ATLANTA - According to the CDC, hearing loss is the third-most chronic health condition in the United States.
Channel 2 Consumer Advisor Clark Howard says despite being so common, hearing aids are rarely covered by insurance.
Michael Rosenberg said he started noticing a problem hearing years ago.
“I can hear people talk, but the speech is not sharp enough for me,” he said “The audiologist said for some reason you lost 30 percent of your high frequencies.”
Rosenberg shopped around for hearing aids and found most hearing aids were priced just over $2,000 per ear.
“The cheapest one that I could find at Sam’s or Costco were about $635 apiece,” he said
Then Rosenberg heard Clark talk about iHear Medical, an FDA approved, do-it-yourself, home hearing test and hearing aid company.
Adnan Shennib is the founder and CEO of iHear. He says their goal is to make hearing health care accessible for everyone who needs it.
“What's unique about it, besides being very affordable, is you can actually customize your setting yourself at home,” Shennib explained. “We stream this technology directly to the consumer online so when you go through the process you can actually hear male speech and female speech and even bird chirps, and we make sure that you are able to hear these sounds according to your individual ability.”
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The cost of iHear is $349 per ear, but that cost goes down after rebates.
Shennib told us iHear partnered with Ameritas insurance to cover the devices for their customers.
“For most of them it will probably be 100 percent covered because of the affordability,” he said
He believes as the cost for hearing aids comes down, more insurance companies will cover them.
Jodi Seligman is a doctor of audiology at the Auditory Verbal Center in in Atlanta, and admits that cost is a barrier for many people who suffer with hearing loss.
“We're trying to help people hear better, if we could give these hearing aids away for free we would,” she said
While she applauds new technology she worries do-it-yourself hearing aids may not address the specific need of every individual.
“I went to school and learned how to program a hearing aid most effectively and verify and validate people's results with all my equipment and those are things that make a hearing aid fitting most effective," Seligman said.
Shennib says effective care should not be a concern for anyone considering iHear.
“We have demonstrated that our accuracy or variability is very consistent with test results that you obtain from a hearing health professional,” he explained. “We have audiologists as hearing aid dispensers, licensed professionals who are available to help consumers deal whatever issues we have.”
Clark says there are other ways you can find affordable hearing devices.
“Think of how many people we know who do have some trouble hearing but they won't spend the money for hearing aids,” he said. “So even cheaper PSAPS, these are personal hearing devices that are not considered to be medical and they can be as low as $99.”
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