Hearing Aid Basics

Buying a Hearing Aid

If you think you need a hearing aid, the best place to start is with a visit to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist and/or an audiologist. The ENT will examine you to make sure there's no underlying problem causing your hearing loss, such as an infection or buildup of earwax. Then the audiologist will assess your hearing in a soundproof booth to see how well you can pick up sounds at different frequencies. The audiologist will also fit you for your hearing aids by making an impression of your ears. After the hearing aids have been made, you'll return to the audiologist for a fitting and to have the hearing aid programmed. You'll learn how to clean your hearing aids, adjust the volume and change the batteries.

Hearing-aid costs can vary significantly. Big analog hearing aids can cost a few hundred dollars, whereas small digital hearing aids can run into the thousands of dollars. Plan to spend anywhere from $500 to $6,000, depending on the options you choose. Because they involve surgery, cochlear implants are much more expensive -- about $40,000.

Although Medicare and many private insurance plans won't cover the cost of hearing aids, Medicaid does cover it, and Veterans Affairs will pay for qualified veterans. Some private insurance companies will cover the hearing tests used in the initial evaluation. Low-income patients can get help paying for their hearing aids through Audient Alliance.

Although price is important, it isn't the only issue to consider. Reliability and appropriateness are crucial when your hearing is at stake. Also remember that some prices include an evaluation and checkups.

If they are well cared for, hearing aids should last for five to seven years. Most of the problems that send hearing aids in for repairs are caused by dirt, earwax and oil from the skin that blocks the microphones and receivers.