Would you have guessed that more than 1 in 10 American adults over 18 have reported some form of hearing loss? While that might be surprising, this next statistic is far more sobering: research from the WHO (World Health Organization) states that only 17% of the people who need a hearing aid actually use one.
Though the economic impact of hearing loss is estimated at an annual cost of $750 billion, it is the social factors that are often felt most acutely. Losing part, or all, of the ability to communicate can be devastating on its own, but learning delays, feelings of loneliness, loss of productivity, and frustration all are symptoms of hearing loss, too.
Hearing aids have traditionally been thought of as expensive devices that require custom-fitting by an audiologist. Today, you can spend anywhere from $200 per device, like the ZVOX Voicebuds, to several thousand dollars when buying from a middleman (like TruHearing), to more than $6,000 per device ($12,000+ for both ears) when buying them from an audiologist. That’s quite a range of prices!
The AARP says that the average price of a hearing aid a few years ago was $2,300. This might cause some to ask a basic question: why are hearing aids so expensive? There are two main reasons: lack of consumer choice and lack of pricing transparency with certain types of retailers.
Another important question that is commonly asked is, does price always equate to quality? The answer is no. While some users will experience benefits from a custom-fit hearing aid, the majority of users will find better value with a device that gives the user adjustability options that help fit the hearing aid to their ears.
Simply learning about hearing aids and making an informed choice will help most people with hearing loss find a great solution for them, without spending a lot of money.
What is TruHearing?
TruHearing partners with insurance companies and buys hearing aids directly from 7 different manufacturers. Through their network of providers (audiologists and specialists), they are able to offer their hearing aids to consumers at “better than retail” pricing. Let’s dig in to see if they are the best option - or if there are better ones available.
This article will review key information about TruHearing:
- What is TruHearing?
- TruHearing Return Policy
- TruHearing Buying Process
- TruHearing Products and Pricing
- TruHearing Batteries
- TruHearing Reviews
- TruHearing Alternative: ZVOX Voicebuds
What is TruHearing?
TruHearing was founded in 2003 and was acquired recently. The company is headquartered in Draper, Utah with about 170 employees. TruHearing’s CEO is Tommy Macdonald. The company acts as an intermediary between consumers and their health plans to help consumers pay for hearing aids by working with their insurance companies directly.
While their BBB rating is “A+” (for dealing with complaints in a timely manner), their customer rating is only 1 out of 5 stars. Other manufacturers like ZVOX have a BBB rating of “A+”, but also have a 4 out of 5 star rating.
TruHearing Return Policy
Returns from TruHearing aren’t as straightforward as they are with other manufacturers, like ZVOX (a manufacturer that has a 60-day return policy and includes shipping fees).
The TruHearing returns policy has several catches, like:
- If your hearing aid is damaged, you have to go to their network provider, who then sends the hearing aid to the manufacturer for repairs, or orders a new one.
- If the hearing aid needs to be replaced, the manufacturer charges a replacement fee of between $110-$195, depending on the manufacturer, plus a shipping charge.
- Once that hearing aid arrives back at the network provider, the consumer has to go back to have it refit and programmed, incurring another charge: an additional $125 fee.
All together, you’re potentially out $320+ shipping fees and two visits minimum to a network provider if the hearing aid is out of warranty. The main issue most reviewers have with TruHearing is that even in-warranty claims always incur a minimum charge of $125 for the refitting and programming fee at the network provider, no matter who is at fault.
Truhearing Buying Process
The TruHearing Buying Process has 4 main steps. In chronological order, they are:
First, consumers talk with a hearing aid consultant. They’ll discuss hearing aid options, programs, products and pricing.
Second, the consumer gets referred to a network provider, ideally near them. The office visit is very much like going to the doctor’s office. After about 45 minutes, the TruHearing provider conducts a hearing exam, then reviews the results and answers questions.
Third, if the treatment involves hearing aids, the provider tells the consumer about their options and they order the hearing aids.
The fourth step is the consumer’s return visit to the network provider to have the hearing aids programmed and fitted.
TruHearing Products and Pricing
TruHearing buys hearing aids from seven different manufacturers and groups them by technology level. The categories are Standard, Advanced, and Premium. As the technology is enhanced, the price typically increases. The discounted prices range from $2,270 at the high end to $695 at the low end.
The manufacturers that TruHearing sells are:
- TruHearing (self-branded)
TruHearing Standard Hearing Aids
The Standard category hearing aids are designed for everyday home and work life and have these features:
- Up to 3 programs and up to 9 channels
- Digital processing
- Feedback cancellation and noise reduction
- Speech enhancement
- Wireless connectivity (to connect to TVs, telephone, etc.)
- Wind noise reduction
- Frequency shift
- Directional microphones
TruHearing Advanced Hearing Aids
The Advanced category hearing aids are optimized for restaurants and meetings - times when hearing accurately is important and background noise can be challenging. The Advanced range has these features:
- All Standard features plus:
- Up to 4 programs and up to 14 channels
- Standard features plus:
- Advanced digital processing
- Adjustable feedback cancellation
- Adjustable speech enhancement
TruHearing Premium Hearing Aids
The Premium category hearing aids also have these features:
- Optimized for large group environments or places with continuous background noise
- Up to 5 programs and up to 20 channels
- Premium digital processing
- Automatic feedback processing
- Automatic speech enhancement
The “best” models typically have the better technology and it obviously comes with a cost. The current trend is that as you add more technology and app connectivity, battery life suffers. Choosing a hearing aid starts with a clear plan of when and where it will get used.
Many hearing aid buyers look at consumer reviews before they make a decision. TruHearing has many reviews available to read on the internet - both positive and negative. Some recent reviews from Yelp include:
Positive TruHearing Reviews
Tina M from Virginia said on December 14, 2018:
“I called TruHearing last year when I decided to look into getting new hearing aids. They gave me the name of an audiologist in my area (Cosmetic Hearing Solutions in Annandale, VA) and helped me get an appointment set up.
Once I went to the audiologist, it was basically not a lot different from previous similar visits: she did a hearing test, we discussed options, she adjusted my existing hearing aids in the meantime, and ordered new ones.
There was a slight mishap when the new hearing aids arrived: the wrong one had accidentally been ordered; I'm not sure who was at fault. However, they let me know as soon as they realized the mistake, and rushed the correct order (at no extra cost to me) as I was going on vacation soon and wanted to have them before I left. The cost to me was probably about $1000-2000 less than retail, and the hearing aids have worked fine. So I'm satisfied.”
Negative TruHearing Reviews
Tina P from Oregon said on October 15, 2019:
“Very poor experience with TruHearing. I was referred through my insurance provider (Providence Health Plans/Oregon). I spoke with a TruHearing rep to schedule a hearing test at a local "provider". Once the TH rep explained how the process worked between TH, the "provider" and my insurance company all I could think was why do I need this middle company just to get a hearing test? It honestly felt more like I was being sold something instead making an appointment with a doctor. As soon as I hung up I did some quick research and found that TruHearing is in fact a middle man, and that the "provider" they would have sent me to is not an Audiologist or an ENT but more akin to a hearing device salesman. The hearing test I would have received (and paid for) would be no better than one I could schedule for no cost at my local Costco warehouse. I scheduled a new appointment directly with an ENT/AUD clinic in-network for my insurance then called TH back to cancel that appointment. I couldn't reach the original rep but the second rep looked me up in their system and said he would cancel the appointment. He also assured me that he would notify the "provider" and inform the original TH rep. The TH system emailed me the next day to confirm the appointment--at the wrong clinic, and my last name was spelled incorrectly. To date I have received multiple calls from both TH and the "provider" asking me to call to confirm my insurance information--which was provided to the original rep during the first phone call.
The appointment would have been tomorrow and I just received another voicemail from the original TH rep. I returned her call but had to leave a message in a general department voicemail box. I called a second number she provided and reached yet another rep who at first couldn't even find me in the TH system. When he did finally find me he said that my birth date had been entered incorrectly by the original TH rep. I told him the appointment was cancelled weeks ago and he informed me that there was no record of my cancel call in the TH system.
I am not at all impressed with TruHearing and I would not recommend using them.”
TruHearing Alternative: ZVOX Voicebuds
An alternative to the TruHearing hearing aids include the ZVOX Voicebuds, crafted in the USA using American-made parts.
ZVOX collaborated with a leading audiologist to design the VoiceBud hearing aids. Voicebuds are FDA-registered hearing aids that are supported by a 60-day home trial. They are engineered with easy-to-use features and are designed to be adjusted by the consumer with no help needed from an audiologist. If needed, specialists are on staff for any questions or support.
Customer service centers are based in the USA (Massachusetts and New Mexico) to provide one-on-one guidance for free with the purchase of any ZVOX hearing aid. The fit is adjustable, as the hearing aids come with short/long sound tubes and smaller/larger ear domes. These features allow each Voicebud to fit different users without the need for specialist appointments or custom-fitting services.
The ZVOX Voicebud VB20 has features that include:
- VoiceBud hearing aids use a two-microphone NoiseBlocker system designed to reduce volume levels of distracting background sounds
- High quality, American-made electronics components
- App lets you control VoiceBud hearing aids from your smartphone or tablet
- Wide frequency range (over 5.5 kHz) for natural, accurate sound
- Six ear dome choices included – so you can choose the size that fits your ear
- Includes accessories to make a single VoiceBud usable for either ear
- Optional UV Dryer keeps VoiceBuds clean and disinfected.
After researching hearing aids, consider your budget, planned usage, type, and manufacturer reputation when buying a hearing aid. This measured approach should give you the best chance of finding a device that discretely fits your ear and provides the right level amplification (and noise cancellation) for your hearing.