Cheap Hearing Aids vs. Affordable Hearing Aids: What’s the Difference?

Cheap Hearing Aids vs. Affordable Hearing Aids: What’s the Difference?

The difference between “cheap hearing aids” and “affordable hearing aids” is an important distinction to make—especially when you’re looking for a legitimate, reasonably-priced solution for your hearing loss.

But the audiologists at your local hearing clinic probably aren’t going to help you with this distinction. Most clinics are tied to high wholesale costs from the manufacturer and, due to their retail business model, simply can’t sell hearing aids at an affordable price. In order to make a profit, they’ll just tell you that it costs $1,000 to $3,000 per ear (an average of $2,300 apiece) for the life-changing benefits of hearing aids.

Fortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s because there’s a happy, affordable medium between the ridiculously expensive hearing aids that clinics sell, and the cheap ones that do more harm than good.

While the hearing aids at your local clinic may be overpriced, the professional care and support they provide is a noteworthy advantage. Dedicated, U.S.-based support is extremely important when searching for more affordable hearing aids.

To find these high-quality yet affordable hearing aids with legitimate support, you need to learn how to tell the good ones from the bad ones—and that’s why we wrote this guide. By the time you finish it, you will be able to treat your hearing loss effectively for just hundreds of dollars (not thousands).

Don’t believe us? Keep reading and prepare to be surprised…

Cheap Hearing Aids: What Are They and How Can You Identify Them?

First of all, very cheap hearing aids do not properly amplify the higher sound frequencies usually affected by sensorineural hearing loss—the most common form of hearing loss. Although sensorineural hearing loss can affect sounds at any frequency, it commonly impacts higher-pitched frequencies over 1,000 Hz. This range includes the uppermost range of male speech, half of the range of female speech, and most of the range of children’s speech.

Moreover, the majority of these $50 to $100 “hearing aids” aren’t actually hearing aids. They’re usually PSAPs (personal sound amplification products), which the FDA states “are intended for consumers with no hearing loss who want to make environmental sounds louder, such as for recreational activities like birdwatching or hunting... PSAPs are not medical devices.”  

You’ll see PSAPs for sale all over the internet if you search for “inexpensive hearing aid options.”  Don’t be fooled by names such as:

  • Smart Hearing Amplifiers
  • Rechargeable Sound Aids
  • Sound Amplifier Aids
  • Hearing Amplifier Aids
  • Hearing Aids Amplifiers
  • Digital Hearing Amplifiers
  • Personal Sound Enhancement Device

Watch out for unlawful sellers who falsely market their cheap devices as “hearing aids.” The FDA maintains detailed standards on what manufacturers can call a hearing aid, and labeling a product that doesn’t meet these standards as a hearing aid is against the law. 

Some of these non-hearing aid devices cost as little as $20. This price may seem very attractive, but cheap hearing aids come with a catch: They don’t work!

What’s more, if you’re not happy with your cheap hearing aids, trying to get support or a refund can be an uphill battle. Hearing aids are legitimate medical devices, and patients deserve to get support from a U.S.-based, licensed team of support professionals. Many providers of cheap hearing aids either don’t offer any support (e.g. most sellers on Amazon) or outsource support overseas to a team of unqualified agents (e.g. Nano Hearing Aids to the Philippines and Mexico).

Characteristics of Cheap Hearing Aids

Here are the signs you’re not dealing with a real, medical-grade hearing aid:

  • Not FDA-registered: PSAPs and other cheap hearing aids are not FDA-registered hearing aids. That means they’re not manufactured in accordance with the FDA’s international quality standards for hearing aids, and they don’t meet the FDA’s ANSI requirements for hearing aids.
  • Poor support: Many cheap hearing aid providers focus on profit above all else, and try to make it as difficult as possible to get a refund. If the company does offer support, it will likely be outsourced, and team members will likely not be hearing professionals.
  • Not medical devices: Since PSAPs and other sound amplifiers are not designed to be medical devices, they are not adequate for treating hearing loss.
  • Amplify all sounds equally: PSAPs don’t just amplify the sounds you want to hear, but the sounds you don’t want to hear as well. In other words, they don’t target specific frequencies like an FDA-registered hearing aid does. 
  • No advanced hearing aid technology: PSAPs and other cheap hearing aids don’t offer the advanced features of modern hearing aids, such as technology to distinguish between background noise and voice frequencies; adaptive listening programs that change with your environment; and many other features.
  • Useless in complex listening environments: Because PSAPs amplify all sounds equally, they are all but useless in complex, noisy environments when you’re trying to focus on a conversation—which is exactly when you need them to work the most.  
  • No feedback control: Cheap hearing aids are more likely to send loud feedback noises to your ears than well-made hearing aids.
  • Potentially dangerous: By sending high-pitched noises straight into your ear canal, these devices could potentially damage your hearing even further.

Examples of Cheap Hearing Aids

Let’s look at a couple of examples of cheap hearing aids and what customers are saying about them. 

First up is the “MEDca Digital Hearing Amplifier,” which as of writing sells for $42.42 on Amazon. This device claims to be a “premium digital hearing amplifier at a fraction of the cost.” The description claims that “with the MEDca digital hearing amplifier, you experience clear sound amplification with digital noise reduction and sound processing.”

 Unfortunately, many customers seem to disagree. 42 percent of Amazon reviewers gave this product a rating of 3 out of 5 stars or lower. Here’s what some of the 1-star reviewers said: 

I had problems from the beginning. One side picked up feedback, there is virtually no noise cancellation, and the sound quality is a tinny scratchy sound. Trying to fit it the right direction in your ear is nearly impossible. Half the time, I can't even get one of them to turn on. The one good thing is the rechargeability… easy and convenient. Bottom line, don't waste your money.” Randy

Terrible product that picks up wind and rain, but not voices! Emergency purchase of hearing amplifiers that was a total waste of money. Most of the time these two aids put me into a wind tunnel. Family and friends had to scream at me so I could hear above the outside amplified wind noise. I cannot get my refund fast enough! This is the first time I have had a terrible experience with Amazon.”Fred L. Bussa

Makes background noises so loud it's more irritating than not being able to hear well. Volume control is very limited - only a very short amount to move to go from no sound to jet engine going off! Lots of static. Ear loops barely reach and looks like poor quality. Both ear pieces identical - no left & right. Extremely disappointed for the price.”Shannon Forsyth

Another cheap hearing aid with poor customer reviews is the device sold by Audien Hearing. The Audien Hearing EV3 Rechargeable Hearing Amplifier currently sells for $199 on Amazon. According to the product description, “Audien hearing devices amplify speech while reducing background noise, making it easier and more comfortable for you to hear in noisy settings.”

But is this really the case? 39 percent of Amazon reviewers gave the Audien device a rating of 3 out of 5 stars or lower, 21 percent of that being 1-star reviews. Below is a sampling of the 1-star reviews:

Before spending thousands of dollars on new name-brand hearing aids again, I decided to try these inexpensive Audien hearing aids just to see if they were as effective. Well, the answer is a resounding NO! They are well-packaged and include everything needed, but they are uncomfortable to wear and do little to improve hearing. They whistle when anything comes close to the ear. It is impossible to converse on a telephone without removing them from the ear.” Brian Hollister

Don’t waste your money! Not comfortable at all. Irritating, squealing feedback on any volume setting above minimum. Read the fine print on returns!! I didn't as I was so accustomed to the Amazon policy on returns. They will only replace a damaged or defective product.”T. Fye

After 6 months, the left hearing aid provided no sound. Contacted company for replacement under their 1-year warranty, and my requests were ignored. I will not be doing business with Audien Hearing ever again.”Scooter

Customers with hearing loss need to be careful that they purchase legitimate affordable hearing aids, and not cheap PSAPs that have not been approved for medical use. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has filed a lawsuit against Audien Hearing for its alleged practice of calling its devices “hearing aids” instead of PSAPs, and for falsely labeling these products “FDA-approved” and “FDA-registered.”

Final Thoughts on Cheap Hearing Aids

If your hearing device wasn’t made to treat your specific hearing loss condition, you’ll find yourself with the same problem you had in the first place: you won’t be able to hear what people are saying! 

What’s more, if you’re only looking for the cheapest hearing aid possible, you’ll very likely fall victim to scammers and companies looking to cut corners in terms of product quality and customer support.

At the end of the day, you’re better off paying a little bit more for a quality, FDA-registered, affordable hearing aid. Spending just a bit more is a priceless investment that will pay off in better health and quality of life.

Affordable Hearing Aids: What Are They and How Can You Identify Them?

Affordable hearing aids are real hearing aids designed to address the specific frequency amplification needs of those with hearing loss. Best of all, they don’t cost $2,000 to $6,000 or more a pair; instead, they cost $300 to $1,500 a pair.

But how can a quality hearing aid manufacturer drop the price of hearing aids this much? There are three ways that affordable hearing aid manufacturers lower prices:

  • Altruistic business goals: Affordable hearing aid manufacturers have the specific goal of making effective, quality hearing aids accessible to everyone, regardless of their budgets. This is in stark contrast to many traditional hearing aid companies that have profit as a primary motive.
  • Direct-to-consumer sales: Most affordable hearing aid manufacturers sell direct-to-consumer over the internet. This eliminates the sizable markups on hearing aids and the costs of running brick-and-mortar locations such as hearing clinics, doctors’ offices, and big box stores like Costco.
  • No in-office appointments required: Many direct-to-consumer hearing aids offer strategies for testing your hearing, setting up your hearing aids, and adjusting your fit at home—all without visiting an audiologist or hearing clinic (more on this below). While we still recommend getting your hearing tested by a doctor or audiologist prior to purchasing hearing aids, patients on a budget can save a substantial amount of money by cutting out the middleman and ordering directly from a real, FDA-registered manufacturer like MDHearing.

Telehealth: A New Paradigm for the Hearing Aid Industry

For the last 50 years, a handful of businesses have dominated the hearing aid industry. Companies like Signia, Phonak, and ReSound have been free to charge as much as they want—giving consumers little choice in the matter.

During the last decade, however, new hearing aid manufacturers have disrupted the industry by offering quality, affordable solutions that work just as well as traditional hearing aids. Direct-to-consumer hearing aids present a new paradigm for the hearing aid industry—one that removes the cost barriers and expensive in-office appointments that prevent so many people from getting the hearing care they need.

The surge in affordable hearing aids is just one example of the growing field of telehealth. The term “telehealth” refers to the use of video calls, phone calls, emails, and other electronic technologies to provide and receive healthcare.

MDHearing is committed to making it as easy as possible for hearing aid users to get help with their devices, without the need for costly and expensive in-person visits. Our list of telehealth services includes:

  • Remote fine-tuning: Contrary to popular belief, fine-tuning your hearing aids from home without professional assistance isn’t that difficult. Thanks to the latest smartphone app technology, MDHearing empowers you to check your hearing—and set up and fine-tune your hearing aids—from the privacy of your home. With just a few taps on your smartphone or tablet, you can personalize the MDHearing VOLT MAX “smart” hearing aid for your specific hearing needs. 
  • Online hearing tests: MDHearing offers an online hearing test that only takes minutes and gives instant results. The test was designed with the help of audiologists, ENT doctors, and sound engineers to maximize accuracy. Customers that already have hearing test results can also send their hearing test results for analysis by MDHearing’s staff audiologists, who will recommend the best hearing aid for the customer.
  • Video, phone, and email support: MDHearing makes it easy to get the support you need in the manner that works best for you. Our team of hearing aid specialists will guide you through the easy process of setting up your new devices, without the added cost and time of going to a hearing clinic.  

Characteristics of Quality, Affordable Hearing Aids

Not all affordable hearing aids are created equal, and it’s important to take the time to find the right solution for you. Our article “How Do Hearing Aids Work?” will help you understand the different hearing aid models and options available to you (analog vs. digital, rechargeable vs. battery-powered, in-the-ear vs. behind-the-ear, etc.).

In addition to the hearing aid itself, you should also evaluate the provider. When shopping for affordable hearing aids, make sure the company has the following characteristics:

  • 100% money-back guarantee: Only purchase an affordable hearing aid if it comes with a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee. This allows you to try the hearing aid and make sure the fit and sound is right for you. MDHearing has a 45-day risk-free trial.
  • Strong company reputation: Look into the company’s history and reviews before purchasing a hearing aid. Make sure it’s not a new, fly-by-night operation, and will be around to provide repairs, replacement parts, and good customer support. MDHearing was founded by an ENT doctor and has served over half a million hearing loss patients for nearly a decade and a half
  • Licensed, U.S.-based customer service: Some customers adjust to life with hearing aids quickly. Others need help getting through the rough spots. Whether you need help adjusting and fine-tuning your hearing aids, or just a little bit of moral support, MDHearing’s team of licensed hearing professionals are always ready to assist via phone and email.
  • Easy repairs: Make sure your affordable hearing aid company offers repair services. MDHearing will repair your hearing aids even after the warranty expires. We also sell replacement parts (like tubing, domes, and tips) so you can care for your hearing aids inexpensively at home. 

How Do Affordable Hearing Aids Compare to Expensive Ones?

In the hearing aid industry, spending more money doesn’t always bring better quality. A case study by the Better Hearing Institute found that direct-to-consumer (also called mail-order or direct-mail) hearing aids are just as beneficial as traditional, more expensive hearing aids. What’s more, the direct-to-consumer buyer enjoys an average cost savings of 80 percent compared with traditional hearing aids.

cheap hearing aids

*Data in table sourced from: Kochkin, S. A comparison of consumer satisfaction, subjective benefit, and quality of life changes associated with traditional and direct-mail hearing aid use. Hearing Review. 2014;21(1):16-26.

A 2014 study by Hearing Review reached similar conclusions about the quality and effectiveness of direct-to-consumer hearing aids compared to traditional ones. Here are some of the findings:

  • “From the consumer’s perspective, direct-mail and traditional hearing aids provide equivalent benefit and quality of life changes from the use of amplification.”
  • “Direct-mail consumers are more likely to have positive attitudes toward their hearing aids than traditional consumers, as evidenced by their brand loyalty and willingness to recommend hearing aids to others.”
  • “Given the equivalence of perceived benefit, direct-mail hearing aids provide the consumer with high value compared to traditional fittings—especially for those consumers who had their hearing aids fitted in settings utilizing below-average best practices.”

Final Thoughts on Affordable Hearing Aids 

You may pay a little more for affordable hearing aids than you would for cheap hearing aids, but you’ll get much more bang for your buck in terms of technology, quality, and longevity. Affordable hearing aids, such as the MDHearing line, include the noise reduction technology, voice amplification, and performance you would expect from higher-priced models.

MDHearing also offers advanced technologies that prioritize voices and make it easier to hear better in the presence of background noise. This makes our affordable hearing aid line more effective for those who fall into the mild to moderately-severe range of the hearing loss spectrum.

Ready to learn how MDHearing’s line of affordable hearing aids can help you? Get started today with our free 8-minute online hearing test. 

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