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How to Buy a Hearing Aid Without Breaking the Bank

Geoff Williams

If you're in the market for a hearing aid, you may be shocked by the price tag.

According to the hearing aid review site HearingTracker.com, the average cost of one hearing aid is $2,372; the average cost of a pair of hearing aids is $4,672. Even if you have Medicare, your plan won't cover the cost of hearing aids, and most private insurance plans do not typically fully cover the expense either.

And odds are you or a loved one could be dealing with mild or moderate hearing loss. Nationwide, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, approximately 37.5 million people ages 18 and over report trouble hearing. So if you're looking to benefit from hearing aids without spending thousands of dollars, you'll want to employ these smart money-saving strategies.

[Read: The High Cost of Long-Term Care Insurance (and What to Use Instead).]

Here are four ways to reduce the cost of a hearing aid:

-- Talk to your doctor.

-- Shop around.

-- Prioritize the features that matter most to you.

-- Before you buy, ask about the return policy.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you're facing sticker shock or embarrassed about not being able to afford the high cost of a hearing aid, you may not think to discuss your concerns with your doctor, but you should think again. Your doctor may be able to help you secure a discounted rate.

Sherri Collins, the executive director for the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, suggests discussing pricing with your hearing health care professional if the cost of an aid is out of reach. "All of the major hearing aid manufacturers offer lower cost hearing aids. You don't have to break the bank to have a hearing aid that could still benefit you," Collins says.

"Ask if the previous year's model is still being produced and if it would be a fit for your hearing loss," Collins says. For those who already have hearing aids, Collins recommends looking "for seasonal specials to pop up when business slows down and see if you can trade in an older pair of hearing aids."

Shop Around

If you aren't happy with the hearing aids you're being shown by your health care provider, "don't hesitate to get a second opinion. It never hurts to seek out additional resources to confirm the information you are being told," Collins says.

Some of the many places you can buy hearing aids include Miracle-Ear hearing aid centers, Beltone hearing aid centers, chains such as Walgreens and Walmart and warehouse clubs like Sam's Club and Costco. You may want to also seek out recommendations from a trusted hearing aid specialist or audiologist.

You may also soon be able to buy hearing aids in a store without a trained professional assisting you. In 2017, Congress required the Food and Drug Administration to develop regulations for over-the-counter hearing aids, with the hope that they'll be more affordable. The regulations are expected to be drafted by 2020. There are also many websites that sell hearing aids and even offer hearing tests online.

[See: 10 Expenses Destroying Your Budget.]

If you don't want to spend the money on a hearing aid, you can also invest in a hearing amplifier, also known as personal sound amplification devices. These gadgets amplify sounds but aren't as sophisticated as a hearing aid. Still, they're often a third or a fourth of the price of traditional hearing aids.

Even if you're concerned you won't be able to afford a hearing aid, exhaust all options before giving up. The Hearing Loss Association of America's website, HearingLoss.org, offers plenty of resources and links to organizations like the Kansas Infant/Toddler Hearing Aid Loan Bank, which offers short-term hearing aid loan programs for children up to 3 years old who have recently been diagnosed with a hearing loss.

Every state has at least one agency for the deaf or hard of hearing, as does the District of Columbia, so make sure to see if you're eligible for financial assistance. If you're a veteran and receive VA Health Benefits, you may be able to get free or low-cost hearing health care.

Prioritize the Features That Matter Most to You

There are a variety of hearing aid options to choose from. Some have hearing aid channels, which can allow you to adjust the hearing aid. So if you have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds, like birds chirping, the aid can be tweaked so you're essentially turning up the volume on the sounds that give you the most difficulty. The more complex your hearing, the more access to multiple channels might help you.

You can also get hearing aids that help cut out background noise, so you can hear people talking to you in, say, a noisy restaurant.

"Many consumers also love the Bluetooth capability of many of the newer hearing aids, as wireless or near-wireless streaming of phone calls, music and GPS directions is very convenient," Collins says.

In any case, you want to be aware of your options and consider them all, says Jason Power, the owner and managing director of The Hearing Clinic, which has five locations in Ontario, Canada.

Power advises spending more money on a hearing aid upfront to save more in the long run. "The device with more advanced features and better performance obviously costs more," Power says.

Still, if you can afford a higher-quality hearing aid, this is a piece of equipment that you're going to potentially use every minute you're awake, he says. "If you are still working or actively social, have plenty of social or work meetings, often talk on the phone, love to listen to music, watch TV and like socializing with people, your hearing aid use is going to be quite high," he says. "In fact, you will need to wear your hearing aids for about 12 to 16 hours a day, so you will need a device that works consistently and provides the absolute best sound quality." In short, while you want to save money on a hearing aid, it's not a wise idea to focus solely on getting the least expensive one you can find.

[Read: 6 Tips for Engaging in Medical Tourism.]

Before You Buy, Ask About the Return Policy

Dexter Zhuang, a career coach in San Francisco, and has worn hearing aids for the last nine years, since his sophomore year in college.

If you can't afford all of the bells and whistles, he suggests getting hearing aids that have "strong noise cancellation functionality." He says this is critical, given how noisy the world often is. He also points out that if you aren't sure if the hearing aid is a good fit, you may be able to return it.

"Most audiologists offer a free trial period -- at least 30 days -- for each pair of hearing aids. Don't just purchase one directly without first putting it to the test," he says.



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