HA company customer service, middlemen, & giving up on HAs altogether or just Oticon?

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#1

I got my hearing screening last week at a local audiology center. I arranged this through Hearing Revolution, which was praised by many on here. Turns out the audiologist doesn’t carry Oticon HAs even though she’s listed through Hearing Revolution as a seller. Hearing Revolution apologized, and she’s trying to acquire a model of the OPNs for me to try but she doesn’t know anything about Oticon.

Meanwhile, I wrote 6 specific and concise questions to Oticon last Wednesday. I’ll replicate them below for anyone interested. I didn’t really expect any suggestions tailored to me specifically (even though I asked), but what I received 3 business days later was an email saying, “We can’t answer any of this question, see your audiologist about it.” Well, my audiologist was Googling and searching Oticon’s website for my question about the size of designRITE vs. miniRITE because she doesn’t know anything about them. So now I can’t get any of my questions answered. I’m just supposed to jump in blind, lay out $3-4,000, and either make a random guess RE: Oticon or just take whatever HAs my audiologist peddles and trust that “she knows best” (I’m sure she knows how to do her job, but I’m equally sure that audiologists have different brand “preferences” for different reasons, many of which are unrelated to my best interests).

Honestly, at this point this is more frustrating than buying a car. I really struggle in my day-to-day life without my hearing aids, but it is unfair that I should have to lay out $3-4,000 on a purchase I can’t be fully informed about. I wouldn’t even buy a $900 refrigerator without doing several days’ worth of research and careful consideration. I’m considering just forgetting about HAs entirely.

I don’t mean to be complaining…I guess this is just a last-ditch attempt to see if there is any hearing aid brand with stellar customer service and a stellar product (one that doesn’t require 42 million different “personalized location settings” - I don’t want to constantly fiddle with my HAs, I just want to hear). I’d also like to know whether I am totally alone in my frustration. I’m very disappointed in Oticon’s complete unwillingness to answer any of my questions. I did read all the white papers over the weekend; it helped a little more than the technical data sheets. I feel like I’m forced to make this purchase blindly, I can’t understand what model is going to help me most without being “over the top” (i.e. best value for me), and I frankly find the entire hearing aid pricing and business model to be absolutely absurd and I want no part of it.

The questions I asked:

  1. What’s the difference between the following: Ria2 vs. Ria2 Pro, Nera2 vs. Nera2 Pro, Alta2 vs. Alta2 Pro?

  2. Can you comment on the differences in hearing technology between the highest of these models (Alta2 as I understand) and the OPNs? I understand that the OPNs do not require the external device for Bluetooth connectivity, and that they connect to Internet of Things. Are there major differences in the actual hearing technology that I would notice with moderate loss? I’ve read the white papers, but it’s hard for me to translate that information into what I would experience.

  3. Could you tell me how the Ria2, Nera2, and Alta2 (or Pro versions) compare with the old Intiga 8’s? Which one is most similar?

  4. What I loved most about my Intiga 8’s was that I never had to modify or “personalize” any settings. My previous audiologist personalized the devices to me, and once I walked out of her office my hearing aids were hands-free. I have an active lifestyle and change environments often, and my Intiga 8’s adapted effortlessly to my needs. I forgot I even was wearing them. This is most important criteria for me: not having to fiddle with my aids (or some setting on my phone) when I move from one environment to another. Which aids that you sell would best meet that requirement?

  5. Can you provide the actual size of the designRITE vs. miniRITE styles?

  6. What’s the difference between ConnectClip and ConnectLine? Is the former only compatible with OPNs and the latter only with the other three models?


#2

I would not get an Oticon from her then. There’s knowledge that carries over from one device to another, but the devices all have their own quirks. The likelihood of getting a great fit is dramatically reduced if the provider has no experience with the device.


#3

No manufacturer is going to answer questions like that. You are not their customer. Your pro is. If they provided answers it might be interpreted as providing services and whoever does that must be licensed by the state.

Once you are in your professionals office, he/she can call the rep and talk over anything, and that would be a good way for an inexperienced (in that brand) person to get a good fit.

But, I personally would not use a pro for a brand for which they have no experience. Use a brand they know or use a different pro.

The trial/return period is very important, for all the reasons you stated about the industry. You can make your best guess, try it for 45 to 60 days, or whatever the return period is, get some adjustments, and see how it goes.

All 6 of the major hearing aid manufacturers have good products, and people on the forum swear by, or swear at, each of the brands. In other words, for each brand and model, some like it and some do not.

Again, the trial/return period is where you determine if it will work for you, more so than in pre-sale research.


#4
  1. The older Alta2 is based on the traditional hearing aids paradigm where directionality is used to block out surrounding sounds that are considered noise to allow the user to focus on the sound in the front.

The OPN uses a new “open” paradigm where sounds all around you are not blocked out. A different kind of directionality (called null directionality) is used to attenuate (but not entirely remove) well placed noise sources around the user. Then a noise model of sound sources to the sides and back is created to help the OPN clean up the speech in front from the diffused noise. While the speech in front is cleaned up, the sounds around the user is still preserved and heard. Because of this, the open paradigm relies on the user to use their brain hearing to tune out what they don’t want to hear and focus on what they want to hear, because the OPN doesn’t block out surrounding sounds for them like traditional hearing aids do.

  1. The OPN will meet this requirement very well. You can literally use just the default program for 100% of the time if you want, even though it can hold up to 4 programs should you want to use some of these programs for special situations. I personally use the default program almost 100% of the time myself, and I’ve been wearing the OPN for 1.5 years already. Even for music listening (even in live music situations, I find the default program adequately well suited for it. The only time I change program is to put the OPN into the TV Adapter streaming mode, which requires you to be in the TV Adapter program.

  2. The Connect Clip only works with the OPN. The Connect Line is not compatible with the OPN.


#5

Thanks so much for this response! Indeed, I got some more information by studying the white papers over the weekend. Before that, I was leaning towards the OPN 3’s if the size was an ok fit with my glasses. After reading the white papers, it seems like the Clear Dynamics system (present on the OPN2 but not OPN3) might make a noticeable difference to me since my main form of recreation is ballroom dancing and Clear Dynamics is supposed to help with music fidelity. The “open” paradigm is something that’s pretty hard to wrap my head around! I understand what it does and how it works (more or less), but I suppose it’s really impossible to predict whether that will work for me as well as the older technology (in the Intiga’s) did. Seems like I need to find an audiologist experienced with Oticon aids.


#6

Thanks, Don. You make a good point about providing services. It reminds me of a good episode of EconTalk about the economics licensing - very interesting subject, indeed. I guess I expect the rep to be able to answer questions like, “How is Alta2 different from OPN” or “Are Alta2, Nera2, and Ria2 just Intiga 10, 8, and 6 re-launched with different marketing tactics?” It took 3 people to sort out Oticon’s website and we still found absolutely ZERO information about the dimensions of their different hearing aid styles. After an hour of searching, we found pages that allow you to model the hearing aid styles on little heads that turn around, but that’s as close as I could get to knowing how designRITE and miniRITE compare in size.

I do understand these points about licensing and who their customer is. However, it is exceedingly frustrating to not be able to get answers to any questions about the product. It is literally easier to buy a car. I’ve heard way too many stories of trials “gone wrong” - and once I lay out several grand I certainly want to be fairly sure the hearing aid is going to work. Or maybe I want to have it narrowed down to like 2-3 different models. Right now only considering Oticon I’m on the fence about the benefits vs. cost for OPN1, OPN2, OPN3, Alta2 Pro, Alta2, Nera2 Pro. That’s only Oticon…in fact, I narrowed the brand down to Oticon specifically because I needed an easy way to narrow my options and Oticon is what I wore before.


#7

Thanks. I think I will ask my Hearing Revolution rep if that is a possibility. It would be nice if he could verify that the audi deals with Oticon…especially since I specifically mentioned this brand in my initial email to him.


#8

Here’s a picture that shows the designRITE and miniRITE next to each other:


#9

You are happy with your Intigas 8s. They are an eight year old mid-level device. Any current mid-level device will perform as well or better. You could probably step down a level and not notice much difference as yesterday’s mid-level is today’s entry-level.

Frankly, hearing aids are not that different from eachother across manufacturers these days. They are not ENORMOUSLY different from eachother across levels, either.

If you liked what your original provider did for you, I’d recommend returning to her if possible.


#10

Thank you! This is very helpful.


#11

I would absolutely return to my previous provider. Unfortunately, she’s no longer working at Emory and I have not been able to locate her. She may have moved to another stage. I adored her; she was really top-notch. The problem with going back to Emory now is that the mid-tear aids cost $5,000 (they have a tier system - all brands, bottom tier is $3,600, mid-tier $5,000, top-tier is $6,600). I got two small loans to pay for my last set, which lasted me 6 years until my roommate mistook them for bugs and flushed them down the toilet (I cried for days). It would cost almost 20% of my take-home annual salary. Hence why I’m considering just not getting anything. It’s just that lots of aspects of my life continue to be a struggle without my hearing aids. I don’t hear consonants well below 60dB, so a lot of speech is just a jumbled mess and if I can’t see the speaker’s face I really struggle. The best person was my mom…she spoke loudly and enunciated. She died last month and now I feel like I’m surrounded by a world full of mumbling people. :frowning:


#12

I don’t know your exact situation, but contact your state’s vocational rehabilitation. If your hearing loss is something that interferes with work or impedes your ability to work, they have programs to assist. I don’t have any further specific information, but my audiologist provided the contact information to me in case I needed it.


#13

@jrowell1 I’d recommend calling Hearing Revolution back and see if there is another provider in your town that carries Oticon or another close by town. I’m working with them now, will see a provider they referred in two days. I spoke with a Lucy and she called the provider who has two locations to make certain of what they carried, since the Hearing Revolution listing of the two offices did not match. She called them three times with me holding to clarify questions I had. I was extremely impressed. I’m in a low population area and she worked diligently to make certain that I would get what I want. Good luck!


#14

Tell this to your provider. Is she an independent clinic? She may have a budget hearing aid, she may have an older, refurbished hearing aid, she may have information for programs available to help. Audiologists tend to be compassionate people. You really shouldn’t be going without.

And start training your loved ones how to talk to you. Hearing loss is invisible and people are forgetful. Yeah, it’s going to take a lot of repetition, but it’s worthwhile. Talk about your hearing loss with them and what it’s like and what you need until they remember.


#15

had good luck with the Nera (only have the 1st version) getting a little old now but stay tuned if I get approved for an OPN


#16

Your story was me all over. Walked into a hearing shop, told I needed X and here’s the cost, and I thought WTH, how the hell do I know about any of this, how can I just cough up that much without any knowledge? I bailed and spent several months here getting up to speed, and ended up spending near triple the original quote, but at least it was on my terms, and I understood what I was getting. But do yourself a big favour, you can almost certainly get the same aids or close equivalent via Costco for thousands less. I did so last week, paying 50% of what I paid first time around before Costco came to our town.