Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why do hearing aids cost so much? Part 2

If hearing aids are so small and make such a big difference in the lives of hearing loss sufferers, why do they cost so much?  There are several factors in determining the price point for hearing technology.  In our last blog, we discussed the impact that research and development has on the pricing of hearing instruments.  In this post, we'll talk about how bundled services impact hearing aid pricing.

"Bundled pricing" refers to the services and accessories that an audiologist provides as part of the overall hearing aid purchase.  Audiologists understand that programming a hearing aid to account for an individual's hearing loss requires a significant input of time, precision, and skill.  The audiologist must take into account the frequencies where the hearing loss occurs, the individual's level of perception (people with the same hearing loss can "perceive and process" sound very differently), vowels and consonants the individual cannot understand, the presence of other maladies (such as tinnitus or hyperacusis), and the technological capabilities of the particular hearing aids throughout the hearing instrument fitting process.  This may require multiple visits throughout the lifetime of the hearing aid.  Also, because hearing loss increases over time and hearing aids should last 5-7 years, the audiologist must re-evaluate the individual every 1-2 years and adjust the hearing aids to compensate for any change in hearing.  For these reasons, some audiologists include the cost of these services in the price of the hearing instruments.  They feel that not including these services in the price of the hearing instruments would lead to several costly office visits, particularly those who require multiple adjustments or frequent cleanings to remove excessive wax build up.

At Appalachian Audiology, we include the following in the purchase price of all hearing instruments:
  • Follow up service that includes adjustments and cleanings for the life of the hearing aid
  • Generous Repair, Loss & Damage Warranties
  • 10 packs of batteries (60 batteries- should last for 10-12 months)
  • Dry 'n Store dehumidifier (for storing the hearing aids overnight)
  • Audiowipes to clean the hearing aids
For more information about bundled pricing, visit our website!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Do Hearing Aids Cost So Much? Part 1

It's the question we're asked most frequently at health fairs and public presentations... if such small devices are so critical for improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss, why do they cost so much?!  On the Appalachian Audiology website, we post the pricing information along with the services that are provided with each pair of hearing instruments purchased through our practice.  There are several reasons hearing instruments are sold at various price points.  We will discuss them over the course of the next few blogs.

Hearing aid manufacturers sell their devices at pre-determined prices.  One major factor that determines how much they charge is their investment in research and development.  Dr. Bettie Borton, a Clinical Audiologist in Alabama, writes the following about the investment each hearing aid manufacturer makes into research and development:

Consider that the “Big Six” (or the top 6 hearing aid manufacturers in the United States today) spend roughly $500,000,000 annually on R & D, which is quite a lot. To be precise, that figure is 14% of their combined budgets. To put this into perspective, let’s do a percentage comparison.  All of us would concede that Apple is certainly cranking out state of the art technology, and undoubtedly this costs the company in terms of product research and development  – but by comparison,  Apple expends only 2% of its total budget for R & D.

As Dr. Barton illustrates, hearing aid manufacturers invest heavily in research and development.  This directly impacts the amount they charge for their products.  It also helps us understand why the technology in modern hearing aids is second only to the technology behind space travel.

To read Dr. Barton's article on why hearings aids cost so much, click here.   

Friday, October 26, 2012

Common Objections to Hearing Aids: "They're too noticeable!"

One of the major reasons an individual with hearing loss will refuse to wear hearing aids is because they are afraid of how it will look.  Men in particular are concerned that the hearing aid will be too noticeable.  If the device is too noticeable, some individuals worry that they will be perceived as being handicapped, "old," or frail.  If this describes you or someone you know, ask:

Is wearing a hearing aid any more noticeable than the signs of your hearing loss?

Chances are the people around you or your loved one with hearing loss already know that a hearing problem is present. The signs of hearing loss seldom go unnoticed.  In fact, most people only agree to have their hearing tested because they grow weary of friends and family urging them to do so!  Hearing loss sufferers usually do not realize how much they are missing.  Friends and family must patiently (yet firmly) help the hearing loss sufferer understand the far-reaching effects of the hearing loss and how it can be properly addressed.  

Don't let hearing loss deprive you of connecting with people, participating in social activities, or enjoying your favorite hobbies any longer!

For more information about what hearing aids look like and how much they cost, click here.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Addressing Hearing Loss in the Alzheimer's Patient

The Better Hearing Institute is encouraging caretakers and family members to properly address potential signs of hearing loss in individuals with Alzheimer's Disease.  Hearing loss appears to be more common in Alzheimer's patients than people of the same age without the condition. Hearing loss can further complicate interaction with and treatment of the Alzheimer's patient. Recent research shows that hearing loss may even contribute to the onset of cognitive impairments such as dementia.  For these reasons, it is important to address hearing problems with individuals suffering from Alzheimer's.

There are numerous potential benefits of addressing hearing loss in Alzheimer's patients.   A vital component of journeying with the person suffering from this condition is helping them connect and communicate with other people while it is still possible to do so. Improving their quality of life by removing the barrier to communication that a loss of hearing creates is perhaps the highest aim of any potential treatment.  Also, reducing further strain on the brain can be achieved by amplifying an individual's remaining hearing capacity.  For a more detailed discussion, read this article from The Better Hearing Institute.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

A Link Between Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, and Hearing Loss

The Hearing Review recently released information on a new study conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital that shows a woman's risk for hearing loss increases as she takes ibuprofen or acetaminophen on a consistent basis.  The risk of hearing loss rose by 13% in women who took ibuprofen 2 to 3 days per week, 21% in women who took it 4 to 5 days per week, and 24% in women who took it 6-7 days per week.  The risk of hearing loss rose by 11% in women who took acetaminophen 2 to 3 days per week and 21% in women who took it 4 or more days per week. 

Researchers theorize that blood flow to the cochlea (the hearing organ of the ear) is reduced when these medications are taken.  The reduction in blood flow is one possible explanation for why these medications increase a woman's risk of hearing loss.  Researchers also noted that no association between hearing loss and aspirin was apparent.  

To read the article on this study published by The Hearing Review, click here.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

New Treatment for Tinnitus?

The most common disability among soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is tinnitus.  Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the head when no external sound is present.  The sounds of tinnitus can be described as clicking, hissing, roaring, swooshing, and tonal.  With an estimated 40% of soldiers returning from war with this condition, the Department of Defense is investing in new research to create a way to treat tinnitus.  One promising new treatment method is a self-dissolving capsule that is inserted into the inner ear.  This capsule would deliver a dosage of medication directly to the cochlea and dissolve once the medication had been completely released.  While this treatment method is still in the initial phases of development, researchers believe it holds real promise for providing lasting relief from tinnitus.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to Resolve an iPhone Hearing Aid Compatability Issue

As some of you already know, the iPhone 5 is having connection difficulties with Phonak's ComPilot accessory.  Often the person receiving the call cannot hear the caller's voice.  Until Apple works this out, do the following:
  • Answer the call as usual on the ComPilot
  • On your iPhone 5, go to Audio Sources
  • Once there, push "ComPilot."
  • Next, push "iPhone"
  • If you still cannot hear the caller's voice, push "ComPilot" again.
Following these steps should resolve the issue.

For more information on the iPhone 5 and hearing aid compatability, read this article from The Hearing Review.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

If I buy hearing aids, how long until they're obsolete?

This is one of the most common questions we are asked.  Who wants to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment that will be useless in a few years?  Thankfully, hearing aids do not become obsolete the way computers do.  If I walk into a store and purchase a new laptop, I understand that  within 3-5 years, the operating system will become inoperative, new software upgrades will cease to work, and my computer will become virtually useless.  Hearing instruments are completetly different.   Hearing aid manufacturers release new technology every April.  Along with this, manufacturers  release new software upgrades capable of "updating" older hearing aids.  These software updates apply to past and current "generations" of hearing instruments and typically impact the firmware and quality of sound of the hearing aid.  It's also important to realize that new technology that impacts an individual's particular type of hearing loss usually comes out every five years or so.  Properly maintained hearing instruments that correctly address an individual's particular hearing loss should work for up to seven years.  Hearing aid manufacturers are careful to prolong the efficiency, "upgrade-ability" and accessibility of their products.  After all, the technology behind modern hearing aids is rated second only to the technology behind space travel!

For more information, visit our website!     Image provided courtesy of

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Will the flu vaccine impact my hearing?

Flu season is quickly approaching!  The CDC encourages everyone older than 6 months to protect themselves from the flu by obtaining a seasonal flu vaccine.  The 2012-2013 flu vaccine contains 3 inactive types of viruses known to cause what we commonly refer to as "the flu."  After receiving the vaccine, it takes the body about 2 weeks to produce the appropriate antibodies needed to protect itself. The flu vaccine is intended to prevent the individual from experiencing the symptoms of the virus once it's contracted.  The vaccine is also intended to lessen the effects of the flu virus. 

Flu symptoms directly impact your ears.  Sinus drainage can lead to ear infections or a feeling of "fullness."  Hearing can decrease.  Over time, multiple ear infections can cause hearing loss.  Because of this, it's important to take the necessary steps to prevent, lessen, and manage the symptoms of the flu virus.

We encourage all individuals to consult with their family doctor to explore the right course of preventative care for their hearing health during flu season.  Your ears are worth protecting!  

For more information on the 2012-2013 flu vaccine, click here.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

What Does Tinnitus Sound Like?

Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound in the head when no external sound is present.  There are two types of tinnitus.  Subjective tinnitus describes head noises that are audible only to the patient.  Objective tinnitus describes head noises that are audible to both the patient and others.  Ringing or head noises can occur in one or both ears and can be perceived to be inside or outside the ear.  Tinnitus is is often a warning sign for hearing loss.  There are over 200 potential causes of tinnitus ranging from diet to brain trauma.  
Researchers theorize that the origin of tinnitus lies in the brain.  As the brain receives less auditory stimuli (due to hearing loss), it begins generating the sounds we describe as tinnitus.  The "sounds" of tinnitus vary.  Many people describe what they hear as tonal, swooshing, roaring, or chirping sounds.  Others describe the sound as white noise.  

To hear what tinnitus sounds like, click here.

Whatever the case, tinnitus is a real condition that often causes anxiety, stress, and loss of sleep.  However, relief from tinnitus is possible.  More in the next blog....

For more information on tinnitus relief, visit our website.

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