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

October 15, 2017 by Doug Breaker

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 your local audiologist isn’t going to help you with this distinction. He’s just going to say it costs $1,000-$3,000 per ear for the life-changing benefits of hearing aids (period). 

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 audiologists sell and the cheap ones that do more harm than good. 

To find these quality, affordable hearing aids, 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, 99% of you will be able to treat your hearing loss effectively for 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 at the root of sensorineural hearing loss. This is the most common form of hearing loss, which affects frequencies over 1,000 Hz (to varying degrees). These frequencies include 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-$100 hearing aids aren’t actually hearing aids. They’re usually PSAPs (personal sound amplification products). You’ll see PSAPs for sale all over the internet if you search for “inexpensive hearing aid options.”  You might find them listed under the following names:

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

Don’t be fooled by names like “FDA Approved Personal Sound Enhancement Device,” and watch out for unlawful sellers who call their cheap devices “hearing aids” when they’re actually not. The FDA maintains detailed standards on what manufacturers can call a hearing aid. Labeling a product that doesn’t meet these standards a hearing aid is against the law. 

Some of 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!

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 medical-grade hearing aids, and they don’t meet the FDA’s ANSI standards for hearing aids. 
  • Not medical devices: Since PSAPs and other sound amplifiers are not designed to be medical devices, they are not adequate for treating those with hearing loss.
  • Amplify all sounds equally: PSAPs amplify sounds – not just the sounds you want to hear, but the sounds you don’t want to hear as well. In other words, they don’t target the frequencies over 1,000 HZ like a medical-grade product 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; telecoils for cell phone compatibility; multiple settings for different listening environments; and many other features.
  • Useless in complex listening environments: PSAPs become all but useless in complex, noisy environments when you’re trying to hear a conversation better – which is exactly when you need them to work the most.  
  • Zero 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.

cheap hearing aids

Example of a Cheap Hearing Aid

Let’s look at an example of a cheap hearing aid and what customers are saying about it:

MEDca Digital Hearing Amplifier” ($35.99 on Amazon): This device claims to be a “premium digital hearing amplifier at a fraction of the cost.” The description says that “with the MEDca digital hearing amplifier you experience clear sound amplification with digital noise reduction and sound processing.”


35% of the reviewers gave this product a 1 out of 5-Star rating on Amazon. Here’s what some of the 1-Star reviewers said: 

“I was so excited to see if these worked instead of spending thousands of dollars on a hearing aid. I found that even on the lowest volume it was so loud that the background noise was so irritating I couldn’t use them. The next day my ear sounded funny like I had metal in it. So, I’m a little afraid to try something like this again.” –KSK8

“Only used the product not 5 times. I purchased them in the middle of the month and by the end the of month they do not work. They do amplify noise but not clearly when they did work. A cheap product.” –Bradley Dawson

“I could hear better without these! One would not charge without holding it down into the charger. The volume controls are very difficult to operate. I guess you do get what you pay for, so go ahead and spend a bit more for some that will actually help.” –CRM

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! At the end of the day, you’re better off paying a little bit more money for a quality, FDA-registered, affordable hearing aid.  There is no such thing as free money (although many people have unclaimed money waiting for them), so spending just a bit more on affordable hearing aids an 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 suffering from hearing loss. Best of all, they don’t cost $2,000-$6,000 or more a pair. Instead, they cost $300-$1,500 a pair.

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

  • Different business goals: Affordable hearing aid manufacturers have the specific goal of making quality hearing aids accessible to everyone – regardless of their budgets. 
  • A new paradigm for the hearing aid industry: For the last 50 years, a handful of companies dominated the hearing aid industry. Companies like Signia, Unitron, and Widex have been free to charge as much as they want. But during the last 10 years, 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 sales: Affordable hearing aid manufacturers sell direct-to-consumer. This eliminates the sizable markup on hearing aids purchased from doctors’ offices, audiology centers, and big box retailers like Costco.
  • No in-office appointments required: Many direct-to-consumer hearing aids offer strategies for testing your hearing and setting up and adjusting your hearing aids at home – all without visiting an audiologist or hearing clinic (more on this below). For example, MDHearing offers an online hearing test that only takes minutes, gives instant results, and was designed with the help of audiologists, ENT doctors, and sound engineers to maximize accuracy. Customers that already have hearing test results can also upload their hearing test results and MDHearing’s staff audiologists will analyze the test results and recommend the best hearing aid for the customer.

No Middleman: A New Paradigm for the Hearing Aid Industry

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.

While we still recommend getting your hearing tested by a doctor or audiologist prior to purchasing your hearing aids, patients on a budget can save a substantial amount of money by cutting out the middleman and ordering direct from a real, FDA-registered manufacturer like MDHearing. 

Contrary to popular belief, fine-tuning your hearing aids from home without professional assistance isn’t that difficult – but only if the hearing aid manufacturer allows it. The latest smartphone app technology empowers you to test your hearing – and set up and fine-tune your hearing aids – from the privacy of your home. Even if you choose a hearing aid without smartphone integration, MDHearing’s team of phone-based specialists will guide you through the easy process of setting up your hearing aids without the cost of going to a clinic.  

How Do Affordable Hearing Aids Compare to Expensive Ones?

In the hearing aid industry, spending more money doesn’t always bring better quality. In a case study by the Better Hearing Institute, direct-to-consumer (i.e., mail-order or direct-mail) hearing aids are just as beneficial as traditional, more expensive hearing aids. Moreover, the direct-to-consumer buyer enjoys an 80% cost savings with mail-order hearing aids on average.

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 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.”

Characteristics of Quality, Affordable Hearing Aids

When shopping for affordable hearing aids, make sure they have the following characteristics:

  • Satisfaction guarantee: Only purchase an affordable hearing aid if it comes with a 100%, money-back satisfaction guarantee. This allows you to test the hearing aid risk-free. MDHearing has a 45-day return policy.
  • 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 make repairs inexpensively at home.  
  • Company longevity: Only buy from a hearing aid company that’s been in business for at least five years to ensure they’ll be around for repairs and replacement parts. MDHearing has been serving hearing loss patients for over a decade
  • Excellent 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 on-call specialists are always ready to assist. 

Final Thoughts on Affordable Hearing Aids 

You may pay a little more for affordable hearing aids than you would for cheap hearing aids, but they’re an investment; you’ll get more bang for your buck in terms of technology, quality, and longevity. These hearing aids include the settings, voice amplification, and performance you would expect from higher-priced models. Many lower-cost hearing aids even offer background noise reduction technology and cutting-edge feedback reduction like the MDHearing line.

We also offer advanced technologies that prioritize voices and higher frequencies. 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.

Want to see if MDHearing hearing aids will work for you? Take our quick and easy online hearing test and get your results instantly.

Ready to hear better without breaking the bank?