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Is There a Hearing Aid Price Bubble?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the what's-it-worth-to-ya? dept.

Medicine 698

An anonymous reader writes "The price of a pair of hearing aids in the U.S. ranges from $3,000 to $8,000. To the average American household, this is equivalent to 2-3 months of income! While the price itself seems exorbitant, what is even more grotesque is its continuous pace of growth: in the last decade the price of an average Behind the Ear hearing aid has more than doubled. To the present day, price points are not receding — even though most of its digital components have become increasingly commoditized. Is this a hearing aid price bubble?"

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Hmmm. (4, Funny)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358514)

Someone's parents are getting older.

Re:Hmmm. (2)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358876)

Wrong. Someone is getting older. Next year is the year that the first cohort of Baby Boomers turns 65. Perhaps their "Market" will find a price they can bare in the coming months.

Re:Hmmm. (4, Informative)

jasno (124830) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358930)

65? I'm around half that and I'm about ready for a hearing aid. A friend of mine who works on his house more than me needed one about the same age.

Kids, protect your hearing. It sucks to lose the ability to hear people in a crowded room. Especially you crazy maker-types running to the saw to make a few cuts. Get some foam earmuffs, the kind used for shooting, and put them next to the saw. Use em *every* time.

Re:Hmmm. (0)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358950)

WHAT? Speak up!

Re:Hmmm. (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358942)

Not wrong at all. Someone could be me, my parents are definitely getting older. Not that you're wrong, I am also getting older.

Re:Hmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358974)

Someone's patents are getting older. FTFY. Milk them before they expire... See, this is what happens when the pharma industry does technology.

In memory of 9/11 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358534)

Far
We've been travelling far
Without a home
But not without a star

Free
Only want to be free
We huddle close
Hang on to a dream

On the boats and on the planes
They're coming to America
Never looking back again
They're coming to America

Home, don't it seem so far away
Oh, we're travelling light today
In the eye of the storm
In the eye of the storm

Home, to a new and a shiny place
Make our bed, and we'll say our grace
Freedom's light burning warm
Freedom's light burning warm

Everywhere around the world
They're coming to America
Every time that flag's unfurled
They're coming to America

Got a dream to take them there
They're coming to America
Got a dream they've come to share
They're coming to America

They're coming to America
They're coming to America
They're coming to America
They're coming to America
Today, today, today, today, today

My country 'tis of thee
(Today)
Sweet land of liberty
(today)
Of thee I sing
(today)
Of thee I sing
(today)

(today)

(today)

(today

Re:In memory of 9/11 (1, Insightful)

BlackTriangle (581416) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358794)

It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on ...

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Oh No! (3, Funny)

johnsnails (1715452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358540)

This outrageous story will fall on deaf ears

Re:Oh No! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358640)

Re:Oh No! (1)

johnsnails (1715452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358694)

haha, Our waterslide is built for adults :P Let me try find a pic of a rock the size of a fist that got lodged in the bottom of one of the boggy boards and almost cut it straight down the middle.

$3k is 2 months income? (-1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358544)

I'm sure the average American household is well above that. And if there is a price bubble, the Chinese will be right there to correct it.

Re:$3k is 2 months income? (5, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358636)

I'm sure the average American household is well above that.

They may be counting single-occupancy dwellings as "households," but the important part is, probably a great many of the people who require hearing aids are either already on fixed income or are close to retirement.

And if there is a price bubble, the Chinese will be right there to correct it.

TFA claims the ones we're paying $2,000 for are already being manufactured in China for $100. The problem is that a hearing aid is technically a durable medical device. Many people prefer to consult with a professional to get the right model, correct fit, etc., and some states actually forbid hearing aids being sold by mail or by anyone other than a licensed professional. So that kinda puts a damper on the grey market for many people.

Re:$3k is 2 months income? (1)

SpiralSpirit (874918) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358802)

well you pay for the medical professional's advice and consultation outside the already incredible price for the hearing aid, so charging $2000 for a $100 device is really just an incredible abuse of power. This is why for profit medicare sucks.

Re:$3k is 2 months income? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358826)

An education in medicine isn't cheap. Nor is running an operation. If it can be done cheaper, someone will find a way. There are enough doctors out there that collusion is impossible.

Re:$3k is 2 months income? (3, Interesting)

billcopc (196330) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358856)

This.

Say what you will about financial motivation, but for-profit healthcare is a morally bankrupt and ultimately self-defeating strategy. I'm fine with the doctors and professionals getting paid, everyone needs a job, but these people should not be greedy middlemen in the sales industry. They're not "adding value", they're double-dipping.

Re:$3k is 2 months income? (4, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358970)

well you pay for the medical professional's advice and consultation outside the already incredible price for the hearing aid, so charging $2000 for a $100 device is really just an incredible abuse of power. This is why for profit medicare sucks.

It may be an abuse of power, but I don't know that it's the doctor who's the abuser. Doctors are probably forced to buy everything through "the approved channels" -- they can't just fly someone to China and come back with a suitcase full of $100 hearing aids, and they're probably not even allowed to distribute literature to patients about shopping for a grey market hearing aid on their own. So if a patient has to go to a U.S. doctor, then the patient has to pay the U.S. price.

It is funny, though. My parents, who are fairly Republican and were vehemently against "Obamacare," are already driving to Mexico to fill their prescriptions, where they cost something like 70 percent less. For some reason, my parents cannot see the doublethink of voting against healthcare reform despite the position they find themselves in. I think it's just the paralysis of fixed income -- you're so desperate to protect what you have right now that you will resist any change -- even though, deep down, you can feel the vice tightening around you.

Re:$3k is 2 months income? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358810)

depends on where you live, California? New York? maybe not. 1.5 hours left of Louisville? A decent job might only net you 2 grand a month before taxes.

The states are totally uneven when it comes to average income, so you have to average the averages which nets you numbers like this

An excellent point, but... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358548)

It's absolutely disgusting how expensive these things are. I think it may be worth it to note that the site in question is in the business of selling their own hearing aids, though...

Since no one ever buys them... (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358558)

Insurance/Government pays for it. Why not jack up the price?

Re:Since no one ever buys them... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Codger (96717) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358568)

You, sir or madam, are ignorant. Most insurance plans don't cover hearing aids. And try to get one of these digital hearing aids through the gummint. Ain't gonna happen.

Re:Since no one ever buys them... (5, Informative)

Cyclopedian (163375) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358586)

Most insurance plans do not cover purchases of hearing aids.

Re:Since no one ever buys them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358920)

Hearing aids are provided under Medicare in Australia - to everyone who needs them - for free - just like nearly all of our health care, we need to include the 2 things we miss - Dental and Glasses, but even those poor people with a health care card get those for free too. How do we do this I hear you ask. We pay 1 to 1.5% of wages as a medicare levy in our taxes, and another 1% if we dont have private insurance. We dont pay for private insurance unless we want too, and even then full cover for a single person is around $1000 a year, not the $10,000 to $12,000 Americans pay. When will Americans realise that not having socialised medicine is hurting them all - the poor with no cover and those that have insurance by exorbitant premiums paid by you or your employer. Health Care is a right. Its time the US of A joined the first world and stopped fighting over socialised health care.

Re:Since no one ever buys them... (2)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358614)

Not necessarily. I was born with hearing loss, and have been denied coverage for my entire life due to pre-existing condition. My family had to scrape up cash when I was a kid. As an adult, (I'm 44 now) I lived in a shithole areas with marginal jobs - it took years to get management to consider health coverage. There was no way I could have afforded insurance on my pay grade, even if they would cover hearing aids.

I finally got laid off long ago and turned to the government. That fixed the problem.

As for a price bubble, I actually don't think its too far out of line, when you consider the capabilities of the newer models. Be aware also that some of the silicon is covered under patent licenses from Bose and Siemens, at least in the higher-end models. And the higher-end models are truly amazing compared to the old analog stuff I grew up with.

Re:Since no one ever buys them... (2, Informative)

sehlat (180760) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358626)

Insurance doesn't "buy them" and much depends on what your plan is and/or covers.

In my own case, I needed one hearing aid. Total price $4k. My insurance covered exactly half of that. I'm glad to have it, but what we still have here is an FDA-controlled cartel. There is the "Why not jack up the price."

Re:Since no one ever buys them... (4, Insightful)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358708)

Capitalism at its finest.... people have needs... you have answers.... gouge em till they stop asking! Or gouge their insurance and drive rates up for everyone.

CAPITALISM DOES NOT BELONG IN MEDICINE. SINGLE PAYER, NON PROFIT. DO IT.

Re:Since no one ever buys them... (3, Interesting)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358874)

Actual capitalism is fine in medicine. Fraud, bribery, corrupt regulation, and general unchecked avarice drive up prices. We need fewer medical regulations, and more white collar crimes police units.

Where capitalism has absolutely no place is insurance. Private insurance, yes; for profit insurance, are you @#$% kidding?!?

Re:Since no one ever buys them... (-1, Troll)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358954)

I read your first sentence. I read no more. Please move away.

Re:Since no one ever buys them... (1, Troll)

brainboyz (114458) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358888)

What do you do for a living? What if I told you that you weren't allowed to make a profit? No extras, just a "living" wage. No bonuses, no benefits. How would you feel about that? Would you attempt to be the best you can at your job, or just punch the clock?

Re:Since no one ever buys them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358916)

You do realize that capitalism is capable of solving problems like this, right? If it can be done cheaper, someone will do it, and will sell more units than everyone else. In fact, if you're so sure it can be done cheaper, why don't you do it? That's the beauty of capitalism. Where there's a need and a way, someone fills it. The technology in these things is incredible. It wasn't cheap to develop it. The required education for a consulting doctor is expensive, not to mention difficult (yes, when you invest all of your 20s to schooling, you get to be compensated later on in life). Even the material cost of these things is quite a bit.

And by "single payer," I assume you mean "successful people will pay an even higher percentage of taxes than they already are, creating a greater need for these types of programs due to increased unemployment."

WHAT?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358560)

WHAT?!

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358564)

What?

Re:Huh? (0)

Eudial (590661) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358710)

THEY ARE SPEAKING ABOUT SOME CRISIS OF REARING MAIDS!

lowercasetextthatgoesonandonbutissadlynecessarytonottriggertheallcapsfilter

Re:Huh? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358758)

He said, "The sheriff is near"!

Ubiquitous insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358566)

Why should they lower their prices? The cost to have the device approved by the FDA means that there are few players. All of the players know the game. There is no free market but there can never be a free market due to the reason the FDA was formed.

Now let gov't take it over. I won't be much affected as I have more than enough to weather such idiocy. You however will most likely die from it.

Re:Ubiquitous insurance (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358690)

Why should they lower their prices? The cost to have the device approved by the FDA means that there are few players. All of the players know the game.

Seems like a great opportunity for a blue-tooth headset manufacturer to differentiate their product line. Don't even advertise it as having hearing-aid functionality - if anything promote it as one of those "big ears" gimmicks like in the backs of comic books. If a $100 headset is even just 50% as good as a $5000 super-miniaturised hearing aid, word of mouth will be all it takes for them to being selling like hotcakes within a year.

Re:Ubiquitous insurance (1)

SpiralSpirit (874918) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358818)

There are products like this on the market already - I've seen the infomercial.

My mom's husband has hearing aid troubles (4, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358570)

I remember my mom and her husband went on vacation and had some trouble with his hearing aid. Basically, he plugged it in to recharge it and the charger burnt out; it could only handle U.S. voltages. The couple staying in the room next door saw the blackened charger sitting in front of their door and asked what had happened. They found the whole thing very strange. They were European, and their hearing aid charger could adapt to any global voltage, and they had never heard of one that worked otherwise. If I remember right, the woman's own hearing aid was also significantly higher-tech than my mom's husband's. It was not only smaller, but it fit deep into the ear canal (I'm not talking about a cochlear implant, this was a hearing aid). The important thing here is that my parents, living in the U.S., had neither seen nor heard of either technology. Their doctor had given them a couple of choices for a hearing aid and they chose the better one -- which obviously wasn't as good as what you could pick up in Europe. I don't know what they paid for the hearing aid, but it seems to me like something funny is going on.

Re:My mom's husband has hearing aid troubles (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358610)

It's probably illegal to sell the european one in the USA. Not FDA approved and all that.

See, the FDA protects its corporate buddies from unfair competition, that would bring prices down.

We can't have that now can we, if we bring costs down then the government doesn't have a reason to hijack health care...

Re:My mom's husband has hearing aid troubles (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358704)

"It's probably illegal to sell the european one in the USA. Not FDA approved and all that.

"

It is also illegal to pirate software. However, when you are out of work or live in a poor country like China people do not care and do what they need to do. The drug companies and the US government can kiss my ass if they expect me to go in debt and starve if I can't hear because MegaCorp wants a higher price so the CEO can get his bonus.

Collusion is illegal and highly unethical. Yet colluded by bribing US politicians to screw people over with silly laws insuring monopolistic prices at the tax payer and non insured expense is somehow ok.

Re:My mom's husband has hearing aid troubles (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358644)

And my mother-in-law spent about $3K for her hearing aid, got something that basically hid in her ear, and used replaceable batteries.

Don't know what my dad's cost, but he a notorious tightwad, so I doubt it was $3K, and his also fit into his ear and used replaceable batteries.

Sounds like your dad made a bad choice in hearing aids.

It should also be pointed out that getting a standard American plug into a 220V socket is the next best thing to impossible. It certainly wasn't done without some work on your dad's part....

Re:My mom's husband has hearing aid troubles (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358692)

And my mother-in-law spent about $3K for her hearing aid, got something that basically hid in her ear, and used replaceable batteries.

I have behind-the-ear hearing aids that use replaceable batteries; they last ten to fifteen days. My mother used an older style that fit inside the ear and needed to be molded to fit. They used batteries too. In fact, I've never seen a hearing aid that needed a charger. The OP's story must be very, very old.

Re:My mom's husband has hearing aid troubles (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358878)

In fact, I've never seen a hearing aid that needed a charger. The OP's story must be very, very old.

They're pretty commonplace. Like anything rechargeable, they're sold on the basis of "no more worrying about buying/replacing batteries." Think about people who travel and find themselves staying in RV parks in unfamiliar parts of the country, or who have arthritis and have trouble messing around with little batteries. A hearing aid that you can plug in and charge up from a wall socket is very handy -- provided, that is, it isn't built like crap.

Re:My mom's husband has hearing aid troubles (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358722)

Sounds like your dad made a bad choice in hearing aids.

My point is, he chose from the only choices that were offered to him. I'm not sure if this was before or after he was forced onto Medicare -- but even then, he does pay extra for supplemental care. Nobody showed him anything high-tech. (He's not my dad, BTW.)

It should also be pointed out that getting a standard American plug into a 220V socket is the next best thing to impossible. It certainly wasn't done without some work on your dad's part....

Pretty much any hotel will give you an adapter. Some of the adapters will have warnings on them telling you only to use this or that type of device, but many don't. They probably should have known better, but then, all my high-tech equipment seems to be rated for 220V, so why?

Re:My mom's husband has hearing aid troubles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358778)

It should also be pointed out that getting a standard American plug into a 220V socket is the next best thing to impossible. It certainly wasn't done without some work on your dad's part....

Many parts of Asia use "American plug" outlets with 220V, as well as every other weird outlet format they've every manufactured for export to some other standards-happy country. They also often lack grounding and proper polarization of the hot and neutral contacts. Fun times...

Re:My mom's husband has hearing aid troubles (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358958)

It should also be pointed out that getting a standard American plug into a 220V socket is the next best thing to impossible. It certainly wasn't done without some work on your dad's part....

You've clearly never been to Europe, or only in some relatively high-end areas. A lot of places have "american-style " NEMA 15-5 plugs, or even the older 2-prong style, but with 220-240V. The farther east you go, the more common this is. People use them with adaptors like it's part of the damn outlet.

Electrical weirdness is quite commonplace, especially in impoverished areas.

Looks like a great candidate for open sourcing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358574)

Open source the technology.

This this (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358576)

This.

lot's of medical stuff is very over priced (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358578)

and it's a rip off on many levels.

And insurance doesn't cover them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358580)

I was evaluated for a hearing aid a couple of years ago. I have nerve deafness from and infection when I was a kid. I need one but prioritize other things for the family. Insurance doesn't cover it.

Re:And insurance doesn't cover them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358664)

While most insurance companies won't cover hearing aids, they will/should cover cochlear implants.

Being profoundly deaf, I thought my last digital hearing aid which I paid $3k for 8 years ago was the shit. That opinion changed when I had a cochlear implant done with my worst ear. I couldn't tolerate listening through that worthless $3k POS once i had my cochlear implant turned on.

Odd though though, my copay for this cochlear implant was only about $3k. If people are being asked to spend up to $8k for a hearing aid, I'd suggest they go see about getting a cochlear implant. At least, for that kind of money, they're getting something decent.

Yeah, but who's buying? (0)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358598)

I'd like to know just who is typically picking up the tab on some or most of those purchases. My guess is that those of us who pay insurance, and those of us who carry most of the burden for medicare/aid (in the US, mind you), are doing most of the buying for a lot of the people wearing them.

$8k may indeed me a couple or three month's average household income, but that has very little to do with the financing mechanisms that are really in play. And this is a great example of why health care costs are so high. Everyone gets more than everyone put together can afford without going into debt. And, here we are.

Re:Yeah, but who's buying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358688)

Seems most people who have posted think insurance tends not to cover it.
http://deafness.about.com/cs/hoth/a/hearingaidprice.htm [about.com]
You know the average cost of an *uncomplicated* birth in the US is about $7,000, medicaid or not.

Re:Yeah, but who's buying? (5, Informative)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358748)

No. Healthcare costs are where they are because the CAPITALISM factor is involved.

With Single Payer Non-Profit, you can expect a 40-50% decrease in total cost to insure. Modeling after Canada's cost/person, a reduction from $1.5TR/250M-people to $1TR/300M-people is possible. That means the 250 million that pay for insurance are paying 1.5 TRILLION a year for shoddy, exclusion rich, insurance when the sum of all Americans, 300 million people, would be paying 1 TRILLION to cover everyone without any exclusions or b.s. trickery.

I've talked to over 40 canadians about how they feel about their single-payer system and NOT A SINGLE ONE agreed with the US-paid-pundits that lie about how canadian's don't like their healthcare. Matter of fact, more than 25% of them laughed when I first asked, knowing that I had been exposed to the US-paid-pundits and required truthful answers.

Re:Yeah, but who's buying? (1)

serbanp (139486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358892)

As the original topic was hearing aids, which are not covered by most "health insurers" in the US, your rant is pointless. Yes, one has to pay out of pocket to get these and a couple of grands for them is an outrageous amount of money for such simple gadgets.

OMG, A BUBBLE!!! (1)

gtirloni (1531285) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358612)

I think 10 years is a fairly OK period for the price of anything to double. If there have been advances in technology, more so.

Re:OMG, A BUBBLE!!! (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358808)

And yet every similar device that isn't a hearing aid has come way down in price in that same time frame. The difference is that the FDA won't butt out of hearing aids.

Really? (1)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358616)

A story about hearing aids that links to the glorified blog of a company that makes...hearing aids?

I'm about ready to join the throng of sardonic malcontents who greet every new story with "This is what we get now that Taco's gone?"

No surprises for those paying attention (1)

fish waffle (179067) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358618)

It's just supply and demand. About 1/3 of the people I see on my daily commute have headphones on, and most of them are almost certainly too loud. This has been going on since the walkman appeared in the mid/late 80's, so those early adopters are now leading the pack in early adoption of hearing aids.

Of course they're overpriced. (4, Interesting)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358628)

I wear hearing aids in both ears, as a souvenir of my time in the Navy back in '72. If my hearing loss weren't service connected I'd have had to buy my own, and there's no way I could possibly have afforded them. As it is, I got them from the VA (The biggest buyer of hearing aids in the USA.) for free. Hearing aids are overpriced because it's a seller's market and health insurance companies are willing to shell out whatever the manufacturer asks. And, of course, if your insurance doesn't cover them, you're stuck with two unpleasant choices: either you pay full retail price or you do without.

Re:Of course they're overpriced. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358782)

I wear hearing aids in both ears, as a souvenir of my time in the Navy back in '72. If my hearing loss weren't service connected I'd have had to buy my own, and there's no way I could possibly have afforded them. As it is, I got them from the VA (The biggest buyer of hearing aids in the USA.) for free. Hearing aids are overpriced because it's a seller's market and health insurance companies are willing to shell out whatever the manufacturer asks. And, of course, if your insurance doesn't cover them, you're stuck with two unpleasant choices: either you pay full retail price or you do without.

The technical term is price gouging.

Re:Of course they're overpriced. (2, Informative)

dfenstrate (202098) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358788)

'Full Retail Price' in the medical world is often less than you would imagine. Hospitals routinely offer a 30% or better discount for paying in cash. Many medical establishments are likely the same way, for the same reason- dealing with insurance companies, medicare, or the VA requires a great deal of administrative overhead.

Yes, I've asked a few times. The next few times you find yourself in the business office of a medical establishment, ask them what the cash discount is. You might be surprised at what the typical response is.

Re:Of course they're overpriced. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358972)

Yes, I've asked a few times. The next few times you find yourself in the business office of a medical establishment, ask them what the cash discount is. You might be surprised at what the typical response is.

30% Big whoop! .. given that the markup is in excess of 4000%.

The problem is 2 fold, 1) companies trying to recoup the full cost of development in the first 5 years of a patent and 2) there is no competitive market as most are available only through certified dealers who each have exclusive markets.

Re:Of course they're overpriced. (5, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358866)

It's like this for everything. We had a baby 1.5 years ago. He wouldn't breastfeed so my wife rented a hospital grade pump to do the hard work.

Our insurance didn't cover it 100% because it wasn't "medically necessary" (they'd rather you use formula) and it would have been around $125/month out of pocket for us.

We told the medical equipment company we didn't have insurance and suddenly the price was just under $60/month. What does that mean? They overcharge the insurance companies by at least 3x what their actual costs are because they can.

Our insurance companies aren't exactly the problem. It's the companies that the insurance companies pay. They're robbing us all blind.

Re:Of course they're overpriced. (4, Funny)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358918)

They're robbing us all blind.

And, apparently, robbing some of us deaf.

Re:Of course they're overpriced. (0)

subreality (157447) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358900)

And, of course, if your insurance doesn't cover them, you're stuck with two unpleasant choices: either you pay full retail price or you do without.

... Kind of like everything in medicine. The prices are jacked up to the point where you can't afford it, but the insurance companies can because they have a huge discount. You can't afford to not have insurance.

Obamacare is going to help a lot, but it still doesn't get these scum-sucking market-manipulating sons of bitches out of the way, so expect everything to still be more difficult and expensive in the US than anywhere else in the first world.

Three reasons why this happens (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358630)

1. Insurance pays that much, so all get priced at that level

2. It lets them do the "50%" bit. If you shop around and make it clear you are not using insurance, you can get these special deals.

3.None of them are really good enough. So when the technology improves, they keep the price the same and upgrade the quality.

Re:Three reasons why this happens (1)

sclark46 (969374) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358666)

Insurance does not pay for hearing aids!!!!!

Re:Three reasons why this happens (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358828)

Correction: Some insurance does pay for hearing aids. Blue Shield of California will cover them if you subscribe to one of a few specific plans, and only then if you purchase the coverage as an option. The coverage, if you choose to purchase it, will pay up to $2,000 toward hearing aids every 24 months ... so it won't cover the cost of aids for both ears completely, and might not fully cover the cost of a single hearing aid, if the prices really are what are quoted here. And it's not clear whether you have to subscribe to the coverage before you go deaf ... it's possible that you would then have a "preexisting condition" and you'd be ineligible for the coverage. Them's the breaks in the U.S. of A.

Insurance rarely covers hearing aids (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358978)

Unless you lose your hearing in an accident caused by an insured party, odds are good that you're paying for hearing aids out of pocket. Most health insurance, even group plans for large companies, will not pay for hearing aids.

Not always (1)

wilhil (1160445) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358648)

I can't speak for America, but, in England, it is possible to get standard non prescription ones for around £20-£40 that are very good. The basic ones work, and they do work well. The only real difference with the more expensive ones are that they are medically certified. They are nearly always the same specification. That being said, the medical ones usually always are personalised / they take a cast of your ear and are a lot more comfortable. However - even with castings and all, I don't think it is worth the cost! (I do not wear one, I have a friend who does and I had this chat a while ago when I couldn't believe the price!)

Re:Not always (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358776)

I'm not convinced that's entirely right. The non-prescription ones in Boots are something like £120-240.

Proper ones also have other advantages. The main one is that they are programmed for your particular hearing loss. But you can also get ones with better sound quality, better microchips to cut out background noise, one's with positional audio, and also ones which go directly to the bone or the cochlea if needed.

The one's for taking a cast of your ear are the one's that sit inside the canal. They are less conspicuous, but can make you hear your voice louder in your own ear. You can get used to it though.

Not all hearing aids are available on the NHS (although the one's that are are indeed free), but you get a wider range going private too.

As for your friend, perhaps it was simply he didn't have particularly severe hearing loss. The picture is a little more diverse...

Re:Not always (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358860)

Your friend should get a referral to audiology. If he needs hearing-aids he should be able to get them from the NHS. He'd get hearing tests, aids, moulds, batteries, upgrades etc, for free, forever. They don't give out tiny, expensive, cosmetic type aids but they do a good job in programming their aids to do what you need them to do, and they give you whichever type of mould you like (soft, hypoallergenic, vented, shells etc). When I last went to get mine programmed I was told they can add a setting specifically for listening to classical music, amongst many other unusual options! When I last went to get mould impressions made I was told I can get an upgrade, even though my aids are only a few years old. Nobodty who sells £20-40 aids are going to be able to give as much help as the NHS. Really, your friend would be doing himself a huge favour to get that referral.

a little fishy (4, Insightful)

antant007 (1702214) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358650)

An article on how expensive hearing aids are from a hearing aid company that advertises their low costs.

Welcome to health care inflation (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358652)

Everything has been going in price related to medicine over the cost of inflation, whether it is a hip replacement, basic painkillers, to hospital stays.

They are expensive because people have insurance and the government covers it. Therefore, free money = raising the price as high as humanly possible and expect Bernanke to pay for it by printing more money to Medicaid or having your $800 monthly HMO plan. Patents as well insurre monopolies on all parts so they can charge as high as the sky.

This is one of the biggest reasons why social security is in trouble. Not from hearing aids particularly, but because it is a common practice to price gouge and patent the hell out of everything to raise profits.

If no one had health insurance, I would bet the medical industry would make cheaper products. Alternatively, if we had a socialistic system with price controls where everyone was insured the problem would go away as well. Like that is going to happen with the Tea party in the US.

Social security is in trouble? (1)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358712)

How so? It's fully self-funded, it's solvent through 2036 last I heard, and lifting the tax cap above $106k will fix it permanently.

Trouble With Social Security?!? (5, Insightful)

xquercus (801916) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358964)

This is one of the biggest reasons why social security is in trouble.

This is so wrong! You have bought into the shell game and misdirection that so many politicians have been leading. The Social Security trust fund holds over $2.5 trillion. Most of this has been lent to other under funded government projects. That's the problem. We don't want to pay back the the money we borrowed from the Social Security system and instead say the system is broken. It isn't. The systems is fully self funded. We've just been treating the huge Social Security surpluses as a giant piggy bank for so long that we find it easier to say Social Security is broken than pay back the money we stole!

Weak article, but good points (1)

Fencepost (107992) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358668)

While hearing aids (and many other medical items and drugs) are ludicrously overpriced, the article is too shallow to merit the front page of /. - it's around what I'd expect of a USA Today slow news day item if only they didn't have ads from hearing aid manufacturers.

Re:Weak article, but good points (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358784)

Lol. Neither is half the programming crap that gets discussed, but you don't hear me complaining. It would appear that medical concerns are a popular topic; I agree, and you don't. It would appear that programming slander/gossip/biz is a popular topic; I disagree, you probably like it.
Move on.

Keep telling yourself that (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358714)

There is no inflation, according to the Fed. Just don't look at the farm prices which have increased 30% year over year, and never at energy prices. Or technology prices. The government justifies the cost of these new hearing aids as being the same as before because today's hearing aids are _so_much_better. This is called hedonics. So while your wage hasn't gone up at all, your standard of living is being flushed down the toilet. But don't worry the government is printing lots more money for you so that you can wall-paper your house with it in a few years.

BounceBounce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358720)

It seems like most electronic things follow a cycle: they get cheaper and cheaper and cheaper, and just about the time they're about to start giving them away in boxes of cereal they come up with a batch of new "features" to bounce the price back up again.

I wear 'em... (2)

Vehstijul (85085) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358726)

I've been wearing the suckers in both ears since I was in 2nd grade due to a high level of conductive hearing loss. I'm lucky that my family can afford them.

I've been approached many times – both domestically and while abroad – by people who needed them, but couldn't afford them. This may make sense in third world countries where people may not have access to more advanced technology, but it makes zero sense in "first world" countries.

One possible reason why the technology is so expensive is that many of the leading companies (Oticon, Phonak, amongst others) are actually in Switzerland and Denmark, and manufacture them -as far as I can tell- in their home countries. Just a thought.

Either way, there should be some kind of government program for these. The Walmart and AirMall (seriously - look at the AirMall catalog next time you fly.) brands just won't cut it if someone has advanced hearing-loss.

When did advertisements come to /. front page? (1)

knighten (615311) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358732)

And why?

Re:When did advertisements come to /. front page? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358786)

And why?

I agree, the article is nothing but an ad dressed as an informative piece. Trying to sell use products from http://www.audicus.com/category/hearing-aids at the end of the article... Nice

My solution (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358742)

My wife keeps yelling at me to get hearing aids - but I just pretend I don't hear her.

Yes, and a candy bar bubble too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358806)

Taking inflation into account, the price has actually gone down by about 10% since 1997, not doubled.

Three Words Explain it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358836)

Covered By Medicare

Prices have a magical way of finding themselves to Maximum Medicare Reimbursement +0-30%

Yes of course this is bubble (1)

microbee (682094) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358842)

take out a loan while you still can, and foreclose it when the bubble bursts.

They are cheap in China (1)

dmesg0 (1342071) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358872)

Just get one on dealextreme for 5 bucks. Even better get a dozen, and pray for one of them not to be DOA.

Re:They are cheap in China (1)

dmesg0 (1342071) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358986)

(replying to myself)

The parent post was meant to be a joke, but after posting I decided to check if there is any truth to it. It turns dx does have many different devices, and some people compare the 10$ hearing aids to 1k$+ branded ones, and even find them very good.

Just check these reviews: http://www.dealextreme.com/feedbacks/BrowseReviews.dx/sku.23194 [dealextreme.com]

(Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with DX or any other chinese site in any way)

Consumer Reports -- more objective source (2)

nbauman (624611) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358886)

Here's the Consumer Reports article on hearing aids
http://www.consumerreports.org/health/healthy-living/home-medical-supplies/hearing/hearing-aids/overview/hearing-aids-ov.htm [consumerreports.org]

and here's a Washington Post article about it.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/22/AR2009062201623.html [washingtonpost.com]

Unfortunately it's 2 years old, and the ratings are behind a paywall (CR doesn't take ads, and they've got to pay the bills somehow).

Also unfortunately they only tested hearing aids selling for $1,800 to $6,800 per pair.

They said there's about a 100% markup, so there's room to negotiate.

What I was really looking for, and what I couldn't find, was an article from an audiology journal which rated the low-priced hearing aids. They said that there were $500 hearing aids that were quite adequate for most people.

Can anybody who follows this research help me out with some cites?

$200 phone, $200 hearing aid (1)

nbauman (624611) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358984)

Here's my kind of guy. He sells a hearing aid for under $200.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-09/health/sc-health-0309-hearing-aid-20110309_1_hearing-aid-hearing-loss-hearing-loss-association [chicagotribune.com]

Now hear this
When it comes time to crank the volume on everyday banter, there are hearing aids that won't break the bank
March 09, 2011
By Barbara Mahany
Chicago Tribune

In 2007, when the iPhone came on the market, Cherukuri saw reports showing that the phone's components cost an average of $130 to $140. "I started thinking that if you can make a fantastic phone for under $200, I could make a hearing aid that's pretty good for about the same price," he said.

This article also recommends

http://www.hearingaidscentral.com/ [hearingaidscentral.com]

which starts at $300.

yeah they're fucking expensive (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358908)

I was wondering this myself since my grandmother is just about deaf and could really benefit from a pair. At this point they are worth more than their weight in gold or even diamonds. Theres nothing that fancy inside. The better ones are programmed to only amplify the frequencies where your hearing is effected. Its a racket pure and simple with inflated prices like diamonds.

Paging Garrett Morris (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358924)

If you're old enough, you get the joke.

Cochlear Implants (1)

nbetcher (973062) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358932)

If you think that hearing aids are expensive, consider the cost of cochlear implants. Cochlear implants cost tens of thousands of dollars, the surgery costs nearly $100k, and the external device (like a hearing aid, but a little larger) costs over $10k. That's just for one ear and the hearing quality is like 1/10th of a person with cochlear hair! Plus they only last for about 20 years (including the internal device) depending on the model and some other circumstances. $8k for a hearing aid is a steal.

Costco is much cheaper~! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358934)

I get my hearings aids form Costco, same quality, better warranty and roughly half the price and the audiologists are on salary so no hard sell.

Why does this remind me of the Heathkit story? (2, Informative)

DdJ (10790) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358968)

Hm... seems like an opportunity...

Medical device/disability premium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358992)

Take, for example, my son's AAC device. He could have the insurance company pay for one, for 4-8k. Does nothing but generate speech (he has apraxia). Or we could buy an ipad and the software and case and speakers for about 1k. It's not a medical device, insurance won't cover it, but look at how much cheaper it is! AND it does other stuff, too (which is why its not considered medical). They actually pay people to block AAC users from the windows desktop on some devices -- because that is what makes it a fancy medical device. The therapy balls he use can be had in a therapists catalog for $70, or you could get one from Target for $20.

Going Overseas from USA to Get a Bargain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358994)

For the past decade or so I've been reading about Americans going to foreign countries to get medical work done to $ave money, e.g. dental work in Thailand. What about hearing aids? What kind of savings can Americans get by going overseas for hearing aids, tests and the other costs involved?
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