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Author: tjscott0 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 734657  
Subject: The Hunt for an Affordable Hearing Aid Date: 10/23/2012 9:01 PM
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I'm not yet in need of a hearing but the links in the article & Costco appear to offer alternatives for the thrifty.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/the-hunt-for-an-aff...

the digital era has ushered in new technology: Manufacturers boasted of Bluetooth, multiple settings, “channels” and “bands,” which processed sound and fine-tuned it like a stereo’s equalizer.

Perhaps that was why the Hearx salesman bristled when I asked what I could get for $1,000. He likened the expensive model with 16 channels to listening to an orchestra — and the eight-channel model to a car stereo. He didn’t show me any other options. It was as if I’d gone into a car lot and had been presented with only Mercedeses, Porsches and Ferraris, when I wanted to see a Honda.

Why have hearing aids become more expensive, while cellphones, computers and televisions have gotten cheaper? Russ Apfel, an engineer who designed a technology now found in all hearing aids, says there is no good reason for this.

The microphones, speakers and processing chips aren’t that expensive. “Those devices in small volumes cost $10 to $15,” Mr. Apfel said. He estimated that most hearing aids cost no more than $100 to make.

Indeed, less expensive hearing aids are available online. At Audicus.com, prices run from $399 to $599, a discount made possible by eliminating the middleman — the hearing aid dispenser. “Retailers/audiologists account for up to 70 percent of the final price of a hearing aid, because they factor in a bundle of additional expensive services,” the site states.

And all of those channels are mostly marketing. “For someone with mild to moderate hearing loss, the average hearing aid today is completely overengineered,” Mr. Freuler said. He cited studies showing that four or five channels improve speech intelligibility.

There is a downside to buying online: Hearing aids need to be mailed in for adjustments, an imperfect option.

When I told a friend about the sticker shock, she said, “Why don’t you check out Costco?”

The chain started selling hearing aids in 1993, and now has 438 hearing aid centers. At Costco, a basic in-the-ear shell hearing aid costs $500, with the most advanced behind-the-ear models going for $1,300.

And unlike the Internet retailers, Costco offers face-to-face service with hearing aid dispensers and audiologists for custom fittings.

Costco’s prices are less than half than the industry standard, despite the fact that its hearing aids are produced by the same major companies, including Rexton (a brand made by Siemens) and GN ReSound. Its in-house brand of aids, Kirkland Signature, is also built by Siemens. And unlike many private hearing aid dispensers, Costco employees don’t work on commission.

Sam Tanzer, a founder of an online store called Embrace Hearing (where prices run from $399 to $899), said that private retailers had to raise prices to cover fixed costs.
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Author: fleg9bo Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 650530 of 734657
Subject: Re: The Hunt for an Affordable Hearing Aid Date: 10/24/2012 12:15 AM
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Costco’s prices are less than half than the industry standard, despite the fact that its hearing aids are produced by the same major companies, including Rexton (a brand made by Siemens) and GN ReSound.

My last job was at GN ReSound. When I started, it was just ReSound. Then it got bought by the Danish multinational corporation GN. That's where I met all those audiologists who moved to Portland.

--fleg

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Author: TerryMcK Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 650599 of 734657
Subject: Re: The Hunt for an Affordable Hearing Aid Date: 10/24/2012 11:15 AM
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Hearing aids aren't just getting expensive; they have been for a while.

What has not been mentioned, is that there is very little health insurance coverage for hearing aids. Most plans pay for a hearing test and maybe a token amount for the devices, but nowhere near the benefits that we can get for our teeth or our eyes.

I can't speak for Costco, but the retail/audiologist route isn't just unnecessary services. You are right in that it is too expensive. However, with my wife's current set (about 4-5 years) she goes in once a quarter, checks to see if adjustments need to be made, tubing changed if needed, and her ears cleaned - all covered by the initial cost.

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