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Concerns of a hearing aid buyer

The comment below is from Paul Weston, he originally wrote this as a comment on here but I felt it was worth posting separately as it raises some good points. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he is saying but moving his comment to its own page gives people room for comment.

A quick straw poll of friends shows that of four people that have had hearing aids fitted, four of them are not used. The hearing aid has not been adjusted in a way that gives acceptable sound. 100% dissatisfaction.

I’ve just been fitted with a hearing aid. The specialist said I needed two at $3200 (12 channel) each. I opted for one (6 channel) at $1600. The process has shown severe deficiencies in the ability of the audiologists involved and possibly in the quality of sound from what I consider an expensive aid.

First, the audiologist ignored my specification for a vented tip. When I complained at the first fitting I was told that I wouldn’t get a good result from that type – but that wasn’t mentioned when I ordered the aid. Then a dodgy demo ‘proved’ that a vented tip was prone to feedback – but the closed tip also caused feedback until correctly calibrated.

The adjustment seems very primitive. I would have expected that the aid would be adjusted to match the hearing in my better ear (that has 90% function.) Instead, the aid is reefed up in volume to the max that it will take. I was told I have to ‘maximise’ my hearing. My wishes for a more holistic approach are ignored and the body language of the audiologist is “sit down shut up and accep what WE know is best for you.”
As a result, my ’sound picture’ is distorted. I should perceive a central sound centrally, but with high volume on the right ear, everything is shifted to the right.

I’ve been told to return in 3 weeks for fine adjustment. So I have to suffer what I perceive as too high an amplification and not enough compression (sound smoothing) for three weeks? This is the typical approach used to wear down customers – with such protracted visits they eventually give up and throw the unit in a drawer.
The $1600 hearing aid sounds like a $10 novelty amplifier.

I have been told that it is normal for it all to sound strange and over amplified. What a lot of horse apples. Has it not occurred to the hearing ‘professionals’ that a hearing aid can be introduced at a lower volume for initial comfort and then slowly, over a week or so, brought up to whatever volume the user finds he or she can adapt to?

In my case, with one ear only amplified, surely the aim would be to match the response of the ‘good’ ear. I’d be happy with 90% in both ears instead of 90% in one and a viciously over amplified 120% in the other.

All this talk of 6 and 12 channels sounds impressive but it’s only a graphic equaliser and it wouldn’t surprise me at all (call me a cynic) to discover that a 6 channel hearing aid is a 12 channel hearing aid with 6 channels disabled. These are digital hearing aids. The frequency response is controlled by software.

Then there’s the matter of price. The street price of these aids varies enormously ($800 to $1200) – which leads me to wonder if they’re made for $100 in a factory in Korea.

I’d also question the mechanism by which a money back guarantee is made. I can return the hearing aid and get an almost complete refund. What happens to that hearing aid? I bet it’s not destroyed and I wasn’t offered a refurbished unit. Is the ‘new’ unit I paid for actually new? The package I was given had been opened and the cord used for the recharger had been undone and re-done.

I pay full price for the hearing aid but am I not given the connectors or the software to access the functionality of the unit because obviously I’m old and stupid and ripe for exploitation?

I think it’s time for a big enquiry into the hearing aid industry. My first impressions are of incompetent service and an over priced product.