Hearing Aid advice for unilateral hearing loss and tinnitus

Hi - brand new to this forum, my first post. Last month I noticed a very uncomfortable feeling in my right ear, thought it was from swimming or an ear infection. Just felt like fullness/pressure and decreased hearing. Went to ENT, had a hearing test and I have mild/moderate hearing loss in right ear. Left ear is fine. Took prednisone for 3 weeks, no change. The tinnitus got worse on top of that. Had an MRI - was so loud, I think I lost more of my hearing from it. They should really not put patients with hearing loss in the machine, makes no sense. Anyway, all clear on the acoustic neuroma. Now what is bothering me the most is not the loss of hearing. I had some sense of hearing loss the last few years, I think I was in complete denial, I just never believed it until this last drop, I think it was from noise exposure. I thought it was just a 'getting older" thing. I think initially my ear was damaged from a bout of labrynthitis about 10 years ago where I experienced severe vertigo for 2 weeks - has never been the same (short bouts of ringing and gradual hearing loss). And then on top of that I am on the phone all day at work, power tools and blasting music in my car I guess didn’t help - never knew my ears would get this bad so fast until now, would have been more careful to protect them. People should really get regular hearing tests, I wish I had known. What is bothering me the most is this feeling of tinnitus which at times makes me feel like my right side of my head is swelling up, especially when i hear loud sounds or even when I talk alot. It is also causing me loss of balance and some dizziness because of the imbalance I have in my hearing. What is really odd is that when I put earplugs in both ears or even just the good ear, my head/ears feel so much more balanced that the tinnitus actually disappears and I feel perfectly balanced and the dizziness is gone. As soon as I remove them, it comes roaring right back.

So my question is, since I cannot wear earplugs all day, will a HA on my right ear solve any of my issues with the off balance, tinnitus, feeling of pressure? My speech recognition is pretty good in the bad ear so the ENT said I would be a good candidate for an HA. Also, what would be the best kind for my type of hearing loss and other complaints?

Also, I am now obsessed with saving the hearing I have left, I am only 45. Will wearing a hearing aid hasten hearing loss in my bad ear? BTW, this really sucks, wish someone warned me. Am still in the denial/anger stages, wake up everyday hoping my hearing is back to normal or even the way it was not too long ago. Just want the odd feelings in my ear/head to disappear. Any HA advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance and for listening to my ranting.

Here is my audiogram:

250 - 20
500 - 20
1000 - 30
2000 - 40
4000 - 45
8000 - 50

SRT - 25
MCL - 65

Welcome to the forum! The folks here are quite knowledgeble, and willing to share that so you will find plenty of info. Just keep asking questions!

Did the ENT give you a diagnosis? The beginning of your explanation sounds like sshl - sudden sensorineural hearing loss. This can be caused by infection (viral) or can be unknown cause. This is what I have. My left ear developed that full sensation on Oct 21, 2013. I do not have the history / background you described, with past hearing loss, exposure to loud noise, etc. After several intra tympanic injections, and based on my current medical issues and my family history of medical issues, my final diagnosis is that my hearing loss is autoimmune based – aied – autoimmune inner ear disease.

I get that constant swelled up feeling too, and also lots of tinnitus. Most of the time I hear ‘crickets’, drives me mad at times, it can be so loud. I do not have the balance issues you described. I can relate to the feelings you describe, waking each morning hoping this nightmare is over and my hearing is normal again. Frustration, and fear, because with my issue being autoimmune, my affected ear can remain the same or worsen at any time, and my ‘good’ ear can be effected at any time or never. The day the ENT told me there is nothing more he can do, my hearing will not improve, and I should consider a HA, I was devastated. That was hard news to take in.

As you can see in my siggy, I am trialing a HA now. I am VERY pleased with the results. Having the HA in has reduced the tinnitus. The explanation is that my brain has sound to listen to rather than focusing on the crickets. And the binaural hearing is wonderful to have, again! Don’t get me wrong, this is in no way like having ‘normal’ hearing. But it is a huge improvement, for me.

A HA will not hasten your hearing loss – quite the opposite. With no aid, your brain will learn there is no important noise coming from the effected ear and will just stop paying attention to anything coming in on that ear. The HA keeps the brain paying attention to that ear.

I was advised by my ENT to take steps to protect my ‘good’ ear. I purchased ear plugs on Amazon. Ear plugs are rated, I bought the highest rating I could find, mine are brand name Hearos. I use them when I mow the lawn, use my hair dryer, any loud noises at all. I also remove my HA when doing these activities. No point in amplifying the lawn mower!

You will find that purchasing a HA is like buying a car. Each audiologist carries a few brands, different from another audiologist. And the same brand and model can be one price with one audiologist and a different price with another audiologist. The best prices will likely be those you find at Costco. Most audiologists earn a commission on each sale. Costco uses hearing aid dispensers (another form of professional), and they do not earn commissions on the sale. In my area, the prices at Costco were half what the audiologists prices are.

In addition, each audiologist will offer a different trial period, and a different restocking fee. I started with the audiologist at my ENT’s practice. She had several demos available for me to try in the office, which I really liked. One was too much of an echo chamber, another was a good sound. So I was gathering information! Her trial period was 60 days, and the restocking fee was $300. This means at the end of (or any time during) the trial period, if I decide that particular HA is not for me, I get back all my money except for $300.

At that point, I found this forum! Discovered the above, that shopping around was important. So I checked with another local audiologist. She had no demos available. Her trial period was 30 days, and the restocking fee was $100.

Then I went to Costco. Trial period is 90 days, no restocking fee. Price about half of above! Now, I had to work with the Hearing Aid Dispenser to find one that may work for me. This is where you really need to have a person you feel comfortable with, someone you can work with. I am fortunate that I feel comfortable with the person at my nearest Costco. Which is a 45 minute drive one way, for me!

I’ve written alot. Hope this is helpful to you. I know others will offer info as well.

Hi Freedom, thank you for replying and your time. There is a Costco Hearing store near me so that will be my first stop most likely. Am trying to make an appointment for today or tomorrow. I will let you know how that goes.

The ENT really had no explanation, but from my history, could be a combination of the damage from the labrynthitis to loud noise exposure. My theory is that once the ear is damaged, it is more susceptible to further damage from loud noises. That is why left ear is OK still, which experienced the same loud noises. No one really knows. Perhaps it was another viral infection.

What is most difficult for me is, at age 45, I had no health issues prior to this. I was going to the gym several times a week, swimming, running and lifting weights. I was feeling pretty good actually until this happened.

Freedom, dow did you decide on the style of your hearing aid? I see there are a lot of style options, RIC and BTE’s. Did you try out any of the RIC’s? Are the BTE’s better for our type of hearing loss?

As for the tinnitus, I read (on this forum) that Costco does not offer tinnitus maskers in their HA’s. But your HA alone seems to be helping without a masker. Have you tried any HA with maskers from your other Audiologist? I am just wondering if having a masker will help my situation at all.

Anyway, I feel I am a long way from finding the perfect aid for me, Costco will be my first stop for sure. Need to stay positive I guess, I see there are many on this forum that have much worse hearing than me, I feel fortunate to have one ear that can hear OK. I never took my health for granted, so now, the hearing I have left is like the most precious thing to me. Also, I know we are a ways off from a cure for tinnitus/hearing loss, but I really do think it can be done before 10 years. I read the statistics on hearing loss, really amazing.

About the feeling of fullness in your bad ear. I think a hearing aid might help with that. My heaing is a little worse in the left ear and I also felt that something was wrong, a bit like the pressure when you are flying, on my left side. The ENT explained that sometimes the brain creates that illusion, because it notices that it is not getting good sound and thus concludes that side is stuffed up. As soon as I started using hearing aids the feeling disappeared. The tinnitus is also a lot less bothering with HA’s.

I found it quite helpful to go to other audiologists first, and then to Costco. Anyway, do be sure to take your test results with you, they all work off of that.

Cost was a significant factor for me. The BTE is the least expensive – it is slightly bigger and technology is such that smaller costs more. I never considered anything other than a BTE.

Correct, Costco does not offer any with a tinnitus program. Seems to be alright for me, and no I never did try one with such a program. That program adds about $700 to the cost, so that was all I needed to know.

Thought about this overnight.

Curious why you want a RIC? That style rquires an ear mold, I believe. So do check into how the trial period works, since once an ear mold is made, it is only good for you, no one else. Restocking fee? May not even apply. That style is also quite noticeable to others; the BTE is almost invisible. I wear glasses and I am not having any issue with the 2 things behind my ear, that was my only concern with the BTE.

From the way things went for me, the style option was almost not up to me at all; the audiologists and the hearing aid dispenser at Costco all suggested the BTE for me, so I went with that. This is based on the type of hearing loss, the sort of amplification needed, and life style. No matter which style of HA you get, you can not wear it in the water (swimming, shower)m and you do have to remove when you exercise as moisture is not good for the electronics. You have to rely on and trust the expertise and training of the person you work with, they sort out what style is for you.

RICs are the same as BTEs except that the receiver is in your ear canal instead of the plastic case. The receiver is connected to the case using a thin wire. RICs are usually smaller and even less noticeable than BTEs, and they can be used with domes or earmolds. There’s no reason not to use a RIC unless you have really small or irregularly shaped ear canals which might make fitting the receiver difficult, or if you generate a lot of wax.

So I went to my local audi, we went over stuff and lo and behold, they offer top of the line Siemens and Phonaks at 2-3000 per aid. One good thing is that she will look into see if my United HC insurance will cover any of the cost. I did get to try the Phonak in her office, but it was too quiet for me really test it. One setting was too loud and the other setting was so low, I did not see any difference except for speech recognition. I have an appointment with Costco next week. I would like to try both the RIC and the BTE styles. How does that work? If I get a mold made for the RIC, do I get to keep it and can attach it to other aids that I would like to try? How does Costco let you test drive RIC’s in the store? The local audi said there is a $150 re-stocking fee for returning any aid. Forgot to ask her if the same fee applies for the RIC if a mold has to be made for me to test a RIC? Didn’t think to ask her how the RIC trials work. Is there any additional cost to getting a mold made? I guess I can ask these questions to the audi at Costco, but if anyone knows how it works, especially at Costco, please let me know.

OK so I was completely wrong as to what a RIC style is. Ignore what I wrote.

Here is a link which show the RIC and the BTE – and the other styles, too.


Hi Iamasheen, I’m in my 40s and got a pair of RIC from Costco (Rexton Charismo) recently. I also tried Rexton Quintra while I was there. They are both RICs and my fitter at Costco put a clean domes on demo units. I decided to go with Charismo because they sounded better to me, and they are smaller than Quintra. The downside is that Charismo does not have Bluetooth capability and uses smaller battery (size 10). So far I’m changing my batteries every 6-7 days.

Overall I’m very happy with my aids, and the pair was a price of one aid (Widex Dream) from audiologist. I’m trying to get reimbursement from my insurance but I ended up paying less at Costco without insurance than aids from audiologists with insurance. Also make a call to your insurance company and ask about your coverage yourself, too. The audiologist’s office I went told me different things from what my insurance company told me.

RIC molds are made to fit a specific size and shape of receiver; they’re usually not interchangeable with receivers from other manufacturers. And they are an extra cost option, usually non-refundable. So don’t have one made unless you’re sure you want it.

Thanks for replying. Went to the Costco this morning… turns out my level of hearing loss does not warrant a mold. I tried the Phonak Brio R-312T. It was very small. I have never worn hearing aids so this was all completely new to me. The initial setting seemed a bit too loud, so she set it to 80%. My main complaint is not really the hearing loss, it is this aural fullness feeling I have in the bad ear. Well, the aural fullness completely disappeared with the aid (and comes right back as soon as I remove it). But the hearing is a different story. Everything sounded completely unnatural to me. I was able to hear sounds far away better, but was not sure if I could hear voices any louder or clearer. Perhaps it is because my other ear is perfectly fine? Also, talking and hearing my own voice did not feel natural either, it was actually quite bothersome. I did ask the audi to make adjustments for the sound level and background noises. However, I am not sure how to ask for adjustments because I have never had an aid before. How am I supposed to know what the perfect setting is for me? What am I looking for when I ask the Audi to make adjustments? Also, do people with unilateral mild/moderate hearing loss even get aids? I am starting to second guess myself - I am not sure if an aid will benefit me at all. I can get by at home and work without one, was just hoping that a HA would get me closer to the way my hearing was when normal.

The following attributes might help you describe any sound quality issues you’re experiencing:

Thank you RB, exactly what I was looking for, very helpful.