Last week, one of my clients visited our office for her regular hearing aid maintenance services. She has a hearing loss in both ears, but due to cost constraints she had only purchased a single hearing aid five years ago from another practitioner before moving to Columbia. She inquired about the cost of a new one. Nationally, hearing aids range between $1200 to over $3000 each.

This was no surprise to my client as she was already familiar with the cost of hearing aids, but her husband motioned toward his new iPhone 6 and asked, “Why are hearing aids so expensive. A cell phone, TV, and other electronics aren’t that much?”

This is a good question and a pretty common one. I think people often compare hearing aids with other consumer electronics, but in reality hearing aids are registered by the FDA as a class I medical device. As such, and like other medical devices, there are a lot of regulations for the manufacturers and on the professionals that fit them which tend to elevate the cost.

However, putting the medical versus non-medical electronics issue aside, the cost comparison of a cell phone and hearing aids is more similar than most realize. According to a Pew Research Poll, 64% of Americans own a smart phone with an average monthly fee of $110. Over a five year service plan, that’s an average of $6,600 for a non-medical device not including the initial cost of the smart phone.

With a lifetime rating of five years on most hearing aids that also require constant service, the cost for maintaining an iPhone or other consumer electronic service plans, such as cable TV or internet, tends to meet or exceed the cost of hearing aids. One significant problem I believe is that the cost for hearing aids and their maintenance is typically front-loaded making them largely unattainable. For example, if cell phones where billed similarly, then far fewer people would have cell phones. Our office has developed a monthly hearing aid usage plan making them now affordable for the average consumer.