Me, too, and I’ve worked in audio professionally for a long time. I just started programming my own aids and I am utterly delighted with the process and the results!
I bought a used serial Hi-Pro interface on eBay. Look around on the forum for information on these. The serial version is out-of-date (and was thus a lot cheaper than the USB type) but I am having no problems using a USB-to-serial converter.
If you have GN Resound aids, someone on eBay has been selling a few GN “Speedlink” interface boxes, and they’ve been going for around $350-$400, including the cables. If you get this brand of aids, this is a really good deal. Usually the cables cost at least $140 or so a pair.
There’s another long thread in this forum on software. Yes, some manufacturers make their software freely available. For instance, the Resound Aventa software which I’m using is freely available on the GN website.
One caveat is that some of these programs need NOAH – an audiometric and database application, as far as I can tell. This is neither free nor available to the public, although older versions are around on the internets. Some fitting programs, like Aventa, will also run in “standalone” mode, i.e. without NOAH. I’m totally happy with Aventa.
I bought mine on eBay, new, for about 20% of their normal cost. They were obsolete and had been replaced by a new model, but only about 3 weeks previously, so they really were very up-to-date. The transaction was flawless, and the seller provided them with basic programming to my audiogram. But these dealers seem to have vanished from eBay.
And, what’s wrong with used aids, especially if they’re BTE? (Mine are BTE, and they’re so small I don’t notice them. BTE types are also a lot more robust.)
And with respect, I’m not sure I agree wholheartedly with MAJ’s comment on the importance of an initial professional fitting. The software – Aventa, at least – will automatically generate an initial fitting from you audiogram and speech recognition figures. Well, you do need these, and like many things medical, if the professional who does the testing won’t cheerfully give you a copy of the results, one ought, IMO, to be looking for a different professional. Anyway, the automatic fitting was, for me, a very good starting point. There’s nothing wrong with going to an audiologist and simply asking to get your hearing tested.
Generally, I very much agree with you on every point. I am also lucky enough to have found an audiologist who has no problems dealing with somebody who bought their aids on the grey market, and is really intrigued having a patient who programs his own aids. So I can get parts, like ear molds, from her with no problem. I think she realizes how much the vast majority of her patients really need her services, so she’s not threatened by somebody like me.
I’m going to be hard of hearing for the rest of my life (well unless the stem cell thing takes off…) and it makes a lot of sense to me to put time and effort into my own care. It’s also really fun. I mess around with the programming, go out in the world and check it out, and come back and fool around some more. (The programming is easy, although frustrating in some ways if you’ve got a pro audio background. There are lots of special features, for instance, whose functions and parameters aren’t spelled out. So they’re kind of magic, and have magical names, and you just have to figure them out by trial and error.)
And when it comes down to it, from the standpoint of professional audiology, the desired result is that hard of hearing people use, like, trust, and benefit from their hearing aids. Because I’m happy with the programming I’m doing and feel really invested in it, I wear my aids now almost all the time.