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digital hearing aids
Old 07-23-2010, 09:07 PM   #1
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digital hearing aids

I read a couple of older threads on hearing aids but figured I'd see if anyone has any insights that might help my situation.

I suffer from "cookie bite" (mid-range) hearing loss, which I've had all my life (it's usually hereditary). I saw an audiologist last year who recommended hearing aids - specifically digital hearing aids with a price tag around $6000. I've been trying to do more research before spending that kind of money.

In my opinion, the main problem I have is with phone conversations - where I can't comprehend about half of what's said. Turning up the volume on a phone is painful and sometimes sounds distorted. That's my biggest concern with hearing aids - if they just amplify the sound, I don't think that will help me much. However, if I understood my audiologist correctly, digital hearing aids allow them to amplify only the frequencies that I have trouble with. Is this correct?

(By the way, I said "in my opinion" above because my wife feels the problem extends beyond the use of the phone as she frequently has to repeat herself when talking with me)

Also, since I'm planning for ER, I'm not really sure what the longevity is for hearing aids. Is this an expense I need to plan to face every x number of years?

Are there other hearing aid related issues I should be aware of?

Many thanks.
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Old 07-24-2010, 10:27 AM   #2
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wife prefers low tech aids. all the automatic mumbojumbo bugs her. every couple years they do need to be refurbished it seems and unless you find the right person the sales pitches start again. when you get your aids you must force yourself to where them. you havent heard right for many years and the sudden change can be very aggrivating. thats why she like old fashion type so when she wants them off she turns them off. hope this helps
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Old 07-24-2010, 10:53 AM   #3
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I don't use hearing aids (yet), but I'm pretty familiar with acoustics and the kind of circuits these things would use. I agree with kowski, try a low tech solution first. There may be cases where digital is better, but it seems like overkill, over priced, and over complication to me. Plus, IME, the more settings something has (and the digital are highly programmable), the more chance there is for someone to screw it up.

Here is a collection of links I saved when I was researching when I was trying to convince my family that my FIL should not just be accepting all that feedback (high pitched squealing) he was getting as 'normal' (and it drove me bonkers). The feedback was so loud, that I could hear it across the room. I can't imaging how hard it was pounding on his eardrum (in a range he couldn't detect).

Some of these links may be better than others, I was saving as I went along.

-ERD50


http://www.thehearingaidforum.com/

Losing hearing aids - Deafness

http://www.hearingresearch.org/Dr.Ro...o_HAs_Cost.htm

http://americahears.com/Technology.html#FreedomBTE

Hearing aid repair training videos How to repair hearing aids:

http://www.hearingresearch.org/Dr.Ro...ngHAdesign.htm

RNID.org.uk: Information and resources: About deafness and hearing loss: Types and causes: Noise

http://www.thehearingaidforum.com/

http://www.hearinglossweb.com/discus...rd-topics.html
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Old 07-24-2010, 11:00 AM   #4
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My husband uses hearing aids. When his hearing deficit became an issue he asked his MD for a reference to an audiologist. The one he suggested has at least a masters degree from a university. She conducted a hearing test and suggested several aids at different capacities and price points that would help him.

This audiologist is also hard of hearing and wears aids.. not a factor in our choice, but interesting.

I recommend you use a similar process to locate a professional, not a sales person, in your area. Audiologists are almost always dispensing (sell aids) but not all put your interest first and foremost.
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Old 07-24-2010, 11:16 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ncaraway View Post
I suffer from "cookie bite" (mid-range) hearing loss, ...

In my opinion, the main problem I have is with phone conversations - where I can't comprehend about half of what's said. Turning up the volume on a phone is painful and sometimes sounds distorted. That's my biggest concern with hearing aids - if they just amplify the sound, I don't think that will help me much. However, if I understood my audiologist correctly, digital hearing aids allow them to amplify only the frequencies that I have trouble with. Is this correct?
A few specifics:

Yes, just turning up the volume of the phone will likely lead to distortion - the audio quality of most phones is really, really poor overall, and they distort easily at higher volumes. Your audiologist is correct - any decent hearing-aid will be tailored to only amplify the frequencies that you need boosted (mid-range in your case). When you turn up your phone volume, you boost all frequencies, so this makes the ones you can hear too loud (probably resulting in the 'painful' comment you made, though distortion can sound 'painful' also, or 'beautiful' on a Stratocaster guitar ).

Here's an experiment you can try if you are comfortable with connecting up some audio gear (no soldering, just cable connections):

1) Get a decent small stereo with decent speakers.

2) Get an inexpensive (but better would be even better) stereo equalizer (a fancy tone control, with a slider for each frequency range).

3) Get an adapter cord so that you can plug the headphone jack from the phone into one channel of the equalizer. Headphone jack size to 'RCA'/Phone plugs.

4) Connect the one channel of the Equalizer out to the stereo with a 'Y' cord (mono-stereo adapter). USe the 'AUX' or 'TAPE' input - NOT 'phono' (that has a lot of amplification and does some other EQ you don't want). Radio shack will have these cables I think.

5) Play with the EQ and volume, listening to the phone through the stereo. You will want to boost the mid-range and lower the highs & bass for your type of loss. You might need to watch out for feedback through the mic though (cover it if needed) - this is just to experiment.

That should tell you a lot about whether you can get away with just minor assistance, and I'd bet an analog product would be just fine for you. I'm pretty sure that even the analog hearing aids will adjust dynamically, based on the volume levels of the source, which this simple EQ set-up will not do.

If you do the experiment, I'd love to hear (read?) how it turned out for you. It would arm you with more info when you see the audiologist, or maybe help you determine if that audiologist is the best one for you.

-ERD50
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Old 07-24-2010, 11:42 AM   #6
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A quick google brought up some inexpensive products that do this:

Telephone Volume Amplifiers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Variety of Products for Deaf, Deafness, Hearing Impaired and Hard of Hearing - HearMore.com

Do your own research though, I don't know if these are any good or not. Just a starting point.

-ERD50
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Old 07-24-2010, 12:23 PM   #7
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I have had various hearing aids for the last 20 years. One for each ear. I am now 65 and have moderate to severe hearing loss - "cookie bite". Most of these were in the ear instruments. Miracle ear etc. Although all improved my hearing ability, none were really fully acceptable. About three years ago, after much research, I tried one of the internet services (ahearingaid.com) that offed multiple discount instruments. They have since discontinued selling aids but continue support. I believe that they now operate as Nationwide Hearing Services. I have no affiliation with this company. They provide a list of audiologist in your area that provide the necessary testing and services. Another provider is HearingPlanet.com that has an informative site with prices (Hearing Aid Prices, Price Comparison of Hearing Devices, Digital Hearing Aids). The prices quoted include the audiologist's fee. You have a wide range of different providers. This way you are not "steered" to a particular brand. I have found that the most effective is a behind the ear model. I suppose because of the battery power available. I have two Phonak Exelia Art aids with the MyPilot Remote Control. This “command center” reads battery power levels, allows for volume changes, program adjustments, directional microphone changes, and more.

I am very satisfied with this instrument. Just be aware that no instrument will be effective in a very loud environment.

I hope this helps.
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Old 07-24-2010, 12:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat View Post
My husband uses hearing aids. When his hearing deficit became an issue he asked his MD for a reference to an audiologist. The one he suggested has at least a masters degree from a university. She conducted a hearing test and suggested several aids at different capacities and price points that would help him.

This audiologist is also hard of hearing and wears aids.. not a factor in our choice, but interesting.

I recommend you use a similar process to locate a professional, not a sales person, in your area. Audiologists are almost always dispensing (sell aids) but not all put your interest first and foremost.
I agree with Brat about seeing audiologist. I have a profound hearing loss (cochlear damage - high pitches plus volume) so I have a different problem than you have, but I would only trust a fully educated audiologist. I have a digital aid and really like it but I don't remember ever paying that amount...maybe half that or less. Mine is a Phonak, behind the ear.

I get feedback too when my hair or anything comes in contact with the microphone...sorry...just the way it is. I can hear my feedback so I just readjust my hair or move away from whatever I have my ear next to. Such is the life of a hard of hearing/deaf person. Better than no hearing at all or life at all.
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Old 07-24-2010, 03:21 PM   #9
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Many thanks to everyone for sharing advice and experience. All good info and I'll be spending a lot of time at the various Web sites.

To be fair to my audiologist, I should have been a little more clear. She didn't push any particular brand of hearing aid on me. She was very knowledgeable and showed me a variety of hearing aids at varying costs. The $6000 stuck in my head because that took me by surprise.

Though my wife may feel otherwise, once I do buy a set, I do not anticipate wearing them all the time. But we'll see.
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Old 07-24-2010, 03:50 PM   #10
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Mine is a Phonak, behind the ear.

I get feedback too when my hair or anything comes in contact with the microphone...sorry...just the way it is. I can hear my feedback so I just readjust my hair or move away from whatever I have my ear next to.
From an engineering/physics standpoint, I think the behind-the-ear make a lot of sense. My FIL had/has in-the-ear style - with the microphone and speaker so very close together, feedback is going to be a big problem. These are more separated in the behind the ear, plus, since they are a bit larger, they probably have fewer design compromises. If/when my time comes, I would consider something like an iPod-size style for max flexibility. We will see.

Sure, occasional feedback is bound to happen and we just have to accept it, esp with proximity changes like hands and hair. But my FIL's units would squeal for hours on end. It seemed that family/friends were afraid they'd embarrass him, or something by pointing it out, and he couldn't hear it. They finally got it resolved, I think there was a wax build up in one (common from what I understand), causing it to have to go louder to compensate, or maybe they got new ones with better properties. But this went on for a year or more, and I'm sure he was eating through batteries and not hearing as well as he could if it didn't feedback. Feedback usually saturates a circuit somewhere along the path, distorting the other sounds as well. But they just wanted to accept this constant ringing as 'normal'.

-ERD50
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Old 07-24-2010, 04:22 PM   #11
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Quote:
the main problem I have is with phone conversations
Realize that telephones and telephone transmission these days is lousy. With signal compression, delay, etc, I'll bet that sound quality was better in 1959. My point is that you shouldn't expect miracles.

I've determined that my hearing with earplugs in is better than DW's with her hearing aids in! At the end of the day, I am very tired of repeating most of what I say. If the digital ones are significantly better, they would be worth the price.
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Old 07-24-2010, 04:32 PM   #12
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The same behind-the-ear digital programmable hearing aides quoted at $5,000 by the audiologist in the doctor's office were $3,500 at Costco.

From what I understand (from a cousin) the "in-the-ear" style makes your own voice sound like you have your fingers stuck in your ears all the time.

DH would grin and try to convince me that if I would just stop mumbling all the time there would not be a problem. Once he got the hearing aides, my "mumbling affliction" was magically cured...

Kindest regards.
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Old 07-24-2010, 05:02 PM   #13
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I appreciate the posts too. Half of my hearing is gone in one ear. So far I'm doing ok, but I imagine I'll have to do something soon as I'm afraid it's going to get worse.
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Old 07-25-2010, 10:42 AM   #14
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If the digital ones are significantly better, they would be worth the price.
Yes, but the question I have is are they better? I imagine they are in some cases, but I would not jump to the conclusion that they are better in all cases.

People get caught up in the marketing term 'digital'. Some digital audio is wonderful, some is awful. Some analog audio is wonderful, some is awful. Before I switched from analog to digital for any product I would want evidence that it is better. You mention that you think telephones were better audio in 1959 (not sure I agree), but some of the problems you cite (delay) are digital artifacts.

I bet my FIL went with the in-the-ear models because they are more $ and they figure therefore they must be 'better'. But I bet he'd be happier with behind-the-ear.

On a related note (and since you are a musician), did you ever hear music over a digital cell phone? It sounds terrible. The codecs were optimized for voice, which make sense, but the result is that music just sounds absolutely awful. But what really surprises me is how many times I've been put on hold, and they play music - even the cell phone carriers/companies do this. It hurts my ears. You would think they would know better.

-ERD50
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Old 07-25-2010, 10:54 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by ncaraway View Post

Though my wife may feel otherwise, once I do buy a set, I do not anticipate wearing them all the time. But we'll see.
Aha! I reread your post... You are talking about a SET of aids so $6K might be more in line. I only have one since my other ear is completely gone. Are you really sure you need two? You might since you are used to having sound coming from both directions, unlike me.

Also, there MIGHT be some aids with two microphones for directional sounds...or maybe I'm dreaming that. Could be for the cochlear implants too...can't remember.
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Old 07-26-2010, 10:51 AM   #16
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My husband uses Oticon aids. The receiver is behind the ear and the microphone is on a plastic wire that goes into the ear. He also has a streamer on a lanyard that connects by Blue Tooth to his cell phone and it controls the aids. He can switch to a mode that cuts out background noise (great for bars & restaurants) and controls volume. He doesn't get wax build up like he did with the ear plug type he used to use. He loves these aids and the cost is well worth the quality of life for the both of us.

The price included batteries and maintenance (cleaning, replacement of the thing that goes in the ear).
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Old 07-26-2010, 07:07 PM   #17
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More great information. Thank you, everyone.

I have one final question: how long does a typical pair of hearing aids (or just single hearing aid) last? I read one story where a person talked about having 3 sets over the course of a decade. I'm hoping that's the exception rather than the rule. I'm just trying to figure out what I'll need to budget for in the long-run.

Cheers!
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Old 07-26-2010, 07:21 PM   #18
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Hard to say, my guess is 5 years or more. I think it depends on the environment you live in, for example. The new digital aids can be adjusted for changes in your hearing.
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Old 07-26-2010, 07:33 PM   #19
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If you remember to take them out before you shower, I would say that the instrument itself would last 5 to 10 years with occasional maintenance by the supplier. More likely, the need for another aid, depends on whether your hearing continues to deteriorate to the point that you need a more powerful aid. There is also the temptation to upgrade to the latest and greatest.
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Old 07-27-2010, 09:13 AM   #20
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I think I've had 3 hearing aids in about 22 years. One analog and two digital. Since mine is a behind the ear model I occasionally have the earmold and tubing replaced. The tubing is no big deal, maybe $6 - $10 once a year or so. The earmold is more expensive, maybe $50-$60 once every 2 or 3 years. I only remember one time that I was having problems and they sent it back to the company for repair (I think it was my first one) The audiologist gave me a loaner while it was being repaired. Mine have always been pretty reliable and trouble free.
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