One in six Australians suffers hearing loss, a figure that's expected to rise to one in four by 2050. Yet only 35% of Australians who could benefit from a hearing aid own one.
One reason may be affordability: top-end aids can cost a small fortune. Here, we've looked at ways you can save on these devices including:
A privately bought pair of basic hearing aids vary in price from about $2000-4000. They range from $4500-7000 for medium and $7500-14,000 for top-end aids. So you can potentially save thousands by shopping around.
You can also:
- Make sure you’re not upsold an expensive model with features you don’t need. There’s an awful lot of technical jargon around hearing aids, so don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions to find out exactly why you do – or don’t – need those extra features
- Take a friend or relative with you, as buying hearing aids from potentially pushy sales staff can be stressful. And take your time – it has probably taken years for your hearing loss to develop, so there’s no reason to make a decision on the spot.
Shopping around pays
With hearing aids, it certainly pays to shop around. We found an inner-Sydney clinic charging $14,000 for a pair of top-of-the-range Siemens hearing aids, including fitting and service, compared with $11,000 by a clinic in western Sydney. For the same devices without any service, another Sydney clinic charges $7400, while we found an online UK retailer charging about $4900 and a US online retailer selling them through eBay for $3340.
Most clinics offer a bundled price that includes a hearing test, fitting, adjustments and sometimes ongoing service. The majority of the survey respondents to an in-depth CHOICE survey of our members received such a bundled price. Bundling can make it harder to shop around, which only one in four of our survey respondents said they had done. And with an appointment usually costing about $100-250, the bundled price provides questionable value for money – the majority of respondents only went to one or two follow-up visits.
This doesn’t mean the service provided by a good audiologist isn’t valuable. It can mean you’ll end up with aids that make real improvements to your hearing and quality of life.
Are top-end aids worth it?
The main difference between top-end aids and more basic ones is better performance in noisy situations. If you need to attend meetings at work or have a very active lifestyle, or if you’re looking for extra features such as Bluetooth and better noise reduction, medium to top-end hearing aids are usually the best choice.
Whatever your needs, be wary of retailers exaggerating those needs.
“We were visited by a 94-year-old self-funded retiree who was quoted $12,780 for a pair of top-range hearing aids,” audiologist Dirk de Moore of the Bendigo Hearing Clinic told CHOICE.
“Not only was this completely overpriced, she didn’t need top-range aids. Instead, she went with mid-range aids for around $5000.”
Health insurance and tax benefits
If you have extras cover as part of your insurance, you may be entitled to a benefit for hearing aids. However, we found the benefits are nowhere close to the cost, nor do they apply if you buy from overseas. Benefits range from $200-1600, with the average being only about $700. For most of our survey respondents with extras cover, the benefit only covered only about 25% or less of the cost.
The medical expenses offset, a 20% tax offset for annual medical expenses above $2120 (or $5000 if you earn more than $84,000 as a single or $168,000 as a couple or family) in the 2012-13 financial year, may also apply.