Hearing aids that cost more than $2,000 apiece only slightly more effective than some over-the-counter sound-amplification devices that sell for just a few hundred dollars,

The results, published this month in JAMA, found very little difference between the hearing aid, which costs about $1,900 per ear, and some of the PSAPs, which mostly cost between $300 and $350 each.

The study bolsters legislation pending in Congress, which would have the Food and Drug Administration set regulations for cheaper over-the-counter products and is designed to make the devices more widely accessible and safer. Consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss would be able to purchase the devices without a prescription and without a medical exam, knowing they meet federal safety standards.
For the study, researchers compared how well 42 older adults with mild to moderate hearing loss repeated sentences spoken in the presence of background noise. The researchers first tested their ability to understand the speaker without any devices. Then they tested the subjects successively with a hearing aid and with five “personal sound amplification products” sold over the counter.
The hearing aid used in the study was a brand commonly dispensed in audiology clinics. The personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) that were selected either had the best electroacoustic properties or were commonly available in retail pharmacies. PSAPs perform like hearing aids but can’t be marketed as hearing aids because they don’t meet standards set by the FDA.
The results, published this month in JAMA, found very little difference between the hearing aid, which costs about $1,900 per ear, and some of the PSAPs, which mostly cost between $300 and $350 each.
On average, study participants were able to accurately repeat about three-quarters of the words spoken to them without using any device. Using the hearing aid boosted their understanding to an average 88.4 percent. And four out of the five PSAPs were nearly as effective as the hearing aid, with average word understanding ranging from 81.4 percent to 87.4 percent. The fifth PSAP performed poorly: People could hear better with their naked ears.
Age-related hearing loss is a common problem, but only about a quarter of the roughly 30 million people who have it use hearing aids, said Nicholas Reed, an audiology instructor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who was the study’s lead author.
“That’s a lot of people who aren’t getting in through the door,” he said.
Cost is a deciding factor for many consumers. Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, nor do most private health insurance plans.
Identical versions of the bipartisan Over-the-Counter Hearing Act of 2017 were introduced in the House and Senate this year. The text of those bills has been added as an amendment to the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, a bill that is key to FDA operations because it sets the government’s system for collecting fees during the drug approval process.
Not surprisingly, hearing aid manufacturers and distributors are against the bill. So are gun owners, who claim that regulating hearing amplifiers, which some hunters use to detect game, is in effect a way to regulate hunting and undermine their Second Amendment rights.
Reed said that by requiring the FDA to issue regulations on over-the-counter hearing aids, the proposed amendment would improve the products sold. Many of them, he said, are not effective and some are dangerous because there’s no control over amplification levels.
“When it gets to a certain amplification, it will just blow your hearing out,” he said. “Over-the-counter hearing measures would regulate these devices and force them to meet standards.”

depends on your loss and the environment. Don’t tell me you don’t need algorithms and noise dampening.

Who did they ask for their opinion? 1st fitted people with a bad fit and very low experience?

edit: just read a little over your provocative header. the people have 75% word recognition without aids.

Based on that you want to make that generel statement?

nearly everybody here hears alot worse than that.

First of all this study is only for mild to moderate users. Usually mild loss users don’t bother with HAs anyway. Moderate loss users may do OK with PSAPs but the form/factor between PSAPs and HAs are very different. PSAPs don’t usually have the miniaturization that HAs do that make them less conspicuous and not stick out like a sore thumb. Also comfort, usability, longer lasting batteries, and maybe reliability as well are better on HAs than PSAPs. People can probably wear HAs all day long and forget that they wear them. I don’t think that will be the case for PSAPs.

Sure, HAs should come down to a more fair pricing level, and we’re already seeing the disruption happening with channels like Costco thriving if not exploding, and the online channels as well.


My goodness! A $6K aid works/looks better than a $300 one. Who’d a thunk it? :wink:

I first noticed problems watching Star Wars – the Jar Jar Bing fiasco, My first purchase was TV ears @ $99 – worked. Then some eBay Siemens (China) for about $45 ea – now around $100 and change/each. That served me well until I had Meniere’s and had to get real hearing aids for the profound loss.

Those with a modest loss are hearing aid candidates. Just ones that have a hard time justifying 3-6K. The Siemens aids I bought weren’t as obvious as some of the PSAPs. Just like BTE’s in fact.

I don’t think the route for mild-moderate loss is one where people don’t see a want/need. They just have trouble thinking they are willing to spend the substantial cost of true hearing aids.

The ebay Siemens are a good PSAP starting point. The market is new for much of that market and will transition to better aids with the legislation possibly helping. In the interim, eBay Siemens(China)PSAPs are a reasonable alternative at a modest cost and not obtrusive.

I was recently told not to lump everything into my view but to demand a full view. Good idea.

This is a little concerning…I am new to all of this and have the need for hearing assistance. I’m fortunate that my health coverage will pay for my hearing aids. I would really be upset if I spent the 5K on these myself only to find I could have gotten away with a few hundred . Hmmmm

you don’t seem to understand the target group of those simple amps.

And maybe you shouldn’t buy HAs, or 5K a pair, if you only have a slight high frequency loss…

About a year ago, I purchased MD hearing aids, they were about $900 for both. I knew I had need ha for some time and thought I would go the cheaper route because I felt my hearing was not that bad and I only needed a “little” help. At first they seemed to work, helped when I watched tv (alone) or at church. But overall, they didn’t help in noisy situations, In fact, I felt they were making my hearing worse, I started getting pulsating in my ears, I stopped using them. I just ordered signia pure primax 7. I hope to receive them this week. So I will be able discern between the two. My hope is that the real ha will be better but we will see.

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who will fit them for you?

you need a device to interface with pc and software, hope you’re aware…

I imagine she is buying them from a clinic, @Gery_R and that’s covered.

I am guessing that the circuit was being overdriven and that caused the pulsing you encountered. The circuit/components might have aged and started to cause that.

Being in Chicago you have a Costco fairly close. Their KS7 aid is the Primax and sells for $1800/pair.

Aids should give you a better noise experience although some of the newer amplifiers are starting to include that.

Exactly the responses I expected!

A while back I asked my audiologist if I could try out Phonak’s Lyric2 hearing aids. For those who aren’t familiar with Lyric, they are very tiny analog hearing devices that get implanted deep in your hearing canal for months at a time. They are simple analog devices that basically just amplify the sound with minimal programming. Very technically similar to the cheap devices you are talking about.

I had to yank them out after a couple a days. As soon as I found myself talking to someone in a slightly noisy environment, I was unable to understand what people were saying. It was horrendous. So no…the statement about digital hearing aids being no better than eBay specials is just incorrect.


exactly the reply I expected!

This “study” appears to be an extremely simplistic way to evaluate an extremely complex problem. An across the spectrum sound amplifier may well work just for speech discrimination for some. So would an “Ear Horn” or having someone just shout. Same principal. Persons who have not experienced hearing loss find it difficult, or impossible, to understand the many facets of hearing loss - except lack of volume. I would also include regular MD’s (not ENT’s). The time spent in medical school on hearing loss is minimal if any. Hearing loss is generally not linear! Cheap devices do not, in themselves, know how much and where your loss of acuity exists and how to address it. Just buy them and stick them in your ears. You don’t just buy hearing aids and use them out of the box! Some one must evaluate your hearing and adjust the aids to compensate for your specific loss. A sizeable portion of the hearing aid cost is for the diagnosis and adjustments necessary to the hearing aid. They should sell glasses like this also. Magnification is the only problem.
Someone with a limp just give’m a saw and wooden leg. Fools can solve a lot of problems.

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Occasionally, when driving on the highway (in my diesel pickup) with my 18 year old grandson, I’ll tell him, “You need to speak up.”

One day, he seemed particularly irritated by this, so I explained, “They’re called hearing AIDS, not hearing FIXERS.” After a moment’s thought, he said, “OK. That makes sense.” End of him being irritated…


True !!
Hearing loss seems to be the only affliction that irritates people. No one seems to get irritated at someone who can’t see.
They would gladly assist someone crossing the street…but asking someone to speak a little louder seems to be somehow different. Just another part of the problem, I guess. I would love to have some of those FIXERS if you come across them…

To add to your rant. Ever go into a sports bar or any noisy place with tv’s on that no one can hear. How about a doctor/dentist office, a hearing clinic or audiologist waiting room, who fail to turn on the captions.