A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

AUDIOLOGISTS, TECHNOLOGY AND HEARING AIDS……oh my!

In ADA, Aging and hearing loss, ASL, audiogram, Audiologists, captions, Deafness, Employment, Hard of hearing culture, Hearing aids, Hearing Loss, Lip Reading, Miscellaneous Ramblings on July 11, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Approximately a year ago, I felt it was time to get a new hearing aid. I felt my aid was no longer giving me what I needed to function both at work and socially.  I began to sense that I was losing additional hearing but was not absolutely certain.  I’ve always been sensitive to any change in my hearing whether it was due to my feeling poorly or the environment was not quite right. The hearing aid I wore at the time was old, becoming useless and could not obtain anymore gain.  My dilemma?  Finding an Audiologist that is knowledgeable in programming hearing aids.

We all know Audiologists we love but hate to leave because they’re “so nice.” However, we constantly return to them to reprogram our aids and eventually ask for the manufacturers’ rep to come in and help.  For some of us, it’s many hours in the Audiologists office, waiting for an appointment or just getting frustrated and “getting use to it.”   Sorry folks, but no one should have to be told to “get use to it” when it’s the audiologist who is here to help you.  Yes, we have to acclimate to the new sounds we may have missed or even put up with sounds we don’t miss, such as the sounds of flushing toilets, flatulence, burbing and so forth. 

Let’s face it, the reality is, technology, especially hearing aid technology, is changing faster than the speed of light over the past decade, actually it appears to be changing every 6 months.  I fear buying an aid today because there might be something better tomorrow.

  I had seen an Audiologist (unfortunately, with a heavy accent)  last summer who had recommended the “best of the best, top of the line, Widex Mind 440 with its Zen programs (sort of sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi magazine).  The first mistake I made, was seeing an Audiologist who is bilingual with an accent but not in the language I needed her to speak clearly in…English.  Her accent was way too heavy for me to catch what was being said during the audiological testing.  Therefore, we never really got a true reading on my word discrimination.  This was my fault and she and I should have discussed it openly and honestly.  We didn’t, because I know people who love her and are happy with her but they are all Asian. And I guess, she did not want to discuss it with me, because she may have thought I would not recommend anyone.   However, she is someone I would continue to recommend to my Asian clients to.  This was totally my fault.

The Audiologist felt the Widex was perfect for me, yet she could not get the programming quite right for ME.  We had the rep come in twice (which meant waiting additional times to coordinate appointments) and who immediately felt that the instrument I was recommended and wearing for the past month, was too high powered for me.  Jeesh! wouldn’t an Audiologist know that?  Well, as it turned out, the rep had the Widex 440 in a lower power model and she loaned it to me until a new one would arrive with a new trial period starting the day I receive the new aid.

I waited another two weeks, received the new aid but low and behold it did not have the controls I had initially requested. By the time I received the correct model and tested it for another 45 days (which brought me up to 4 months with the hearing aid), I decided the aid was not for me.  I felt that music sounded off, background noise was bothering me and all in all, the reality that this Audiologist was just not getting it right, meant I had to be selfish.  I returned the hearing aid, I was down $300 but felt the time put in to my visits were well worth this so called restocking fee.  Why they call it a restocking fee is beyond my imagination.  It’s a fee that goes to the Audiologist for their time spent with you and personally, they should get that fee if they have given you the time. We parted on good terms and no hard feelings.

What to do next?  I was actually somewhat embarrassed, as here I am in the field working with many audiologists, clinics and top surgeons, yet I could not find myself an Audiologist who I can trust to know what I need.   I spoke to friends in the field and finally after spending alot of time researching, decided that buying a hearing aid is truly a job.  You’re not only shopping for the right hearing aid, you’re shopping for the right technology savvy Audiologist who can look at you as a whole person and not just as a potential buyer.  

I can fully understand why 1 out of 3 hearing aids for senior citizens land up in their night tables. However, I do believe the numbers are higher.  I spent hours going back and forth to the Audiologist last summer through the end of October.  Can we really expect that from an elderly consumer in order to get a proper fitting?  In my case, I truly got lucky.  A good friend of mine who happens to be an Audiologist and colleague, recommended an Audiologist who I so happen to have on my list of referrals for my clients.  She swore to me that he is a whiz at programming aids.   I never recommended anyone to him because the distance for my clients would make it difficult for them to do follow ups, which are so important at the beginning, when purchasing an aid.  In all honesty, it was not the easiest location for me either but I decided if he’s good at what he does, it’s worth my time and efforts.

My first meeting was a real eye opener. Mr. Audiologist asked me several questions concerning what I felt I needed to benefit most from in purchasing hearing aids (in my case one hearing aid).  We discussed my trial periods with several aids, those I was not willing to look at and left the rest up to him.  My first meeting with him took a bit over 2 hours…..wow! that alone impressed me.  I’ve never ever had an Audiologist spend that much time in getting to know my hearing needs. 

In the end, he felt I could gain a great deal from the Oticon Agil Pro.  Due to my work life and social life, I ordered the streamer as well.  When the aid arrived, I promptly received an appointment, tested out the equipment and he wanted me to make another appointment whether I felt I needed it or not.  Before my next appointment, I made a list of concerns, questions, likes and dislikes (which there were none).  My third appointment was great and I truly felt blessed with the new equipment.  He had wanted me to return before the trial period was due but I did not feel that was necessary but made an appointment for August.  I have since received a snail mail from his office telling me how proud he was about my adjustment to the new aid. I gather he does this with all his clients and though I really did not feel the need for this feedback, I must say, that for those who need more time to acclimate, it is certainly a good and well intentioned letter.

So, my purpose in writing this long post is to say, there are excellent Audiologists out there who know what they’re doing and that sometimes, going the distance is well worth it.  I have always been an advocate to have aids fully covered by insurances and still am.  However, since I am lucky enough to afford the technology, I am grateful to have it and wish everyone could.  We need to keep advocating, we need to keep writing our Senators and Congressmen and women. Afterall, a day will come, when they too will need this technology.

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  1. I’m so glad you got what you wanted. I feel like I’m a pretty savvy and well-informed buyer when it comes to hearing aids, and wouldn’t you know I had trouble with my audiologist last summer when buying new aids. I had been to this guy long ago, and thought I would give him another try. He’s really BIG on Oticon hearing aids, but I thought maybe he had changed in the past couple decades. Wrong! The Agil hadn’t come out yet, so first thing he started pushing the Epoq’s– which I DID want to try. I know several people who love their Epoq’s. After two weeks I turned them in.

    At the first visit I told him I was also interested in trying the Phonak Naidas that I had learned about at the IFHOH Con back in 2008. When they came they were beige. I was extremely disappointed. As it turned out he had ordered the Naidas at the same time he ordered the Epoq, never even asking me what color or style I wanted. I’m paying $5000 for these things and I wanted the zebra stripes dammit! Then he said something I thought very unprofessional. “Those are for kids,” and “you should get beige because it matches your blond hair and won’t show as much.” Excuse me? I don’t care if they SHOW. Everyone in the world knows I wear hearing aids. I just thought it was poor of him to try to convince me to go with the beige simply because he messed up and ordered the wrong thing.

    So– the zebra aids finally came– and then he leaves me to his ‘intern’ who he claims is a ‘whiz’ at programming Phonak aids. He himself only does Oticons, he explains. (Why didn’t he tell me that in the first place??) The intern was a super nice kid and deaf so we connected right off. I heard so much better with the Naidas, so at first I thought the intern was doing great! But in the following weeks I went back for a few adjustments, had questions about the streamer and other stuff that the intern didn’t know the answer to. At one point he misquoted a price to me. Red flags started to pop up. Each time I went back, the other guy never even acknowledged I was there even though I walked right by him a few times. I actually began to wonder if he was mad at me for not buying the Epoqs. I even asked the intern if he was mad about something. It was totally weird for me.

    I told the intern at one point that I was concerned about buying at that clinic because what would I do when he left, if the other guy ccouldn’t program Phonaks. Oh– don’t worry he says, we have another guy that can do that. I couldn’t help wondering then why the ‘other’ guy wasn’t checking up on the intern or with me to make sure everything was going all right then. It was a really weird situation but I was happy with the Naidas so I just went with it. Like you, I had been trialing aids for over a couple months by this time, but unlike you I felt weird about leaving and not buying.

    Plus I liked the Naidas. It was only the audi I didn’t like and I was not dealing with him, just his intern. At some point I did call another clinic to make an appointment, but then changed my mind. I liked the intern, but I knew he would be leaving and thought a more experienced audiologist could give better service, especially in the long haul.

    In the end the intern left and I was pushed off on the “other guy” who I have seen in the past a long time ago. I DO like the ‘other guy’ The only reason I had stopped seeing him was because of work scheduling conflicts. He is the one who fitted me with these Siemens after letting me try out the different aids ten years ago. I really should have stuck with him. He made a few more tweaks on my aids that gave me a boost in speech understanding in noise, noticed some programming inconsistencies that the intern didn’t pick up on. All in all I feel he should have been handling my case from the beginning..

    At one point he asked, “Why did you go to ‘Oticon guy? I could have told you that wasn’t the aid for you. I know your hearing inside and out. You have never liked Oticons,” he says. He’s right. I have trialed several pairs of Oticons over the years and never liked them. I was surprised he remember this about me.

    I guess what I’m saying is it’s easy to fall into a trap. What bothers me is I didn’t feel the clinic took the best care of me as a patient. It seemed like with this one guy it was all about selling a pair of Oticons, but when I went with the Phonaks then I was nothing to him, so he passed me off to an unsupervised intern. Looking back I think it’s pathetic the way he treated me. I almost have to wonder if he gets kick backs from Oticon or owns a lot of their stock or something. The cold shoulder thing was so weird.

    Sorry for the long rant.

    • Kim, I feel it’s so important to be able to say, NO, this is not the right audiologist for me. He or she is not giving me the choices or attention I need to make the right decisions.

      Most people, unlike you and I, go to audiologist and take what they recommend, not realizing, they have choices. They can also negotiate the restocking fee if they want to or ask for the restocking fee to be put toward a different hearing aid should they decide to try a different one.

      Personally, I think way too many audiologists believe they have us by our “ears.” There are other words I would use but won’t. We need to advocate the patient/client to be more savvy, more consumer minded and more in control of feeling they can walk out of the office without obligation to buying the aids. Otherwise, too many hearing aids will land up in the night table draws.

  2. What I find frustrating, is my lack of vocabulary to accurately describe what I am hearing or what the sound sounds like when the hearing instruments are being fitted. “To much treble, I want more bass sounds” – easy. But what about when the first part of a sound is heard in front of me and the rest of the sound bounces off the walls? Is that an echo or bounce or reflection? Is the sound hollow or flat? It sounds as if it is coming through a pipe. Blank stares from the audiologist…

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