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.