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

When looking in a thesaurus, you may find that “cheap” is listed as a synonym for “affordable,” but that doesn’t mean they’re really the same thing. And while you may be able to find personal sound amplification products (or PSAPs) for under $100, or even devices marketed as “hearing aids” for that price, it may not be the best idea to get these devices.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to pay thousands of dollars per ear to experience the life-changing benefits that come with hearing aids. There is a happy medium between cheap, low-quality hearing aids and expensive ones. But what’s the real difference between cheap hearing aids and affordable hearing aids?

Cheap Hearing Aids

Realistically speaking, the majority of “hearing aids” priced around or under $100 aren’t actually hearing aids. They’re more likely to be PSAPs (although there are PSAPs that do fall into the $100-$700 range). Some run even as low as $20. While this price may seem very attractive, these devices come with a catch.

These “cheap hearing aids” may be useful for those measuring on the low end of normal hearing, or for those who want to watch the television without disturbing others sleeping in the house.

However, they are neither designed for nor adequate for treating those with hearing loss. PSAPs do exactly what their name indicates: they amplify sound. They usually do not have the technology to distinguish between background noise and voice frequencies. Therefore, they will be more likely to amplify the sounds you don’t want to hear as well as the ones you do. Plus, hearing aids have a number of other features that PSAPs don’t offer, including telecoil technology for cell phone compatibility, multiple settings for different listening environments, and more. As a result, PSAPs become all but useless in noisy environments when trying to hear conversations better, and they may result in unpleasant feedback.

Cheap hearing aids also may not properly amplify the higher frequencies that most affected by hearing loss have difficulty hearing in the first place. The most common forms of hearing loss affect frequencies over 1,000 Hz (to varying degrees). In other words, the uppermost range of male speech, half of the range of female speech, and most of the range of children’s speech falls into the range of hearing most often affected by hearing loss.

If your “hearing aids” don’t actually help amplify these frequencies properly, you’ll find yourself with the same problem you had without the devices: you won’t be able to hear what many people are saying. These devices are also more likely to send loud feedback noises to your ears than well-made hearing aids. By sending those loud, high-pitched noises straight into your ear canal, they could potentially damage your hearing even further.

Affordable Hearing Aids

Affordable hearing aids are real hearing aids–hearing aids that are designed to address the specific frequency amplification needs of those suffering from hearing loss–that don’t cost $3,000 per aid. There’s a sizable markup on hearing aids purchased from doctors’ offices, audiology centers, and even big box retailers.

While it is highly recommended that you get your hearing tested by a doctor or audiologist prior to purchasing hearing aids, you can save a substantial amount of money by cutting out the middleman and ordering directly from a real, FDA-approved manufacturer like MDHearingAid. In a study by the Better Hearing Institute, direct-to-consumer or mail order hearing aids are just as beneficial as traditional, more expensive hearing aids. On the average, the direct-to-consumer buyer enjoys an 80% cost savings with mail order 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.

You may pay a little more than you would for affordable hearing aids compared to 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 often include the settings, voice amplification, and performance you would expect from higher priced hearing aids. Many lower cost hearing aids even offer background noise reduction technology and advanced feedback reduction (like the MDHearingAid line).

We also offer advanced technologies that prioritize voices and higher frequencies. This makes affordable hearing aids more effective for those who fall into the mild-to-moderately-severe range of the hearing loss spectrum.

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