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A 25-Year Rise in Hearing Aid Prices- & the Embrace Solution

Here at Embrace Hearing, we’re big fans of the Better Hearing Institute. Their paper from October 2009, "25-year Trends in the Hearing Health Market," has a lot of good info on hearing aid costs and helps to answer a question we hear pretty often:

[hesitant tone] "You're selling hearing aids... aren't there a lot of people who do that already?"

Based on the MarkTrake VIII database, the leading source of hearing aid data, and syndicated widely by trade publications, the paper raises some important points that help explain why we think this is exactly the right time to enter the hearing aid market.

First, hearing aids are expensive, and getting more expensive. The average retail price of a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid in 1989 was $651. In 2008, the most recent data available, it was $2,326. This annual inflation of over 6% far exceeds the 3% inflation in the general economy, in an era where the cost of other electronic devices has fallen sharply.

However, the number of consumers paying full price for hearing aids is decreasing. In 1989, 24% of hearing aid purchasers involved a third party co-pay of some sort (including purchases covered in full by the Veterans Administration). In 2008, the number was 40%

This is an encouraging trend, as it makes hearing aids more affordable and accessible for the population. However, as a larger part of the population is covered by insurance, the industry can further increase prices because hearing aid costs are hidden to consumers -- instead, they appear in the form of higher insurance prices. Moreover, for the 60% of hearing aid users not covered by insurance, higher out-of-pocket costs are an unfortunate reality.

While prices and insurance coverage have increased, distribution in 2008 is largely unchanged. Audiologists' and Hearing Aid Specialists' offices remain by far the most common locations to purchase hearing aids. This means they have a major role in determining hearing aid prices. While these offices provide excellent and valuable care, it's important to realize that they have a financial incentive to keep hearing aid prices high

So why is this? First, a recent industry trend is that many clinics are now owned by manufacturers, whose core business is maximizing profit on hearing aid sales. But more importantly, Audiologist and Hearing Aid Specialist offices are also retailers run as profit-maximizing businesses, and their core product is hearing aids. Said another way, if it were in their financial interest to make hearing aids affordable, they would do so.

The result is that while hearing loss prevalence has increased significantly, hearing aid adoption has stagnated at 25%, and the number one reason is high price.

The current distribution system has created a two-tier market that leaves everyone with hearing loss worse off. Those who are comfortable paying $4000 for a pair of hearing aids get the medical care they need and gain improved quality of life -- but they are dramatically overpaying. Those who cannot afford to pay such high prices are shut out of the market entirely. In short, the winners in the current system are manufacturers, audiologists, and hearing aid dispensers -- and the losers are people with hearing loss.

So that's why we decided to launch Embrace Hearing. We are sure that alternative distribution will eventually emerge to reduce costs and better serve people with hearing loss. We're excited to be doing our part to reduce hearing aid cost -- and we hope you're just as excited as we are.

We’re always happy to hear your thoughts so please, any comments, suggestions, feedback would be appreciated in the comment field below.

 

 


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For more questions on our blog and Embrace in general, contact us! Call us at 917 830-4327/917 830-(HEAR) or send us an e-mail at info@embracehearing.com


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The X-Series Models

Vs
  • Compare to:

  • Our price per ear/pair:

  • ? This is the number of frequency bands we use to program your hearing aids to the results of your hearing test. The hearing aid then uses these bands to re-build sound to meet the needs of your hearing loss. The greater the number of bands, the better the sound quality delivered to you.
    Programable bands/channels

  • ? Our comprehensive warranty covers any manufacturer defects including free replacement of rechargeable batteries and receivers as well as half price one-time loss and irreparable damage replacement. In addition, during the warranty, there is no charge for reprogramming or adjustments.
    Warranty (and Loss Insurance)

  • ? Connects directly to your smartphone (or other Android or Apple device). Two way streaming enables completely hands free calls. Add our TV Connector for direct streaming from your TV so you can adjust your TV volume without affecting the sound for others.
    Bluetooth for completeley hands-free calls

  • ? Although the software on these hearings makes adjustments seldom necessary, it is possible to change the volume and some manual settings using either the free smartphone App or the buttons on the aids. An optional hand held remote is also available.
    Volume and Program Control

  • ? We offer a choice of disposable 312 battery or lithium ion rechargeable battery on some models. The rechargeable battery will perform for up to 24 hours after a 3 hour charge. The disposable batteries will last 3-7 days depending on hours of use, level of hearing loss and amount of Bluetooth streaming. A year’s supply of size 312 batteries currently costs about $30/year/aid.
    Power Source

  • ? The hearing aid's software automatically identifies and adjusts to changes in your sound environment (e.g. From a quiet car to a noisy restaurant) so no manual adjustments are needed.
    Automatically adjusts to your environment

  • ? This is the best technology for group situations. It provides optimal speech understanding from all directions by dynamically scanning your environment to focus on the active speaker in your immediate vicinity.
    LiveSpeechFocus

  • ? While most people find that the restoration of high frequency hearing through the use of properly programmed hearing aids significantly improves tinnitus symptoms, there is more we can do. All of our hearing aids come with a tinnitus management program. This is not a cure but it can further help alleviate tinnitus symptoms through the use of a self-adjustable 'white noise' sound in the background.
    Tinnitus Manager Program

  • ? BiCROS hearing aid progamming is for people who have unaidable hearing loss in one ear but have some level of hearing in the other. You would wear hearing aids on both ears. We program them so a microphone picks up sounds from the weak ear and transmits them to wirelessly to the ear with better hearing.
    BiCROS programming

  • ? REMOTE PROGRAMMING - With the X-550 and X-950 models, we can make adjustments to you hearing aids remotely. You would explain the issue to our Audiologists and the new program would be uploaded to your hearing aids automatically (via Bluetooth).
    Remote Programming

  • ? TELECOIL - The telecoil is also known as a T-coil, or T-switch. When activated, the telecoil permits the transmission of sound from a "Hearing Loop" sometimes found in public spaces and theaters. If you require this feature, please call us for details at (888) 929-9555.
    Telecoil

  • Colors

The C-Series Models

Vs
  • Compare to:

  • Our price per ear/pair:

  • ? This is the number of frequency bands we use to program your hearing aids to the results of your hearing test. The hearing aid then uses these bands to re-build sound to meet the needs of your hearing loss. The greater the number of bands, the more natural the sound and the better the performance in more challenging situations, like restaurants.
    Programable bands/channels

  • ? Our comprehensive warranty covers any manufacturer defects including free replacement of rechargeable batteries and receivers as well as half price one-time loss and irreparable damage replacement. In addition, during the warranty, there is no charge for reprogramming or adjustments.
    Warranty (and Loss Insurance)

  • ? Although the software on these hearings makes adjustments seldom necessary, it is possible to change the volume and some manual settings using the Android/Apple smartphone App or optional hand held remote.
    Volume and Program Control

  • ? The disposable size 10 batteries on these hearing aids will last about 4-6 days depending on hours of use and level of hearing loss. A year’s supply of size 10 batteries currently costs about $30/year/aid.
    Power Source

  • ? The hearing aid's software automatically identifies and adjusts to changes in your sound environment (e.g. From a quiet car to a noisy restaurant) so no manual adjustments are needed.
    Automatically adjusts to your environment

  • ? This is the best technology for group situations. It provides optimal speech understanding from all directions by dynamically scanning your environment to focus on the active speaker in your immediate vicinity.
    LiveSpeechFocus

  • ? While most people find that the restoration of high frequency hearing through the use of properly programmed hearing aids significantly improves tinnitus symptoms, there is more we can do. All of our hearing aids come with a tinnitus management program. This is not a cure but it can further help alleviate tinnitus symptoms through the use of a self-adjustable 'white noise' sound in the background.
    Tinnitus Manager Program

  • ? BiCROS hearing aids are designed for people who have unaidable hearing loss in one ear but have some level of hearing in the other. You would wear hearing aids on both ears. A microphone picks up sounds from the weak ear and transmits it to wirelessly to the ear with better hearing
    BiCROS programming

  • ? With the C-540 and C-940 models, we can make adjustments to you hearing aids remotely. You would explain the issue to our Audiologists and the new program would be uploaded to your hearing aids automatically.
    Remote programming and adjustments

  • Telecoil

  • Colors

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