Last week in Aging With Geekitude, Erica shared tips for undoing embarrassing and costly errors on your computer and smartphone. This week, she’s sharing her new favorite website — a great resource for anyone who needs hearing aid information. (Also see Erica Manfred’s article, “The Latest in Hearing Aids and Hearables”)
I wish I’d known about the Hearing Aid Forums before I bought hearing aids.
I got my hearing aids from the audiology department at a local university. They weren’t astronomically expensive, but $2500 for two seemed pretty astronomical to me. The audiologist handed them to me and that was that. After surfing the Hearing Aid Forums I found out that digital hearing aids are adjustable by the user and that all this time, I could have been making all kinds of little adjustments. I also learned that I could have gotten a much better deal at Costco.
Here’s another thing I learned: The reason 80 percent of hard of hearing Americans find hearing aids too pricey to bother with might have something to do with the fact that they’re sold by only a few companies that keep a monopolistic control over the prices. Audiologists are the middlemen who also get a big cut.
But you won’t find that information – or advice on how to save money – on most sites, because hearing aids are marketed so aggressively that it’s hard to find informative sites that aren’t promoting one company’s product over another. Government and nonprofit sites such as the National Institute on Deafness only give very basic information.
Why the Hearing Aid Forums Should Be Your Go-To Info Source
On the other hand, on the Hearing Aid Forums – a site run by a hearing aid battery seller and frequented by a grassroots community of extremely knowledgeable people – you can find everything there is to know about hearing aids, including where to get the best deals. Audiologists, audio engineers and just plain hard-of-hearing technology geeks hang out on the forums, and one techie among them is even working on a hearing aid controller for a smartwatch. The site does not allow advertising or promotion of any brands. By browsing the forums I’ve found information on low cost options, which brands of hearing aid are best, how to avoid scams and ripoffs, how to find a reputable audiologist and much more.
If you’re shopping for hearing aids, it’s worth your while to spend some time surfing the forums, reading up on various brands and topics. If you want an answer to a specific question, try the forum’s search engine or type the topic plus “hearing aid forums” into Google.
Three Cost-cutting Tips I Found on the Hearing Aid Forums
1 How Costco cuts costs
Costco is the low-cost hearing aid provider that’s rated highest on the hearing aid forums (and probably everywhere else, too). Costco offers the same brands and models you can find at an audiologist’s office for about half the price (with the exception of the Kirkland, which is the Costco brand). The main reasons the store’s prices are low, according to a forum member, is that audiologists earn a commission when they make a sale. Costco uses hearing aid dispensers (not audiologists) and they do not earn a commission. Costco also saves on overhead by using space at their stores.
Costco’s Kirkland brand may be the best bet. A senior forum member says:
“At $1899/pair, the Kirkland Signature 5.0 is an amazing value. You can search the forum for lots of feedback about that model.”
Another senior member describes his experience:
“I saw 2 audiologists, and then went to Costco. This allowed me to gain information and test 2 demos in an office setting to get some idea of what a hearing aid can do for me. Once at Costco, I found the folks knowledgeable, willing to answer my questions.
2 Why Audicus is a good bet
Audicus hearing aids range from $599 to $699 each and are extensively advertised online. I read on the forums that they use technology from Siemens, a major hearing aid manufacturer, but the company cuts out the middleman-audiologist. With Audicus you get a hearing test, send in the results by fax or email, and the company programs your hearing aids. Then you send them back for adjustments. This is a hassle, but if you’re saving thousands of dollars it’s well worth it. Here is a post on the forums about the aBlue hearing aids from Audicus.
“I ordered 2 aBlues with just the simple remote and have been wearing them for almost 3 weeks. They are amazing. I was at a very noisy event last night and by using the remote to cycle to the correct setting was able to participate completely in conversations with everyone at the table. I haven’t been able to do that in a long time! I have also noticed a huge difference at work – so much less having to ask for repetition.”
Another user recommends the slightly more expensive Audicus model:
“You should have purchased the aNote instead of the aBlue. “The aNote is a Hansaton Sorino, a much newer and more advanced model.”
Another benefit, the aNote is also adjustable from the remote.
Tip: Audicus is currently running a special where if you buy two you get the controller for free. Use the code ‘remote’ at checkout if you buy 2 aNotes.
3 Why HI Healthinnovations is a no-brainer — for some people
According to the Hearing Aid Forums, Health Innovations is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, the provider of UnitedHealthcare insurance plans, which provides AARP’s Medicare supplementary coverage. If you’re insured by United Healthcare, these hearing aids will be covered and you will pay around $350 each. If you’re on Medicare with AARP’s supplementary insurance these are a no-brainer.
The advantage of these hearing aids is that you get to see an audiologist in person for programming and adjustments. Health Innovations uses local audiologists all over the country to dispense its hearing aids, which cost $799 to $899 retail without insurance coverage. A senior member describes them:
“Not many bells and whistles, I believe. Just a solid, easy to fit, easy to use.”
Here is a recent post from a junior member who got his hearing aids for $609.
“I do believe the competence of the audiologist makes a world of difference, Other than feeling them in my ears and some digitizing in the higher frequencies, I feel like I hear normally but clearer. I can have a normal conversation with my wife without asking her to repeat herself constantly. I do not have a severe hearing loss and probably would not have purchased HA if I had to pay retail, but at $609 for the pair after insurance coverage, it was well worth it to me.”
What’s your hearing aid experience? Have you found hearing aids you can afford?