Advice about hearing aid dispensers (long and sad, with a question at the end)

I was going to post in GQ, but probably more suitable here.

I have always had very acute hearing, but at my advanced age, I recently noticed that my right ear had a lowered level. I have no trouble hearing anybody’s conversation or anything else, but the difference in the two ears bothered me.

I figured I should probably get tested. I was leery of the mall hearing aid centers, as with their constant advertising, I doubted if I could get an unbiased hearing test. I looked in my insurance provider directory, and they had only one listing for Audiology. I thought they would probbly be professional.

I went and got a series of tests in the soundproof booth, both the beeping and some spoken words with loud hissing from a speaker.

After that the audiologist showed me the hearing loss charted on a computer screen. I expected, at my age, a drop in the higher register sounds, and that was what was shown. According to them, there was a huge drop around 4,000 Hz, and worse in the right ear.

They said I definitely needed hearing aids in both ears, and as I was kind of shocked at how bad it was from their tests, I agreed. Now, the cost? $7,000 for both aids. However, my insurance paid $3,000 of that, and they wrote off everything except $1200, which did not seem too unreasonable.

OK, a week later, came back and got two tiny aids that went in the ear canal far enough not to be seen, with a tiny wire going to the gadget behind the ear. They could be programmed to adjust for noisy environments and other special situations. They said to wear them for a week and return.

Not only were they uncomfortable behind my ear, but I began to hear alll sorts of higher register sounds had not noticed for years. Things like running water, feet rubbing over carpet or rustling of the newspaper were really loud, and annoying. Also, many other sounds were way too loud and bothersome. Actually, nothing I could hear with them was of any use to me.

After a week, there was no adjustment, and when I took them out, still could hear anything I needed to. So, I told them I did not want them (they had a one-week free trial), and I was really surprised at the hard sell that resulted. They then told me that they had several other less expensive ones I could try. Nothing about that was mentioned at my first visit. Otherwise, I’d have started with the cheaper ones and gone up if necessary. I told them no thanks.

I then called an ear doc (forgot the name of the specialty) to ask if they dispensed hearing aids. They said they did, but when I asked if I could get a prescription, as with an eye doc and get them elsewhere, I was told no. Therefore, I would expect they would be pushing them and just as interested in selling expensive ones as the audiologist.

Just for kicks, I went to Amazon and bought a little hearing aid that even had a volume control on it, for $19. It seems to work as well as the $3500 one!. Better, actually, as I can control the volume.

So, finally, where in the world can one go to get an unbiased hearing test to determine whether hearing aids are required, and if so, at a fair price?

I don’t have any advice for you Geoff, but I wanted to wish you luck in your pursuit.

Geoff - When I went to the audiologist, he tested me and found distinct and somewhat severe hearing loss. But he told me then, “as long as you’re getting along without hearing aids, why spend the money? You’ll probably need them later, but now it’s optional.” I am getting to the stage where hearing is becoming a real issue, though. I watch most TV with the closed captioning on, just because conversations are so hard to understand.


Thanks, faithfool

StGermain, Please give me the address of your audiologist, I want to go there! :smiley: Good luck on getting help. Sounds as though you could trust him to prescribe adequate ones.

That’s pretty much how it is w/ my Audiologist. I found someone who I could trust and who I felt had my best interests at heart. That’s pretty much been the only way I’ve been going at it.
As for the hearing loss- it can depend on the type of hearing loss for people, the cheaper hearing aids do tend to just act as volume amplifiers and they work great for the people who only need that to augment their hearing. For others, digital hearing aids which can be programed to specifically raise the hearing levels of certain frequencies/sounds, while diminishing others might be what others need.

That said- I gotta say the many sounds being loud and bothersome- that often happens to me when I switch back to my older hearing aids or to a different one that hasn’t been programed for me/or if I just increased the volume on my digital ones by a drastic amount. For me, it tends to feel really weird for a few days, sometimes even headache inducing, but then after a while your ears will tend to adjust to it normally, and you don’t notice it as much. But it’s something that happens to a lot of people when they get their Hearing aids.

That said, I’m glad you’ve found somewhat of a solution, and hope you the best in the future. I can’t really help you much more on where else to get the hearing test, as that Booth method is pretty much the standard one, and usually done by one’s audiologist or ENT docs. That said, from what you’ve described by your visit to the Audiologist- that’s pretty much par for the course in terms of the tests and all, so they did sound “professional”. Though, I do agree that Audiologists (and almost every other field that has access to some pretty cool technology) do have a tendency to want to push the best equipment/hearing aids and such. But I wouldn’t say it’s a mark against them in terms of professionalism, but rather one in whose interest they have in mind.

Perhaps you could try talking to them about wanting cheaper or alternative options rather than a desire to have hearing aids, or seeing another one of their audiologists who works there besides the one you saw, just to monitor your hearing situation?
But again, the best thing is to have a relationship with someone who you can trust/feel is on your side and has your interests at heart, and that’s not something you can just go out and get so easily.
I wish you the best of luck in your future, and I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you.

Regarding the noise you heard when you put the aids in. It’s normal for that to bother you. You were hearing sounds you hadn’t heard in years.

If you had persevered you would have found that after some period of time your brain would have adjusted to it , your hearing would have been much better, and the noise would no longer have bothered you.

The time required varies a lot I am told - weeks to a month or so. It took me about two weeks.

Usually the amplifiers that amplify all frequencies pretty much equally without being tuned to your specific loss don’t really work all that well in situations where there is a lot of background noise like bars and restaurants.

Geoff - There was an article and product reviews on hearing aids in Consumer Reports a few months ago. You might want to see if you can dig it up at your local library.

I agree that you probably needed to let your brain and ears adapt to noises you haven’t heard in a while. It’s sort of amazing, but although my hearing is lousy, I’m very touchy about noisy things like vacuum cleaners, blow dryers and children. I sort of like my quiet life - except when I want to hear, of course.


You might want to contact your local Public Health Department or a State agency and see if they can help you find an audiologist that doesn’t sell hearing aids. At the last place I worked, we gave hearing tests to everyone in the plant, using a portable audiology center – basically a big ol’ van with all the required equipment. Employees with hearing loss were given a copy of the report and referred to their personal physician for follow-up. (Sometimes there’s a medical reason for hearing loss, like wax buildup.)

Heh, I know what you mean. I was thinking about the hearing aids people had when I was young. There was an ear plug with a wire running down to a unit on the belt. That had a volume regulator, and a on/off switch (for when you did not want to listen to your wife). That type of thing would actually be nice for noisy situations.

Thanks for all the other advice. I see now that perhaps I should have tried them longer, but again, the audiologist never explained that to me. Obviously a very poor place to have gone.

AuntiePam, that is a good suggestion, but as StGermain suggested the Consumer Reports article, I went to their website, and found several articles on the subject. Guess what: Veterans can go to the VA and get both the exam and the hearing aids free! :smack: Now I find out. I’ll give them a call tomorrow and see if I can get an appointment.

Once again, the great Dopers came through with wonderful information.