Loss of hearing clarity: Solutions or strategies anyone?

Posted by JK, Volunteer Mentor @contentandwell, Sun, Feb 24 8:05pm

I have in the last couple of years lost hearing clarity. Apparently, somewhere between my auditory nerves and my brain, there is something like a disconnect. The decibels at which I hear has not changed. This clarity loss can be age-related, and I have read that it can also possibly be related to having had cirrhosis, or to taking immunosuppressants – that all seems pretty unclear though. I have been wearing hearing aids since around 2004.

Has anyone else had this type of problem and if so how do you compensate for it? I get emails from CHC — Center for Hearing and Communications which is NYC and Florida and a book was mentioned recently that can be purchased on Amazon, “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills, and Resources for Living Better with Hearing Loss” by Katherine Bouton. I am thinking about purchasing it but wondered if any others have this problem too. I have Oticon Opn1 hearing aids and purchased the “Connect Clip” which helps in some situations.
Thanks for any responses.
JK

Liked by TERESA LOGAN

I have had two separate test performed recently (one by an Audiologist at my ENT / one by an Audiologist at my hearing aid supplier) besides the normal audiometric evaluations. The first was a Azi Bio – basically listening to sentences with background noise / the other was similar test. Both came out fairly consistent and allowed my Audiologist to zero in on my aids and to me simulate real life exposures. I use Phonax Bi-Cros (deaf in right ear since 3 years old (meningitis) / moderate to severe in left ear (age / noise induced) – right ear aid transmits to my left ear). This is my second pair of Phonax Bi-Cros and this pair is much clearer than the first although, I thought the first where pretty good also. I really think that a Dr. of Audiology (although certainly more costly in my case) that dispensing aids is the best way to go. I have looked at "dispensers" of aids and find them lacking in knowledge and looking to push certain brands. One I saw had never sold a Bi-Cros – I know more than he did about them. It is the old story – you get what you pay for.

Hello – I have been reading posts on this site for a couple of weeks, and wonder if others (besides JK) have encountered less than satisfactory service from hearing professionals at clinics. I have been using a very high-end clinic for about 12 years now, and have had different experiences ranging from satisfactory to barely acceptable to unacceptable. In the unacceptable bucket:

1. Customer service – HA company takes 2 weeks to do repairs that actually take less than a day to do, and charges extra for expedited service of 2-3 days. It's as if they don't care that a patient can't work or function without aids. Also, when I asked for a copy of the insurance agreement before being willing to spend money to renew, I was told they don't do that and don't have a copy available. Really! I swear…. I did not renew. Now, I'm extra vigilant with my $7000 HA's.
2. Respect – My feedback has been dismissed, diminished and ignored at times. The worst was when an audiologist suggested a different company's HA. I agreed to try (because how could I assess effectiveness without trying). Within hours, I was miserable. The sound was too harsh (I'd had HAs before, so I was pretty sure this was not just an adjustment issue); a series of 4 or 5 adjustments over a period of 5-6 weeks yielded no better success. Each time, I reported that the experience was like an assault on my system and I could not function in meetings or other typical settings any more. Finally, I begged to return to my original HA company, and when fitted with a new pair of those, got my hearing and sanity back. When I asked the audiologist why she had taken me so far down the road with the other company, she said she liked their sales rep and service better. Honest.
3. Training – Hearing professionals who sell HAs basically get their training from the HA companies. This is a travesty, as it is a total conflict of interest to only have the HA seller's education and not a professional course of how to work with hearing impaired adults to ensure the best product and service.

In the okay bucket:
1. Lately, the audiologist I have seen has treated me like a fully functioning human being. I guess that's something!

You probably wonder why I don't change clinics. I wonder that myself. I think I don't expect to get any better service anywhere else, tho that's probably flawed thinking. It's also that changing partners in mid-stream means learning to swim in tandem again, and I'm not sure I have the energy to do that. My current HAs need adjusting (I can tell my hearing loss is slowly worsening). I plan to go to the local (NW Washington, DC) HLAA meeting in a couple weeks to gear up for the next round. Perhaps I'll find more information there that could make this journey smoother.

@b2beizer

Hello – I have been reading posts on this site for a couple of weeks, and wonder if others (besides JK) have encountered less than satisfactory service from hearing professionals at clinics. I have been using a very high-end clinic for about 12 years now, and have had different experiences ranging from satisfactory to barely acceptable to unacceptable. In the unacceptable bucket:

1. Customer service – HA company takes 2 weeks to do repairs that actually take less than a day to do, and charges extra for expedited service of 2-3 days. It's as if they don't care that a patient can't work or function without aids. Also, when I asked for a copy of the insurance agreement before being willing to spend money to renew, I was told they don't do that and don't have a copy available. Really! I swear…. I did not renew. Now, I'm extra vigilant with my $7000 HA's.
2. Respect – My feedback has been dismissed, diminished and ignored at times. The worst was when an audiologist suggested a different company's HA. I agreed to try (because how could I assess effectiveness without trying). Within hours, I was miserable. The sound was too harsh (I'd had HAs before, so I was pretty sure this was not just an adjustment issue); a series of 4 or 5 adjustments over a period of 5-6 weeks yielded no better success. Each time, I reported that the experience was like an assault on my system and I could not function in meetings or other typical settings any more. Finally, I begged to return to my original HA company, and when fitted with a new pair of those, got my hearing and sanity back. When I asked the audiologist why she had taken me so far down the road with the other company, she said she liked their sales rep and service better. Honest.
3. Training – Hearing professionals who sell HAs basically get their training from the HA companies. This is a travesty, as it is a total conflict of interest to only have the HA seller's education and not a professional course of how to work with hearing impaired adults to ensure the best product and service.

In the okay bucket:
1. Lately, the audiologist I have seen has treated me like a fully functioning human being. I guess that's something!

You probably wonder why I don't change clinics. I wonder that myself. I think I don't expect to get any better service anywhere else, tho that's probably flawed thinking. It's also that changing partners in mid-stream means learning to swim in tandem again, and I'm not sure I have the energy to do that. My current HAs need adjusting (I can tell my hearing loss is slowly worsening). I plan to go to the local (NW Washington, DC) HLAA meeting in a couple weeks to gear up for the next round. Perhaps I'll find more information there that could make this journey smoother.

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Hi, @b2beizer Welcome to Connect, I'm glad you decided to join in the discussion.
First, I am not sure where I gave the impression that I had unsatisfactory experiences with hearing aid professionals (I presume they are accredited audiologists?) at clinics. I go to an audiologist that is part of a group practice, working for the local hospital, and all three of the audiologists there with whom I have dealt have been great.
Your experiences do sound disappointing. If I felt that way I would make the effort to find a better audiologist and switch when you need new hearing aids. It would be difficult to switch before that I think because part of the HA charge is for the services you receive afterward.
My hearing aids have needed to be sent in a couple of times but the wait was less than a week, less than that with the expedited shipping. The extra charge just pays for that shipping at my audiologist. Thankfully I do have old hearing aids that I have been able to use when that has happened.
Glad to hear that the audiologist is now treating you "like a fully functioning human being". That's a big part of the battle. I hate it when doctors treat me like I know nothing, and although I have not had that problem with any audiologist I would feel the same way if one didn't treat me well.
I hope all goes well and is worthwhile at the HLAA meeting.
JK

@cherriann I agree that things are very different outside the audiologists office. I wonder if there's something mildly unusual in your personal environment – maybe lots of young children or lots of music or lots of bird calls – that you're trying to hear that your hearing aids are unsuited for. I think my ears are pretty similar so I've never been tempted to use just one.

@stephenmcelroy

Clarity solutions for me has been a problem of communicating effectively with the audiologist as to what I am not understanding. The hearing test allows them to set the decibels according to the frequencies their test tells them needs enhancement (increased decibels). HOWEVER it has been my experience that those tests do not always indicate what you are hearing in real life (as opposed to the tones in the hearing booth) Adjusting their settings according to what you tell them is educated guessing on their part. I have required multiple "fitting"(as in a dozen more or less) for them to adjust the decibels of different frequencies to a point where it works for me. Using hearing aids that have multiple programs helps a lot. I have them leave the original program. Add an adjusted program. Compare the 2 then return to let them know what I experience. Again add a 3rd program leaving the first 2 and again comparing. Repeat until all programs are used. Checking each program in different environments. Car. TV. Restaurants. One on one conversations. Meetings. Deciding which work best (finding some work better than others in different environments.) Then eliminate any that are not that good. If need be, replace those with any additional adjustments.

Recently, I found sites on line for student audiologists to practice on. They have tones at the different test frequencies used by audiologists.
Wearing my hearing aids, I set the computer volume at what seems to be a normal and comfortable level for the 2000 frequency (test middle value) then I compare either side (1000 and 3000) to the volume level of the 2000 and record whether it seems louder of softer of about the same. Then compare the 1000 to the 500 and record the same result louder or softer and then the 500 compare to the 250.

Then I go in the other direction comparing and recording the result 3000 to 4000 to 6000 to 8000.
Now the hard part. I have the audiologist create a program that balances the volumes according to adjusting up or down volumes based on the adjustment variation from what ever THEIR original 1500 setting is. I can then compare that program to others.
I find applying this to the original, while also being prepared to give a verbal account of what I am hearing to the audiologist, for them to create a modified original the way they usually do, (leaving the original as is) that gives me 3 programs to compare.

I find my method gives a pretty good balanced volume where one frequency of sound does not drown out other frequencies. Also any frequency that is not effectively being heard by MY ears will be increased which I find makes all the difference in the world for clarity. Many audiologists use a technology that they charge an arm and a leg for (usually built into the higher pricing of their hearing aids) called real-ear measurement, which tells them what sound is actually getting to your ear to see if it corresponds to your audiogram… different things can cause a variance. My method allows me, I believe, to be able to tell more precisely what I am ACTUALLY hearing… and be able to effectively communicate that to the audiologist. I find some reluctance from audiologists to do as I request, possible they think I am telling them how to do their job and might be offended BUT I tell them I am just attempting to give them all the information I can so they can give me the best possible hearing experience from my hearing aids.

I realize this is probably too much information but use it or not as you desire.
Hearing aid users note that you can have your audiologist do a new test on you and adjust your aids if your hearing has changed. (and then get adjustments to the new settings as needed) When you are looking for a new hearing aid, find out how many years you can get adjustments from them at what charge? Some are free for 3 years. Some may limit to 3 free adjustments then $25 or much more per adjustment.

Jump to this post

Wow! So much good info. Thanks. I wanted to let people know that recently I attended a Washington, DC HLAA meeting that was extremely helpful. The guest speaker (will post name a little later when I find the info) emphasized that it’s extremely important for the audiologist to do a “real ear measurement” (as Stephen mentioned above) in order to truly be able to adjust the hearing aids to best fit your particular hearing loss. She said that the majority of audiologists do not do this as standard practice but that they really should. Perhaps cost is a reason many don’t do this. Having this measurement done is key to the audiologist being better able to give you the best clarity. I haven’t had this done yet but planning to do so soon because clarity is the biggest issue for me.

@stephenmcelroy

Clarity solutions for me has been a problem of communicating effectively with the audiologist as to what I am not understanding. The hearing test allows them to set the decibels according to the frequencies their test tells them needs enhancement (increased decibels). HOWEVER it has been my experience that those tests do not always indicate what you are hearing in real life (as opposed to the tones in the hearing booth) Adjusting their settings according to what you tell them is educated guessing on their part. I have required multiple "fitting"(as in a dozen more or less) for them to adjust the decibels of different frequencies to a point where it works for me. Using hearing aids that have multiple programs helps a lot. I have them leave the original program. Add an adjusted program. Compare the 2 then return to let them know what I experience. Again add a 3rd program leaving the first 2 and again comparing. Repeat until all programs are used. Checking each program in different environments. Car. TV. Restaurants. One on one conversations. Meetings. Deciding which work best (finding some work better than others in different environments.) Then eliminate any that are not that good. If need be, replace those with any additional adjustments.

Recently, I found sites on line for student audiologists to practice on. They have tones at the different test frequencies used by audiologists.
Wearing my hearing aids, I set the computer volume at what seems to be a normal and comfortable level for the 2000 frequency (test middle value) then I compare either side (1000 and 3000) to the volume level of the 2000 and record whether it seems louder of softer of about the same. Then compare the 1000 to the 500 and record the same result louder or softer and then the 500 compare to the 250.

Then I go in the other direction comparing and recording the result 3000 to 4000 to 6000 to 8000.
Now the hard part. I have the audiologist create a program that balances the volumes according to adjusting up or down volumes based on the adjustment variation from what ever THEIR original 1500 setting is. I can then compare that program to others.
I find applying this to the original, while also being prepared to give a verbal account of what I am hearing to the audiologist, for them to create a modified original the way they usually do, (leaving the original as is) that gives me 3 programs to compare.

I find my method gives a pretty good balanced volume where one frequency of sound does not drown out other frequencies. Also any frequency that is not effectively being heard by MY ears will be increased which I find makes all the difference in the world for clarity. Many audiologists use a technology that they charge an arm and a leg for (usually built into the higher pricing of their hearing aids) called real-ear measurement, which tells them what sound is actually getting to your ear to see if it corresponds to your audiogram… different things can cause a variance. My method allows me, I believe, to be able to tell more precisely what I am ACTUALLY hearing… and be able to effectively communicate that to the audiologist. I find some reluctance from audiologists to do as I request, possible they think I am telling them how to do their job and might be offended BUT I tell them I am just attempting to give them all the information I can so they can give me the best possible hearing experience from my hearing aids.

I realize this is probably too much information but use it or not as you desire.
Hearing aid users note that you can have your audiologist do a new test on you and adjust your aids if your hearing has changed. (and then get adjustments to the new settings as needed) When you are looking for a new hearing aid, find out how many years you can get adjustments from them at what charge? Some are free for 3 years. Some may limit to 3 free adjustments then $25 or much more per adjustment.

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@stephenmcelroy Very informative — thank you for describing your experiences and strategy. Can you provide further information re the practice nline sites for student audiologists — it would help us who would like to try to follow your path. Thank you!

@kathyneal

Wow! So much good info. Thanks. I wanted to let people know that recently I attended a Washington, DC HLAA meeting that was extremely helpful. The guest speaker (will post name a little later when I find the info) emphasized that it’s extremely important for the audiologist to do a “real ear measurement” (as Stephen mentioned above) in order to truly be able to adjust the hearing aids to best fit your particular hearing loss. She said that the majority of audiologists do not do this as standard practice but that they really should. Perhaps cost is a reason many don’t do this. Having this measurement done is key to the audiologist being better able to give you the best clarity. I haven’t had this done yet but planning to do so soon because clarity is the biggest issue for me.

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@kathyneal What is a "real ear measurement"? It sounds like something I should discuss with my audiologist on my next appointment.
Thanks.
JK

@asklar02492

@cherriann I agree that things are very different outside the audiologists office. I wonder if there's something mildly unusual in your personal environment – maybe lots of young children or lots of music or lots of bird calls – that you're trying to hear that your hearing aids are unsuited for. I think my ears are pretty similar so I've never been tempted to use just one.

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No, I don't have extra noise in my normal environment. No children in my household, etc. I do listen to radio a lot and have a setting on my hearing aids to enhance just for that type of thing, but with both hearing aids in I do not hear the radio as clearly. Going to the movie theater….I hear dialogue much better when I use one hearing aid. Strangely, watching movies on TV through Netflix, I can pick up dialogue better using both hearing aids! Go figure!

Thanks JK. I have the same situation in regards to hearing clarity. Within the last 4-6 months voices sound very tinny or there is an echo. I have been to the hearing dispenser 3 times and had a hearing test a month ago(not much change in 2 years) and visited an ENT that told me my ear drums are fine and shrugged his shoulders…pretty frustrating! In a couple of weeks I have scheduled an appt with the original audiologist that fitted me for my first pair 8 years ago and hope she can help. I believe my hearing loss is genetic(mothers side of the family….. one of my brothers and one of my sisters have loss). In fact my 57 year old brother was diagnosed with MIDD syndrome…..maternally inherited deafness and diabetes. He is now having trouble with his vision which is also part of the syndrome…fortunately I do not have diabetes but the hearing loss. Hope you find some answers yourself and take care!

I have been hearing impaired for over 15 years andhave worn three sets of hearing aids during that time. My first set was in-the-ear and caused multiple ear infections. I then switched to over the ear and have nothad an ear infection since. Feeling that my hearing has further diminished, I saw an ENT specialist for the first time last week. He looked in my ears briefly, said, yes you are hearing impaired, and sent me to his inhouse Starkey brand hearing aid salesperson, who gave me an incredibly fast hearing test and recommended a $3500.00 pair of hearing aids. I expected more from an ENT, but maybe Ishould not have. My question is has anyone used hearing aids from Sam’s Club or Costco and, if so, what has been your satisfaction level?

Hi J.K., First thank you so much for mentioning my book "Living Better With Hearing Loss." I updated and rewrote that book last fall and it was published in October under the title SMART HEARING: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better with Hearing Loss." It's available on Amazon in paperback or as an ebook.
I can't really answer your question except to say that I too recently got an Oticon Opn and am hearing much more clearly than I was with my old hearing aids. My hearing is bad enough that I qualify for a cochlear implant but the Oticon has allowed me to delay that for a few more years. I love the clip-on mic and use it in Pilates and yoga classes and lectures and even in noisy places. Many people have remarked on how much better I seem to be hearing. It was expensive $$$$$ but worth it.
Some many interesting responses here to your question!

@katherinebouton

Hi J.K., First thank you so much for mentioning my book "Living Better With Hearing Loss." I updated and rewrote that book last fall and it was published in October under the title SMART HEARING: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better with Hearing Loss." It's available on Amazon in paperback or as an ebook.
I can't really answer your question except to say that I too recently got an Oticon Opn and am hearing much more clearly than I was with my old hearing aids. My hearing is bad enough that I qualify for a cochlear implant but the Oticon has allowed me to delay that for a few more years. I love the clip-on mic and use it in Pilates and yoga classes and lectures and even in noisy places. Many people have remarked on how much better I seem to be hearing. It was expensive $$$$$ but worth it.
Some many interesting responses here to your question!

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Katherine: I will definitely read your book! Does the book address tinnitus at all? On a scale of 1-10 I would say I am at an 8 with the ringing. There is a book out there that deals with tinnitus written by a Laurie Cole…it is quite helpful. Thanks.

@katherinebouton

Hi J.K., First thank you so much for mentioning my book "Living Better With Hearing Loss." I updated and rewrote that book last fall and it was published in October under the title SMART HEARING: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better with Hearing Loss." It's available on Amazon in paperback or as an ebook.
I can't really answer your question except to say that I too recently got an Oticon Opn and am hearing much more clearly than I was with my old hearing aids. My hearing is bad enough that I qualify for a cochlear implant but the Oticon has allowed me to delay that for a few more years. I love the clip-on mic and use it in Pilates and yoga classes and lectures and even in noisy places. Many people have remarked on how much better I seem to be hearing. It was expensive $$$$$ but worth it.
Some many interesting responses here to your question!

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@katherinebouton I did purchase the ebook but have not had much chance to read it yet.
I use the Connect Clip in some of my water aerobics classes! One of the leaders is young with a high voice, my most difficult frequencies, and she leads from the side of the pool, not in the water. I wear my HAs in the water, my ears never come close to submersion. I am disappointed with it in restaurants though, the background noise gets amplified too.

Thanks for writing a helpful book, there is a need for this.
JK

How does the connect instrument work? How does it handle background noise levels?@

@dollyh

How does the connect instrument work? How does it handle background noise levels?@

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@dollyh it’s not great in the din of a restaurant, but it’s great for me in water aerobics. There is background noise there, but it’s the blowers and that type of noise, and some music that’s not too loud. I think restaurants are one of the most difficult arenas for hearing, or any place where there are a lot of people talking, such as a party or even a family gathering. In the last it has been helpful though.
JK

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