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The actual cost of hearing aids

21 February 2022

Healthy hearing is an integral part of your overall well-being; in fact, it may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline as you age, including the development of dementia. Yet, those with hearing problems often neglect this vital facet of their health. Fewer than 30% of adults aged 70 and older with age-related hearing loss — clinically known as presbycusis — have ever used hearing aids, despite needing them the most. Hearing loss is also notoriously difficult to self-diagnose, with many clinically diagnosed patients neglecting to do anything about their condition for around 7-10 years.

But why is should this be the case? Stigma is a big reason — not wanting to associate yourself with something indicative of aging or a disability. Cost is another significant factor. Once the effects of a hearing loss are noticed, people might avoid a hearing evaluation because they fear paying thousands of dollars on hearing aids.

Which raises another question — why do hearing aids cost so much?

What you should expect to pay

The average cost of a hearing aid is approximately $2,500 per aid or $5,000 for both ears.

Audiology clinics will typically sell a pair of hearing aids for between $1,500 and $10,000, depending on the technology used in the hearing aids. However, there is usually some funding available to help with the cost, either through the Ministry of Health, ACC or Veteran's affairs.

Funding aside, finding the right hearing aid is not a small investment. The plus side is that, when you consider all the other factors that come with an aid, the initial costing may not seem like such a bad deal.


Standard hearing aids in New Zealand are not simple consumer electronics but rather like small computers. They are robust health devices that will last a minimum of 6 years. Premium hearing aids also include features that manufacturers claim provide the clearest, crispest sound in any given situation. These models generally cost around $8000-$10,000 for a pair of aids and perform as advertised, filtering unwanted noise and helping the user focus on individual speech noises in almost all environments.

Most hearing aids also feature rechargeable batteries, which can offer up to 30 hours of continuous use before requiring recharging (typically done at night).

At the other end of the spectrum, an introductory pair of hearing aids will cost around $1,500 to $2,000 per hearing aid. Typically, they feature simpler technology, with fewer algorithms and channels to control and amplify sound or respond to noisy situations. However, some users may find these cheaper models sufficient for all their listening needs.

Hearing aid fitting

Included in the bundled service is the fitting, which involves physically fitting a hearing device or component from the device to the patient's ear. Depending on the hearing device you choose, a physical mould of your ear may be necessary.

A fitting also includes importing your audiogram results into the device's software. Here, the hearing aid is programmed for your unique hearing situation and the specific acoustics of your ears. Every person's hearing loss, ear shape, and sound tolerance are different, so measurement is needed. Programming hearing aids involves verification and validation — measuring the sound amplification of the hearing aid before it reaches the ear canal and quantifying the number of decibels the patient will hear.

It may take some time to adjust to amplified sound. First, people have to build up a tolerance for these sounds and a physical tolerance for wearing a hearing device. The way we fit them on day one may not be how we fit them one month out because we often need to modify the individual user's sound, fit, and comfort.

At Bellbird, we give you a 60-day window to test your hearing aids in real-life situations. You might need more than one appointment to adjust the hearing aids or trial a more appropriate type. Making the right decision is a very personalised process, so we include the option to keep, return or trial a different type of hearing aid. If you decide to return them, that's ok — we'll get you a full refund.

Other services

Hearing aids can fill up with moisture and wax, at which point audiologists can perform professional cleanings with supersonic cleaners and vacuums. Professional maintenance check-ups every six months to one year are often included in the bundled price to keep your hearing aids running smoothly. 


A one to four-year warranty is also typically included in the bundle price, specified by the manufacturer and hearing care provider to cover the cost of repairs. Depending on the potential issue, a full hearing aid replacement will be provided within the warranty period. One of the main advantages of getting hearing aids through a reputable provider like Bellbird Hearing is that you can trust the follow-up care and support.

If something breaks after the standard warranty expires, you can simply pay to have your aid repaired with a new warranty. ACC, the Ministry of Health and Veteran's affairs can help with the cost of repair and replacement if you qualify.

Hearing aid research and development

The physiology of hearing is very complex, and the origins of hearing loss can vary significantly from person to person. The most common type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear hair cells. There are two common complaints with this type of loss — an overall dulling of sound and the emergence of distortion with incoming sounds. Another complicating factor is how the brain processes speech and sound through that damaged hearing system, which requires special attention.

Given these unique problems, research and development currently drive much of the cost of hearing aids. Money spent goes into using hearing aid technology to reverse engineer the hearing loss, amplifying sounds that are perceived as dull without causing further sound distortion. Research is ongoing to improve these small but powerful, customised medical devices to mimic natural hearing better.

A small but growing market

The hearing aid market is relatively small in New Zealand compared to other consumer items, such as electronics. The problem is mainly due to the small population size — according to the National Foundation of the Deaf, there were roughly 200,000 hearing aid users in 2016. The costs of research, development, and manufacturing of hearing aids in New Zealand are supported entirely by this relatively small customer base. As mentioned earlier, people also tend to leave off getting a hearing aid for several years, which means the potential market should be larger than this figure.

Although the cost of hearing aids is one factor putting people off, getting one sorted earlier means more value. Paying $5,000 for two hearing aids has a guarantee of six years of use, which means $833 a year — or $69 a month — to hear well and to live a full, healthy life.