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Hearing Aid Advice
Old 02-18-2011, 07:20 PM   #1
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Hearing Aid Advice

For nine years, Lena has had the in-the-canal hearing aids, and they just aren't cutting it. Some days I feel that I have to repeat everything I say.

So we want to spend the money to get the best possible hearing aids -- probably the behind the ear directional type. Also, I think we'll choose a different "doctor."

Any advice? I'm guessing the Costco is not the best choice.

Thanks.
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Old 02-18-2011, 07:59 PM   #2
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Good luck Al. I've had bad luck after spending big bucks. After pumping me up for the hearing aids, when they didn't meet my expectations, I was told that I needed to lower my expectations.

In my experience (and most of my friends at the senior center) bad hearing is nothing like bad eyes or bad legs. You can get a new knee, lasik, etc. Lots of options. But not for hearing loss. When its gone - its gone.

Good luck. All I'm saying is go slow, take your time. Be comfortable with your choices.
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Old 02-18-2011, 09:55 PM   #3
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T-AL, here's a few links I bookmarked when I was researching this for FIL, I have not looked at them in a while, can't say if they are up-to-date:

Forums | Hearing Loss News and More
Losing hearing aids - Deafness
Digital Hearing Aids Vs. Analog Hearing Aids | Hearing Haven
RNID.org.uk: Information and resources: About deafness and hearing loss: Types and causes: Noise

I'll just say that I'm a little skeptical of the hearing aid business. I think they try to sell 'bells and whistles' and style over function. It seems that almost everyone has the 'in the ear' style, and based on what I know of electronics, miniaturization and acoustics (all part of my career and hobbies), trying to put everything that close together cannot be good for performance/cost. The speaker and microphone so close increases feedback, miniaturization increases cost, and the ear canal is not the best environment for sensitive electronics. The smaller you make it, the more you will be replacing small expensive batteries.

I'm not convinced that digital is all it's cracked up to be, but maybe it is best for some cases. At any rate, when/if my time comes, I plan to look into it in this order (if such products are available - I might make one if not):

1) Some 'big' device, like an ipod size with external microphones and regular earbuds - something like this should be cheap, and programmable, and could have big rechargeable batteries. Once I had some experience with what settings worked best for me, I might look into:

2) Taking the features on the big unit and finding a smaller model that could do those same things.

Electronics are so cheap these days, I just can't understand why an external style hearing aid should be expensive. It might be in one of those links, but I came across a fascinating article by a musician who needed aids. They were driving him nuts, and he finally got his audiologist to give him the software used to program them. This guy said he basically turned off almost all the 'features' (compression, noise cancelling, etc), tweaked the basic settings a little at a time, giving himself a few days to adjust, and then slowly adding in some of the features so they worked w/o creating undesired 'artifacts'. Then he was happy with them.

I'd be willing to bet that many times, 'less is more' should apply to how aids are sold.

Member heardoc has posted before on the subject, hopefully he will join in.

I do know someone who is very deaf, and in a group she has a small microphone that she puts on the table, and this works much better for her than the mics in the hearing aids, and I'm not surprised one bit. It's not really that awkward, I'd rather do that than miss big portions of the conversation.


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Old 02-18-2011, 10:22 PM   #4
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Here is my previous post:
"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). "

He is still using those aids, his only issue is that the new cell phone isn't connecting to his streamer like the old one did.

I notice that Costco does sell that brand but I don't know about the models they offer.

The gal who sold him the aids is an audiologist who has a Master's Degree in the field and has very much a health care provider attitude, not a sales person. Incidentally, she is also hard of hearing. I would look for someone with similar background. The art is in matching the hearing loss to the technology available.
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Old 02-19-2011, 08:02 AM   #5
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The patient has to be very patient. The finetuning of sophisiticated hearing aids might require several visits at the specialist. I learned that from accompanying my mom (age 82) several times. The specialist was patient - she is not, unfortunately.
So she gave up on the more advanced products - and suffers when in a group.

My mom also refused to wear her hearing aid when she is alone in the house, "Because then there is nothing to hear", you know.... So what is left of her hearing ability is trained less and less.
She loves TV ear plugs and puts on the volume incredibly. I guess that this kills even more of her hearing.
Sigh...
I have made DH promise to drag me to the specialist when my time comes and to force me to use my hearing aid regularly. But I am just as stubborn as my mom...
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Old 02-19-2011, 10:06 AM   #6
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For those not quite in need of hearing aids yet (or maybe so), here's a very interesting review I saw recently of an iPhone app:

iOS Hearing Aids... or, How to Buy Superman’s Ears

Quote:
I tried this out for the first time while standing outside of a
Starbucks, and suddenly I could hear the _footsteps_ of anyone
walking by. Snatches of a conversation at a 20-foot distance. I
heard a siren, and then was shocked to see an ambulance pass by
three blocks away.
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Old 02-19-2011, 10:20 AM   #7
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That raises the issue of why current hearing aids are intended only for perception of speech, instead of compensating for hearing loss in a more general way. I do more with my ears than just listen to people talk.
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Old 02-19-2011, 11:36 AM   #8
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I think if I needed a hearing aid I would make an appointment at Pittsburgh Eye and Ear Hospital to be evaluated. They do a lot of research and are a teaching hospital, and I feel that treatment I would get there would be cutting edge as well as competitive in price with just about anywhere else. Possibly you have such a specialty hospital somewhere reasonably close to you, T-Al?
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Old 02-19-2011, 12:44 PM   #9
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I have expensive hearing aids Al - they are behind the ear with the thin tube that goes in the canal. I like them a lot better than in-the-ear aids which cause occlusion making you feel like your ears are plugged up. Still, I don't know that these high tech wonders are worth $5K. I was thinking of checking out Costco next time around. They are the Ben and Jerry's of retail - they look for good products at good prices: hopefully that applies to their hearing aids. By the way my ear doctor says these things are improving by leaps and bounds.
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Old 02-19-2011, 09:10 PM   #10
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Don, it sounds like you are using the same/similar aid as my husband. I did notice that Costco's hearing aid dispenser offers the same brand (but the same model??) as my husband's. I would ask that dispenser what services they offer as a part of the aid purchase. In my husband's case his audiologist wants him to come in AT LEAST YEARLY so that she can adjust the aid to his current hearing status. The aid is adjusted by a computer program.
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Old 02-20-2011, 09:40 AM   #11
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That's encouraging, Don. The quote we got was $5690 for the highest end pair.

I guess the question with Costco is how good the audiologist is.
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Old 02-28-2011, 07:00 PM   #12
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That's encouraging, Don. The quote we got was $5690 for the highest end pair.

I guess the question with Costco is how good the audiologist is.
Good question. The answer is not very.
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Old 02-28-2011, 07:14 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
For nine years, Lena has had the in-the-canal hearing aids, and they just aren't cutting it. Some days I feel that I have to repeat everything I say.

So we want to spend the money to get the best possible hearing aids -- probably the behind the ear directional type. Also, I think we'll choose a different "doctor."

Any advice? I'm guessing the Costco is not the best choice.

Thanks.
Al, the real answer is that hearing losses are so variable that without knowing your history and test results, no well meaning answer here has any relevance... Except that because Lena is unsatisfied with her current aids she will need an experienced audiologist who will hold her hand and listen to her needs BEFORE a hearing aid is fit. Hearing aid success has as much to do with lifestyle and perceived need as it does with the electronics involved. Both of you need to interview the audiologist about
their fitting philosophy to see if you can trust their judgment and business practices. I'd stay away from Sears and Costco due to her current dissatisfaction and find a private practice somewhere. I'd try and find somewhere that provides hearing and balance testing rather than a storefront that screams "we sell hearing aids".
Don't go to a facility that just sells one brand like Beltone or Miracle-ear.
Find an audiologist who is a fellow or the American Academy of Audiology
which has strict ethical requirements.
Most importantly, if the vibes aren't right at the beginning, find someone you can trust.
Advanced technology is a wonderful thing IF you need it.
I for one love datalogging which enables the clinician to download usage
stats, much like an aviation blackbox. It allows me to see where and when
the patient was experiencing difficulty. But it's expensive.
Also, ask if they fit aids using live speech mapping and real ear measurements. If you are going to pay for performance, the benefits should be verifiable.
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Old 02-28-2011, 08:32 PM   #14
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I know of someone who swears by hearing aids used by hunters. He buys his from Cabellas. I'm skeptical but it might be worth exploring.
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Old 02-28-2011, 08:43 PM   #15
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I'm 'lucky' I guess in that I lost my hearing from my job and they buy them for me at 7,000 a pop. But I have bought them from americahears.com. Many people at Hearing Aid Forums | Hearing Loss | Hearing Aids - Powered by vBulletin recommend them, but they like costco as well. Costco aids are a repackaged brandname, not a cheap chinese model as is sold website.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:41 AM   #16
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Thanks, guys. Great advice.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:09 AM   #17
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Update

Yesterday we went to Costco to get a second opinion. I went along and was involved because the hearing aids will go in her ears, but they are just as much for me as for her. I said "they are just as much for me as for her."

The top of the line hearing aids cost $2,800 (behind the ear) compared with $6,000 for the one's her current audiologist recommended (in the canal).

The audiologist seemed good, and she had the hearing test done. In addition to the beeps and boops test, she had a test to measure the point at which the sound was so loud that it was uncomfortable, and a spoken word test.

I asked for a test that measured her deficit with the hearing aids in, but he said that they don't do that.

He recommended that because she had the in the canal type, she should stay with those, since many customers have a hard time adapting to a behind the ear type. That is, they think the sound is weird, etc. Didn't sound convincing to me.

Anyway, he let her try out some behind the ear aids. He puts them in her ear, then programs them to her profile, wirelessly! Amazing.

As soon as that's done, it's "Wow, I can really hear things!" We took a walk around the store and Lena was hearing all sorts of things she didn't notice before: kids squealing, birds chirping, carts squeaking, etc. She could understand me a lot better. It was like night and day. There were no problems related to a behind the ear type.

These aids are bluetooth compatible, so Lena can be "interfaced" directly to the TV or a cell phone. They're waterproof, have data logging, a remote control, a three year warranty, and 60 day money-back guarantee.

So we upgraded our Costco membership (to get 2% back), and bought them. Delivery in two weeks.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:14 AM   #18
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Al, that's great. Sounds like (heh) you found something that can really work for her.
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Old 03-10-2011, 11:10 AM   #19
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Great news. I'm really impressed with Costco. I use their optometry services and have been happy with the quality and value.
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Old 03-10-2011, 12:40 PM   #20
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Great news, and please keep us informed. I'd like to know how these do over time - I'd expect the behind the ear style to be more reliable overall.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
The top of the line hearing aids cost $2,800 (behind the ear) compared with $6,000 for the one's her current audiologist recommended (in the canal).
This is where I get skeptical of the sales approach. I really suspect that many people think - 'oh, the $6,000 model must be much better than the $2,800, my hearing is important, I want the best' - but from what I can tell, BTE should be better in just about every way, except possibly aesthetics, but I'm not sure that's really much of an issue with the way these are so small now.

Or is a big part of the price difference Costco vs a solo audiologist, do you know what Costco would have charged for your $6,000 in the canal?


Quote:
I asked for a test that measured her deficit with the hearing aids in, but he said that they don't do that.
Odd, I wonder why that is? I especially like that they do a spoken word test. Test tones are just too simple to tell the whole story, but good for setup. I would think a spoken word test before/after would be a great sales tool.


Quote:
As soon as that's done, it's "Wow, I can really hear things!" We took a walk around the store and Lena was hearing all sorts of things she didn't notice before: kids squealing, birds chirping, carts squeaking, etc.
The novelty might wear off very soon!


Quote:
She could understand me a lot better.
A hearing aid can do that!!?? I'll get DW a dozen! Or did you mean "hear you a lot better" ?



Quote:
It was like night and day. There were no problems related to a behind the ear type.

These aids are bluetooth compatible, so Lena can be "interfaced" directly to the TV or a cell phone. They're waterproof, have data logging, a remote control, a three year warranty, and 60 day money-back guarantee.
Wow, cool. IIRC poster heardoc mentioned datalogging in higher end models, so I guess it's good you have that. I'm curious how they use it, or what they log? Maybe look for occurring of feedback howl, loud noises that might cause further damage, or maybe the circuits being overloaded and driven into distortion?

-ERD50
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