HELP - are mid-level hearing aids good?

Hi. I am brand new here, and I am becoming more confused by the day. I have finally come to terms with the fact that my hearing has deteriorated, and I have begun to look into my options. I have had a medical check with by my ENT – no medical issues. The audiologist in his office did a hearing exam (results of the test are below), and as I suspected, she said I am indeed a candidate for hearing aids.
She immediately recommended the top-of-the line open fit aids that she carries, and essentially said that I should not worry about cost because I will benefit from these. Well, unfortunately, cost is indeed a factor for me, and I cannot spend $7000 for hearing aids.
I do have a small hearing aid benefit through my insurance, but even with that, the cost of these aids is prohibitive. We did not get into a discussion of the specific brand/model that she recommends – she said we can discuss that once I decide to purchase. She said she usually use Oticon, Widex and one other that I cannot recall at the moment. I left there feeling not at all comfortable with her approach.

I was referred to another audiologist by my insurance company. She made some recommendations – again, top of the line. Her suggestions were Oticon Agil Pro, Widex mind 440 or Resound Alera 9. Because she will direct bill my insurer, cost of these would be easier, but still quite expensive. She also made it clear that if she does do the direct bill method, she is just a dispenser, and the service level will not be what I would get if I went to her office as a “private” patient. She said future adjustments, batteries, etc, would end up costing me more than the insurance benefit.

She proposed another option – their private brand – AGX 9, once again the very top of the line. This would cost even more than the other brands.

When I asked about the next level down from these premium units, she basically scoffed and said they are not good.

Here is my question, as I cannot really find objective reviews of these things anywhere – is there a tremendous difference between, for example, Oticon Agil Pro and Oticon Acto Pro, in terms of performance (not necessarily Bluetooth, etc.)? Am I better off getting something that is affordable to me, rather than getting nothing because it is beyond my means? When I made that point, she really made me feel like I was crazy to even consider anything less than these top of the line models.

I am going to call another audiologist and try to get another opinion, but I am getting the impression that these are really just salespeople, out to sell the highest price hearing aids.

For any of you with experience, do you think that with my hearing loss, the mid-level devices would be a benefit? I am 53 years old, and I do fit more of the active lifestyle that the audiologists described. I understand that in an ideal world, the best would be the one to get. But, in the real world, we sometimes have to make do with less than the best. Any advice is welcome. Thanks.

Pure Tone Audiometry
Left Freq Right
25 250 15
25 500 15
30 1000 20
30 1500 30
50 2000 40
55 3000 65
65 4000 75
75 8000 70

Speech Testing: Discrimination 96% both ears
Reception Threshold R-20dB L-25dB

                        HL- R-55  L-60

OK, for me, first off, Audiologist #2 is off the table for putting her financial interest ahead of your welfare. You might even consider complaining in writing to the insurance company and your state’s licensing board. Just keep in mind that it may be your word against hers, and she has the right to fight back, so be sure of your facts and be fair without exaggeration in any written complaint so you don’t end up getting sued and losing. In any event I recommend you do not return to her office. She’s acting like someone who’s been better trained in sales technique than in prescribing and fitting aids.

You’ve had very bad luck so far. Your insurance benefit may be causing you more trouble than it’s worth–you can always forgo it. We’ve seen this before where audiologists that are in-network can end up costing more. Some audiologists use insurance as a loss leader. You do have to consider the total package of what everything will cost in the first couple of years in deciding what the best deal is. You should expect to need two or three adjustment appointments in the first few months–it’s not universal, but it’s common–and you may need more appointments. Hearing aids are not plug ‘n’ play devices like new eyeglasses normally are. Your brain needs some time to adjust to new auditory input, and then your needs change.

Options: Is there anyone you can ask in your community or at work who has hearing aids to help you find a better audiologist? Do you have a doctor who can make suggestions with limited funds in mind? Is there any rating agency or website such as yelp.com or checkbook.org that rates audiologists in your area? Yes, reviews can be faked, and one person’s great experience can be another’s disaster when it comes to audiologists, but it’s a starting point.

Do you have a Costco with a hearing aid center within about 50 miles of your home? (Find out at http://www.costco.com )They can be very good at finding good solutions within a tight budget. It would be hard to recommend one 300 miles away, though, because of the many adjustments that are often needed. (Consider gas money and the value of your time.)

Your loss would gain some extra benefits from upgrading to high-end aids like the Agil Pro, but if you cannot afford them, you can still benefit from midrange aids, yes, absolutely. And any doctor should be sensitive to the fact that not everyone these days has Agil Pro money.

You are absolutely within your right to go in and say to an audiologist, I have to be honest with you: money is tight for me. I know hearing aids are expensive. This is what I can afford: $X,XXX–(and remember, they think in terms of price PER EAR). Here are my hearing test results. What you can do for me in this price range? What do I give up in this price range? Is it worth doing?
Then come back here for second opinions.

You’re probably looking at a starting cost of $1,000+ per ear, though. Keep in mind that these devices can be lost in a heartbeat, can be damaged by water, and can wear out or otherwise need replacement for a variety of reasons within a 5-10 year timeframe, so for the same reason that it’s best not to go into hock for a high-end car you can’t otherwise afford, the same goes for hearing aids.

They are definitely worth doing, however, with your loss. Most people with your level of loss are amazed at the difference with good hearing aids and are sorry they waited so long.

By the way, check out my audiogram below–my loss is not as high as yours. I’m now 58 years old and was 56 when I got my first pair of aids. I had damaged my hearing with too much rock ‘n’ roll and power tools. I need hearing aids especially in my work where accurate speech comprehension in difficult environments is critical. I’m using the Alera 7s. I also tried Agil Pros and Alera 9s. For me, the Alera 7 had better bang-for-the-buck. Your mileage may vary. Costco now sells ReSound Futures, comparable to Alera 9s, for less than what I paid for Alera 7s. But I have an excellent audiologist who put my welfare first, and I needed a lot of attention early on, which I got, so it was money well-spent for me.

IIRC, AGX is an Audigy group branding. Audigy is essentially a buying group of audiologists that can get better deals out of the factory. My mother is an Audigy member and it is essentially the same hearing aid, we paid less for it and got an extra year on the warranty. If they are charging more for the AGX device, then I am not sure I would return to that office.

Generally speaking, the top of the line hearing device is the best performing. If someone needs a hearing aid, I always recommend my top of the line. Yes, it does make my company more money, but it is also a superior device and it will serve your needs better. That is why it is top of the line. Lower priced hearing aids simply tend to be yesterday’s top of the line. I know that the AGX line simply re-rates their devices every six months or so when a new device comes online - last years AGX 9 becomes this years 7 or even 5.

Shop around your area, and consider your insurance. Ask them if you buy a private label, will they reimburse you what they would have covered on the other devices. If you have a local Costco or Sam’s Club, check out if they have a hearing center as well. I work for Sam’s and we are not set up to take insurance but we can help with any forms that the insurance wants to help you get the insurance company to pay you back. Both Sam’s and Costco do a 90 day %100 money back trial, so it is fairly risk free as well.

Thank you for the replies. I appreciate the input and the advice. This is a really confusing process and the more information I can gatther, the more comfortable I will be in making a decision. The point about insurance reimbursement for a private brand is a good one - I would hate to make the purchase and find our after the fact that they won’t cover because of the brand name. I have already made appointments with two more audiologists and will see what they have to say. I was not comfortable at all with the sales pitch of the ones that I have talke with so far. I will keep you posted. Thanks again.

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It’s easy to see why so many HOH folks on here hate hearing professionals!

What a stupid approach to working with a patient.

I specialize in Starkey products myself, the largest hearing aid company in America. In their range of instruments the Ignite is a great open fit system, built just as well as the most expensive offerings. The system was based on an aid that was considered pretty high end four years ago, and it just got a nice make over last summer (they added some nice background noise suppression that only used to feature on the really expensive aids).

You can pick up the Ignite 20 for about $2800 a set. And probably several hundred more for the Ignite 30, which has more channels and will perform better in a background noise.

I’ve found these to be very effective, and they have a feedback elimination system that exceeds many $7000 hearing aids out there. This means more usable high frequency power, which will be handy with your loss.

You can read up on this solution here. It is available in two sizes (well there is more, but I am only talking about two here), the regular 312 size, and the tiny 10 RIC known as the Xino. Same technology just a different shape and size.

http://starkeypro.com/public/professionals/products/hearing-aids/xino/overview.jsp

http://starkeypro.com/public/professionals/products/hearing-aids/ignite.jsp

I’ve had a lot of luck helping people with these systems. Now that’s not to say that for $6,000 I couldn’t do WAY better with some fancy technology. But conversely, this doesn’t render the cheaper solution worthless.

The job of a hearing professional is to find a way to help EVERY patient, not just the rich ones. Those who don’t do this need to take a course in ethics.

Now personally, I won’t recommend a hearing system that I don’t think will do the job. But I see no reason why you couldn’t get excellent results here. Give it a trial and see how you do. If you can’t get along with it, you can always return it and try something else.

You were quite right to run a mile from some idiot who tells you its top of the line or nothing.

(ZCT: Right on. Good informative post)

Don’t be afraid to view your professional as a merchant seeking the maximum profit…as well as a semi-medical person. There are excellent mid-priced hearing aids available for moderate losses.

Like any other service you can bargain for the best price. There is considerable markup dollars in the list price of aids. Ed

People that treat patients in this manner and then call themselves a “professional” shouldn’t be allowed to practice. They make us all look bad.

There are excellent mid-level hearing aids out on the market. Not every one needs the best/most expensive thing out there no can everyone afford it. I’d say 60-70% of hearing aids I fit are mid-level technology for various reasons with generally excellent levels of success and very happy patients.

Also, if you have an insurance benefit available to you…use it! When I have patients that have a benefit, it is illegal for me to ask them to pay more than what their benefit allows. Our office accepted the contract and we must follow it. If you have a “professional” that is asking you to go outside the insurance because they will lose money on a sale then that’s their problem, not yours. If they didn’t want to accept what the insurance paid, they shouldn’t have signed up to be a provider for them.

This is a slightly extreme example of what we as HA users face with many hearing professionals.

The professionals here are top notch, and, unfortunately, we HA users tend to take our frustration out on them.

Thank you again for all your insight.

Thank you Ed. I know I have to work extra hard to get a thumbs up from you, so it makes them all the more special :wink:

Contrary to some occasional opinion, I didn’t start posting on this forum to promote Starkey. I wanted to see what hearing aid users and hearing professionals were saying about hearing aids. I wanted to learn from the mistakes of others, keep an ear to the ground about the industry ‘word on the street’ and I think it makes me a better professional accordingly.

Sadly these idiots we discuss from time to time wouldn’t bother ever doing anything like that, opting for extra training, or indeed trying to make sure they are experts at their chosen profession. And that is something that drives me crazy. I can only imagine what it does to HoH individuals who are relying on these people to improve their quality of life.

Island Guy,
On your next visit to your audiologist take a friend or family member along it might help sort though the various options. Both my wife and I were given the top of the line HA option with no mention of mid level, until we brought them up and then the audi’s added them into our options for our hearing loss. As Ed said, " they are merchants and seeking the maximum profit." However, if they aren’t interested in giving you all your options look elsewhere. Good luck!

I have heard you write that you have heard good things about other brands here several times. Unfortunately, as you have also stated, you have little direct knowledge of current products other than the Starkey brands.

The Starkey product line can cover almost any hearing loss situation. Therefore, when you recommend a Starkey product, some people assume your goal is not primarily to help us, but to market Starkey.

Those of us who have searched this forum and have been here a while have learned to appreciate each of the for their own strengths.

We have also seen professionals here occasionally who try to aggressively market their product. Most of them do not last long here.

Well I’ll let people judge me as they see fit. I’ll tell you how I’d solve the problem using Starkey technology if the poster were my patient. Other professionals can post their alternative proposals and the reader can draw their own conclusions.

I have had many personal messages of thanks over the many years I’ve been on this forum, and of the 1600+ posts I’ve made, a substantial amount have nothing to do with Starkey.

My advice is free, and if anyone doesn’t like it, they can have a full refund or ignore me. :slight_smile:

Prodigyplace,
We all know ZCT. is a HIS who sells Starkey HA. So what is he supposed to recommend other that Starkey? I would rather have his professional opinion as to what Starkey product would be good for my hearing loss than having him take a stab at what other HA might also work. He has always been a straight shooter on this Forum making no bones about the fact in his opinion Starkey offers the best HA. I would rather go to someone like him who knows his product line forward and backward than go to someone who sells 3 or 4 different HA’s and is an expert on none and unfortunately, we have read about to many of those so called professionals trying to help people on this Forum.

I’m not trying to deliberately mis-read you here, but if that’s the case, and given the variety of different manufacturer competence in different areas; how would you suggest that an Audiologist objectively delivers the best choice to the customer for any given hearing loss?

Our code of conduct explicitly states we have to act in the client’s best interest with high ethical standards - I can’t work out how to equate that with delivering a hearing aid from a company which may not be the most appropriate for their needs, while ignoring the remainder of the market and therefore keeping the customer in the dark about what is potentially the best solution to their loss.

Who says a single-vendor has to do that? They can offer their best solution and suggest there may be other options they do not provide. They already do much the same thing when they suggest a patient see an ENT for care they do not provide.

I believe seb & I are not referring to any of the regular professionals here, such as yourself, when we refer to multi-vendor professionals. The professionals here have made very insightful comments regarding their different product offerings.

We are not saying that a multi-vendor professional is necessarily bad, but being multi-vendor can be bad unless they know their products well. I had a bad experience early last year with a professional group who advertises on their website as being multi-vendor, but they are actually single-vendor. The professional they assigned to me could not program the aids any where near to my needs. They would not offer another brand (I asked.) nor a different professional. I left them and found this forum to look for alternatives.

We are not meaning to attack the professionals here, but are warning people seeking help for their hearing problem. I guess some of us need to post a boilerplate disclaimer in our signatures, saying that the professionals here are excluded from our comments unless specifically mentioned. :frowning:

It’s Ok, none taken :wink:

If I can give another example. I live in a bilingual area. People arriving from elsewhere sometimes comment that this is a hindrance in terms of translation, educational cost, signage etc. However it’s well established that the area overachieves against national education language averages despite not being particularly wealthy.

Learning more than one path to the same result gives you a better standard of education AND teaches you what you are trying to do more efficiently in the long term. It also instils an appreciation of the alternative measures you can undertake if you hit a brick-wall rather than just ‘smoothing’ the customer over with enthusiasm and confidence.

If the practice you mentioned above had actually been a multi-product outfit they could have switched you to the product or professional that met your needs. Or, if they knew a guy down the street that could do a better job, passed you onto them: a process called co-opposition.

Fundamentally there’s nothing wrong with selling more than one brand: the dilution argument is flawed in terms of educational evidence. Commercial reasons for sticking to one brand are a different kettle of fish, which ought not to be brought into the argument as some people can run a business more lean than others; thereby coping with a lower profit margin.

In response to the original poster: yes, a mid-range hearing aid will serve you just as well 95% of the time. It really matters however if the remaining 5% of the time is very important to your life-style or not which balances your work, levels of social interaction, need to hear in challenging environments etc.

The answer is as ever, get the best you can comfortably afford now.

I disagree. I think one of the issues with my current fitter is that he deals wit too many vendors and his knowledge is too spread out. From memory, he deals with Starkey, Micro Tech, Siemens, Bernafon, and a number of others. I also think business motives sometimes get in the way of his advice. Right after we discussed about why I should get Micro Tech CIC aids, he tried to sell me some Berafon RIC aids he had in stock. Unfortunately, I think I am stuck with him, at least for the obligated 3 year warranty and assicoated period on my aids. I am supposed to get my right aid back tonight after 3 weeks away for repair.

I sympathize with you, ZCT.

I am sure I have been accused of marketing & promoting a certain enterprise wireless networking vendor. They have worked closely with us as a customer and have achieved amazing things. Just yesterday on a mailimg list, I disputed somebody’s statement & refuted it with my experience with our vendor. I then mentioned that I was sure the original poster’s competing vendor had a similar solution. My current experience is primarily with a very supportive vendor that meets our needs. We gladly help other educational institutions find what is best for them by sharing experiences and information, much like this forum.

I just wanted you to know that I have experienced both sides of the single-vendor / multi-vendor issue.