Need for better Hearing Aid (HA) and Provider Selection Information

Posted by lindabro @lindabro, Mar 29, 2022

Is it just me or is the information about how to select a hearing aid and a hearing aid provider really confusing? If confusing; why;–too many choices, not enough comparative spreadsheets?

Currently trying to figure out the best value by Manufacturer (Phonak or Starkey), Brand, Model and to compare all the features/benefits.

Not sure I am getting all the answers from the retailers or I am just not understanding the choices.

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Hearing Loss Support Group.

I think the best thing to do is to find an audiologist that you trust (just like finding a doctor). They can help you walk through your options as not every hearing aid will help every situation. So if one hearing aid works for one it might not be the best option for you. The best thing is that you get a 30 day grace period to see if the hearing aids work for you. I had Oticon a forever and I went to get new ones and they told me phonak would probably be best for me. I tried them and I did not like them. I ended up going back to the Oticons. It can be trial and error and there needs to be patience with it. I think that Is why it can be tricky to comparisons because the can be so individualized.

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It can be very helpful to talk to other people who use hearing aids about their experiences. We have a subgroup in our HLAA chapter called H.O.P.E., which stands for Hearing Other People's Experiences. It's a wonderful place to share both good and not so good experiences related to equipment, providers, etc. While hearing loss is a medical condition, hearing aids are sold like consumer products. And those products vary considerably. That complicates the procedure. People who use hearing aids successfully have a lot to share. It takes knowledge and patience to fit hearing aids properly. The standard 30 day trial period after fitting is rarely enough time to adapt and adjust to using hearing aids. Be proactive and ask for more time if you need it. Do you know people who use hearing aids?

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I recently went through the process of buying hearing aids 1) depending on your insurance and if you can get a discount because from ENT's office it is expensive, although when they heard my insurance offered discount through one of the providers, they lowered their price 2) CHECK the credentials of the person selling and fitting the hearing aids. Look for a real audiologist. The Hearing Instrument Specialist is not an Audiologist (they have PhDs even or at least a Master's) . 3) They should be able to do REAL EAR MEASUREMENTS – my first try, they lied about that capacity and I returned the hearing aids since it was under 45 days trial. 4) Dr Cliff Youtube videos are very informative

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Anyone using: Phonak Paradise Naida UP?
Oticon Xceed SPBTE?
Signia X Motion SP? Experience? Feedback? Thank you.

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Since this is one of the most frequently asked questions by someone who has accepted the reality that they need to do something about hearing loss, let's talk about it.

There are statistics that indicate the people wait an average of 7 years after realizing their hearing is deteriorating to do something about it. Meanwhile, everyone else knows there is a problem, but often the person with the problem is in denial. Sounds silly, but that is a fact.

A big barrier relates to not knowing where to start to seek help. Does your primary care physician test your hearing? No, and most likely they don't even ask about it unless you say something about it to them. So then what? Do you go to an Ear Nose Throat Specialist (ENT)? Do you go to an audiologist? Do you even know what an audiologist is? Are you confused about all the advertising you see on TV, in periodicals, etc.? Most likely the answer is "Yes". So there is another barrier since you don't know what to think or believe. Isn't it interesting that what we perceive to be a 'medical device' is advertised and sold like a 'consumer product'? Isn't it a shock to find out how expensive a hearing aid can be…and then that it is likely not covered by insurance, including Medicare?

No wonder there is confusion. There are several hearing aid manufacturers that make quality products. In fact, a handful of those manufacturers make dozens of different brands that are sold in different ways. Phonak, Starkey, RESound, Widex, Signia, all make quality products. They all make hearing aids under brand names other then theirs.

The key to success in hearing aid fitting really lies with the person who is fitting the device. It also has much to do with the degree of hearing loss and type of hearing loss an individual presents with.

To confuse the issue, most states license 'fitters' with the same testing protocol regardless of whether they are doctorate level AUD audiologists, Master's Degree level who don't qualify to have AUD after their name, but often use MS-CCC-A, or hearing instrument specialists (HIS) who may or may not have a degree beyond an internship after high school graduation.

Regardless of the level of education these fitters may or may not have the understanding, patience, or time to do the counseling that many who become hard of hearing as adults need. Some people can put on a hearing aid and walk out the fitter's door with great success. Others, depending on the hearing loss they present with, may need more time and adjustments to get the most from the product. This varies between individuals.

People are led to believe that hearing aids give the user '20/20' hearing. They don't. They amplify sound. Some have adjustments that can help if they are fit well to an individual's audiogram. Some have options like telecoils and BlueTooth that can connect the user to other technologies. The fitter should teach the user how to use these options. It takes time. You should demand that time regardless of the person who fits your hearing aid(s). And, you should insist on a trial period that is long enough to test the products in all the situations your lifestyle puts you in. Go to the theater, to worship centers, to meetings, to parties. Spend time with family. You must be patient yourself, and be sure the hearing aids are helping. Just don't expect perfect hearing. They are hearing AIDS. They help, but do not correct.

Real Ear Measurement is important in fitting because it allows the fitter to test how the aids are doing while you are using them. REM is important. Not all providers are equipped to use REM. Does it matter? Probably. However, depending on an individual's hearing loss it may not be necessary.

The question to ask when you have been fitted with hearing aids for the first time is: Are they making a difference in my life? If the answer is 'yes'. That's good. If it is 'no', don't quit. Ask the provider to adjust them, or try a different model. Insist on that trial time. If it isn't working for you, perhaps it's worth your time to go to another provider. Be sure to ask the original provider for a copy of your audiogram. You will want that if you go elsewhere. Hearing loss doesn't go away and it usually gets worse over time. The best time to learn how to adjust to a hearing aid is now. It does take time and commitment on your part as well as from the person who fits them for you.

People who use hearing aids successfully themselves can give you a lot of good information if you ask them about their experience. That will help validate yours. Are you willing to talk to other people you know who use hearing aids?

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@vic83

I recently went through the process of buying hearing aids 1) depending on your insurance and if you can get a discount because from ENT's office it is expensive, although when they heard my insurance offered discount through one of the providers, they lowered their price 2) CHECK the credentials of the person selling and fitting the hearing aids. Look for a real audiologist. The Hearing Instrument Specialist is not an Audiologist (they have PhDs even or at least a Master's) . 3) They should be able to do REAL EAR MEASUREMENTS – my first try, they lied about that capacity and I returned the hearing aids since it was under 45 days trial. 4) Dr Cliff Youtube videos are very informative

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What are some of the best rated hearing aids on the market and how can one accès this type of information?

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@willows

What are some of the best rated hearing aids on the market and how can one accès this type of information?

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@willows It's a shame that there is so much secrecy in the hearing aid market. It should be criminal. It would nice if we could go to a hearing aid manufacturers website and find a MSRP, Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. At least we could compare the markup by audiologists. However, it's not the only criteria to judge an audiologist by cost alone. We have to consider the service that we'll get for that money. Will we get free cleanings? If so, for how long? Will we get Real Ear Measurement when we are fitted? Will we get free batteries? I'm sure we could think of other 'perks'. @julieo4 mentioned the name brands, Phonak, Starkey, Widex, Resound, and Oticon. The hearing aid market has seen acquisitions. Signia is now owned by the same company as Widex. They also sell the Rexton brand. Also, most of the big manufacturers put other names on their products. For instance, under the Phonak brand, you'll find Hansaton and Unitron. Costco sells name brand products under the Kirkland name. Beltone is a brand under the Resound umbrella. Under Oticon, there's Philips and Bernafon. The best place that I've found to research hearing aids is http://www.hearingtracker.com.
Tony in Michigan

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@tonyinmi

@willows It's a shame that there is so much secrecy in the hearing aid market. It should be criminal. It would nice if we could go to a hearing aid manufacturers website and find a MSRP, Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. At least we could compare the markup by audiologists. However, it's not the only criteria to judge an audiologist by cost alone. We have to consider the service that we'll get for that money. Will we get free cleanings? If so, for how long? Will we get Real Ear Measurement when we are fitted? Will we get free batteries? I'm sure we could think of other 'perks'. @julieo4 mentioned the name brands, Phonak, Starkey, Widex, Resound, and Oticon. The hearing aid market has seen acquisitions. Signia is now owned by the same company as Widex. They also sell the Rexton brand. Also, most of the big manufacturers put other names on their products. For instance, under the Phonak brand, you'll find Hansaton and Unitron. Costco sells name brand products under the Kirkland name. Beltone is a brand under the Resound umbrella. Under Oticon, there's Philips and Bernafon. The best place that I've found to research hearing aids is http://www.hearingtracker.com.
Tony in Michigan

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Hearing Tracker Forum is a wealth of information. Also Dr Cliff’s you tubes are great.

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@tonyinmi

@willows It's a shame that there is so much secrecy in the hearing aid market. It should be criminal. It would nice if we could go to a hearing aid manufacturers website and find a MSRP, Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. At least we could compare the markup by audiologists. However, it's not the only criteria to judge an audiologist by cost alone. We have to consider the service that we'll get for that money. Will we get free cleanings? If so, for how long? Will we get Real Ear Measurement when we are fitted? Will we get free batteries? I'm sure we could think of other 'perks'. @julieo4 mentioned the name brands, Phonak, Starkey, Widex, Resound, and Oticon. The hearing aid market has seen acquisitions. Signia is now owned by the same company as Widex. They also sell the Rexton brand. Also, most of the big manufacturers put other names on their products. For instance, under the Phonak brand, you'll find Hansaton and Unitron. Costco sells name brand products under the Kirkland name. Beltone is a brand under the Resound umbrella. Under Oticon, there's Philips and Bernafon. The best place that I've found to research hearing aids is http://www.hearingtracker.com.
Tony in Michigan

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FIRST – I have otosclerosis in one ear. I noticed big difference in hearing between ears and went to ENT. I had the surgery option but when they said there was a risk of cutting the face nerve, I opted for a hearing aid in one ear. The Audiologist with my ENT fitted me. SO it is important to be tested by someone COMPETENT to be sure about what is causing the hearing loss. If one has the insurance coverage for a screening hearing exam, go to the ENT to check hearing. They have audiologists on staff to do the exam and ENT can explain any unusual results. OTHERWISE look for the most qualified person to do the exam.
PS I eventually got the surgery and immediately recovered that lost hearing. I am glad I waited because I found a very experienced surgeon. That was important because not all ENT have ability to do this delicate procedure
SECOND In the beginning I was unhappy to have to wear hearing aid. But now everybody has some kind of ear bud. I am very happy with my BTE RIC hearing aids (for normal loss of hearing) as I am hands free when I talk on my cell phone (blue tooth) and can hear very well. I would want them even without hearing loss!!!!

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@tonyinmi

@willows It's a shame that there is so much secrecy in the hearing aid market. It should be criminal. It would nice if we could go to a hearing aid manufacturers website and find a MSRP, Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. At least we could compare the markup by audiologists. However, it's not the only criteria to judge an audiologist by cost alone. We have to consider the service that we'll get for that money. Will we get free cleanings? If so, for how long? Will we get Real Ear Measurement when we are fitted? Will we get free batteries? I'm sure we could think of other 'perks'. @julieo4 mentioned the name brands, Phonak, Starkey, Widex, Resound, and Oticon. The hearing aid market has seen acquisitions. Signia is now owned by the same company as Widex. They also sell the Rexton brand. Also, most of the big manufacturers put other names on their products. For instance, under the Phonak brand, you'll find Hansaton and Unitron. Costco sells name brand products under the Kirkland name. Beltone is a brand under the Resound umbrella. Under Oticon, there's Philips and Bernafon. The best place that I've found to research hearing aids is http://www.hearingtracker.com.
Tony in Michigan

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Tony, Thank you so much for your response. My audiologist sells Widex and that is what I have. No other brands were proffered to me. I am satisfied with the hearing aspect of the Widex but I also need masking and the masking component is not great. In fact
an earlier version of the Widex had a much better masking component. I am wondering whether any of our readers can talk about masking aspects of their device.

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