that cost less tha $1K? From this site, it appears that the amplifiers are fairly standard: http://www.hearingusa.com/circuits.htm" [Broken]
    And here are some of the functions that I guess are programmable in the digital circuits: http://www.entusa.com/hearing_aid_circuits.htm" [Broken]
    Could it be the cost of the firmware?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  10. Jun 16, 2009 #9

    dlgoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think I can agree with this assuming it can give good directional sense. Knowing where the sound is coming from is kinda important to me.
     
  11. Jun 16, 2009 #10

    vk6kro

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I have seen the insides of one kind of hearing aid and it didn't look anything special. Hard to know the development costs etc but I have seen similar miniature circuitry in much cheaper goods.

    Being a bit cynical, I suspect it is a case of raising the price to what people will pay. Until you lose your hearing, it is hard to imagine the social cost of not having it, so people will pay any price for hearing aids. My mother was a totally different person if her hearing aids were working well.

    We notified the hearing aid service company when my mother died and they sent someone around to ask for the old hearing aids back, so they must have been important to them. They could just remould them and supply them to someone else. They didn't get them back.
     
  12. Jun 16, 2009 #11

    Danger

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    That is something that I hadn't considered, and a very good point. The behind-the-ear models that I'm familiar with have the microphone on the back. Wearing a matched pair should give the same sort of time delay that we normally rely upon for side-to-side directionality, but the earpieces bypass the convolutions of the outer ear which help in determining forward/backward input angles. Wearing only one could just mess that up completely.
    This might be a good time for Moonbear or one of the other biology/medical experts to weigh in. It's becoming very complex.
    Good for you. That didn't happen to be Beltone, did it? Scum.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2009
  13. Jun 16, 2009 #12
    : :confused: :bugeye: Before springing 4K to support the lifestyles of dozens of skilled craftsmen, technicians, audio electronics engineers and clerks (to name a few beneficiaries in this nefarious sector) to build you a custom number, I would look at this.

    http://www.hearingaids101.com/disposable-hearing-aids.aspx" [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  14. Jun 17, 2009 #13

    dlgoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    At $108/pr every 120 days, it would cost you over $6500 for 20 years of use. At least I hope I'll would live another 20 years.
     
  15. Jun 17, 2009 #14
    Yet there is little wearing out, besides the batteries. What will the next generation bring?

    I went to dimestore glasses after finding them superior to the perscription alternative in paractical use--and at 5 to 10% the cost. But a developing astigmatism could change this. The same may be true of hearing aides where the perscription jobs can selectively amplify various frequency ranges.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2009
  16. Jun 17, 2009 #15

    dlgoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Good point. I too for the most part ware the dimestore glasses for most applications. I might try one of the Songbirds. As you say "Before springing 4K".

    Thanks
     
  17. Jun 17, 2009 #16

    vk6kro

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The fitting that goes in your ear has to be a very good fit if it is the "all in your ear" type.

    If there is any air passage around the hearing aid, you can easily get feedback from the speaker in the ear to microphone outside the ear. This is audio feedback at about 1000 Hz and is loud for the user and obvious for anyone nearby.

    Even losing weight can affect the dimensions of the ear canal and possibly cause feedback.

    The aids that go at the back of your ear are a lot less critical about feedback. I don't know about directivity with these. Never worn either type, but it has to be better than one that is clogged up with ear wax.

    So, these "off the shelf" aids would have to address this problem of needing to be fitted.
    For safety reasons, (protecting your eardrum) the aid must also be stopped from entering too deeply into the ear, even if bumped.
     
  18. Jun 17, 2009 #17
    In the '90's I worked with another electronic engineer who needed a hearing aid. He was very unhappy with it. He said he wasn't able to distinguish between noise and speech. The batteries he said lasted only a couple of days and cost about $5.

    If he had it to do over again he said he wouldn't buy a miniature one. We even talked about making one that would be better, only it would be about the size of a pack of cigarettes. That was before the digital ones, maybe they're better.

    Once I found a 1930's edition of Popular Science with a project to build your own hearing aid - out of tubes. It even used all three - A, B and C batteries for those of you who know what those are. It used a cigar box as the enclosure.
     
  19. Jun 17, 2009 #18
    I'm not trying to sell this product, and it could be a waste of money for all I know. I think you do need to shop around and try to talk to others who also need to spend their own money to find a solution rather than an insurance company's. There have been TV ads of pocket hung units, as well.

    It really is a racket. They are on the recieving side of government funds. You're competing as a lone private consumer with a govenment consumer (the guerrilla in the room) where funds are obtained from agencies spending other people's money, to whom they owe little quid pro quo. This pushes the free market price to about double I'd guess.
     
  20. Jun 18, 2009 #19

    dlgoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I will consider them all.

    When I started this thread, however, I was really curious about the cost of manufacturing; whether that was the main cost of a unit. But I guess they are being marked up by those who are selling them and their services.

    Regards
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Hearing Aids cost
Loading...