Hearing aid prices – do the numbers add up?

are hearing aid prices reasonable?I’ve written before that I think that hearing aid vendors need to split the product from the service so I decided to try and breakdown a hearing aid’s price a bit to find out if it is too expensive or not.

I did a bit of Googling and found that an average price for a top of the range hearing aid in the UK is about £1500. This is the rough ballpark for new models from all manufacturers.

How much would you guess that a hearing aid costs to make? I’m guessing too because I’ve never been able to find out the true cost of the physical product (despite a lot of asking!). An iPod costs around £200 to buy and, like a hearing aid, is packed full of amazing technology. Lets factor in that hearing aids are smaller and that smaller components are presumably more expensive. Lets say a hearing aid costs £500 to make.

So if a vendor is selling the product and the service combined then you are paying £1000 for the service. What’s in that service? You’ll need a hearing test, a fitting and probably a few further visits for re-programming to get things right. You also get a warranty for a number of years, which covers repairs and re-programming. A visit to an audiologist is usually an hour long session. How much is an hour of time worth? It costs me £50 per hour to get my car repaired so lets say £70 an hour. A test, fitting + three more visits = £350. That leaves £650, for the warranty and vendor profit. No idea what manufacturers or repair shops charge for repair but I guess that £650 could get eaten up pretty quick if you have a few problems with your aid.

That doesn’t seem completely unreasonable at first glance, but that £1500 is for one hearing aid; if you need two aids then the numbers start to look a bit more unreasonable. £3000 purchase price: £1000 for hearing aids and £2000 for the service. We aren’t doubling the number of visits needed for fitting or re-programming but a fault under warranty is twice as likely.

My main problem with combining product and service is that people will use different amounts of service. Some people will never use their warranty and only need one re-programming and others will take forever to get the programming right and have faults. People should pay for what they need and no more. When I take my car to the garage I pay for the work done, not a flat fee – people have different problems, different situations and different requirements. What if I don’t want a warranty longer than the manufacturer’s one?

A £3000 purchase is not an easy one for most people. It’s going to mean getting into some debt or going without something else; it’s a big decision. I think splitting the product from the service would reduce the upfront cost massively and make a purchase a much easier decision.

Maybe my numbers above are way off and, to be honest, I think £500 to make a hearing aid is an over-estimate. What do you think? Any comments on hearing aid prices and the way they are sold?