Lifelong analog user, need help updating and adjusting

Hi all, brand new member here! I’m one of those unfortunate souls who has relied on BTE analog aids all my life (in my mid-30’s, aided since toddlerhood), and need help making this inevitable transition to digital options. To make matters worse, it was only this past week that my circa-2001 Phonak PicoForte started with the little static noises so I’d been wearing the same aid for what, 15 years? It’s out for repair/refurbishing (fingers crossed) but in the meantime I’m coming to terms with the fact that it won’t last forever, and trying to find a comfortable replacement while kicking myself for not leisurely investigating all of this earlier.

I live close enough to Lloyd Hearing Center to visit them, so I’ve been working with someone there to find something but haven’t had any luck so far. I’m not even sure what to ask for- so far I’ve tried several inexpensive, simple digitals as cost was rather a concern and I thought they’d be similar to an analog, but they’re nothing like what I’m used to. Cost is becoming less and less of a concern as the quality-of-life issue is rearing its head- I’ve found myself in tears over this (I know I’m not the only one) and am now willing to put more on the credit card. Can anyone give me some pointers for making the transition to digital? I miss the robust sound.

My stats should be in my signature if I’ve done it right, lol.

~Nicki

Hi,

what you need foremost is a capable audiologist (or HIS or whatever, I don´t know the english terms).

Analog aids usually have

  • less compression
  • no noise reduction

So if I were an hearing aid fitter, I´d try to start with a setting like that and then try to improve it a bit, because digital aids can be set up very subtly.

I don´t think that you need the most expensive aid (binaural features won´t work for you anyway, the top-aids focus much on that), what you need is an expert fitter.

Yours

Musician_72

Many thanks for your response! I do have the feeling that the person from Lloyd’s, while being very helpful and kind, is simply trying to sell me something “budget-friendly” that matches the relative specs and body style of my old hearing aid instead of working with me to truly replicate the sound. I’ll be calling a few audiologists’ offices this morning to set up consultations.

I honestly was hoping this wouldn’t be a long, drawn-out ordeal! I’m already afraid about having to go back to an audiologist umpteen times for tiny little tweaks to a program. I’m such a DIY tinkerer with other things-I’m actually hoping I can glean enough info from a better hearing consultation to figure out how to do things myself. What I’d love at this point is just a digital with high-quality microphone/receiver, connecting USB cable and adjustment program on CD. Should I post something in the DIY section here?

Yes and no.

First of all: With your flat loss, you´ll need custom molds for optimum performance. Those must be done by a pro.

Second: A flat loss like yours isn´t especially hard to fit, so one one hand it would be possible to do it yourself, on the other, it shouldn´t be a problem for a fitter, too.

Third: You are used to the sound of your old aid. Even though you have a flat loss, the old aid probably doesn´t amplify “flat”. To reproduce that sound, an in-situ-measurement of the old aid and comparison with the new aid would be really useful. This can be done by a pro only.

The do-it-yourself route would be the way if there is absolutely no capable pro in your area. I have fitting equipment, but I use it to re-arrange my programs and extra-features most of the time, I seldom do real tweaks on the amplification.

However, there are lots and lots of people who struggle with the transition from analog to digital, so in the real world it must be quite hard to find a capable fitter. I seriously can´t understand what´s so hard in adjusting compression ratios and so on, it´s not rocket science after all. I am afraid that there is a high percentage of fitters who can´t do more than type in an audiogram and press the fit-button. This won´t do in your case.

So good luck, I´d try to find a good fitter before taking the do-it-yourself route.

Oh, I’ll definitely talk to a pro first! I’ve just read the horror stories on here about incompetent, arrogant audiologists and perhaps that’s put me on the defensive already. I tend to be a control freak and worry that I’d be a problem client…

I do have a custom mold, so that’s not an issue at all.

I would seriously post the audiogram for your right ear.

For all frequencies? No, my right ear gets up to about 70 dB at 500Hz and then quickly slopes to below 90, but there’s distortion as well so it’s been unaided my whole life (well over 30 years, lol). I don’t see bone conduction symbols on any of my old tests, so not sure on those numbers. I actually haven’t had a full audiogram done in quite a while- I’ll change my signature to include stats for both ears after my exam next week.

The frequency range on those models seems amazing! I tried a tone tester audio clip online, and if I pull my hearing aid out and crank up the volume I can detect sounds almost to 10k, so having those amplified properly would be a new experience for me. I think the older aids could only go up to about 5k Hz or so?

It probably will be a long process to find what you need and adapt to it. You could ask for less compression and that may make it sound more like what you are used to. However, it is never going to sound exactly the same, which is fine. You will adapt to the new sound. The purpose of the hearing aid is to help with speech understanding, so if it does that it is doing its job, even if it sounds tinny.

Well, it’s been about three weeks since my original post so I thought I’d give an update on my situation. It’s been quite a ride, that’s for sure!

I’ve tried out 7 hearing aids in the past few weeks while my old one was sent out for repairs by Lloyd Hearing Aid Co. Since cost was a concern at first, I started with less expensive, simpler options and ended with a older-model Phonak Naida for about $1,000. The first aid, the Base 2P from Lloyd, had wide range dynamic compression which I realized after noticing background noises fading in and out. Traded that in for a Microson aid (made in Spain, I believe) that lowered the pitch of sounds. Gave up on Lloyd at that point and ordered a couple aids online- a cheap Siemens Lotus from Amazon and a refurbished Phonak PicoForte analog that was a very similar model to my old one. While waiting for the online orders to arrive, I had an appointment with another audiologist who recommended the Phonak Naida S and loaned me a (frikking huge) Siemens BTE analog until the new digital arrived. Couldn’t get the base and mid-tones adjusted comfortably on that loaner. Meanwhile…

The Lotus from Amazon was actually not too bad! Definitely one of the top contenders for a replacement at this point. But then the refurb PicoForte arrived, and after tweaking the trimmers a bit it sounds about 95% similar to my old aid. (It should! It’s just a slightly different model.) I then got a call from Lloyd that my hearing aid was repaired and ready to be picked up!! I was so excited to make that drive… but when I got to the office for my appointment, I inspected the aid and realized right away that it wasn’t my old one that had been sent in. I was casually informed at that point that “your old aid wasn’t able to be repaired, so the lab sent you this one instead.” Even though I am incredibly pissed off that my old aid wasn’t returned to me (they’re apparently still trying to track it down after I insisted on it being located and returned) the one they sent me is another slightly-different PicoForte model and is also very close to my old one.

Then I got the call from the other audiologist’s office that my Naida was in, so made an appointment with her to try it out. This went horribly- even though the compression, SoundRecover, and feedback suppression were turned off, we were butting heads about how to set the gain for the different channels. She starts giving me dubious looks and telling me that I’m “really far off my target” and that “your prescription really should be for these settings.” I knew as soon as I got to the noisier receptionist’s area that I wasn’t going to be able to handle the sounds, but made it to the car before ripping it out of my ear and having (yet another) meltdown. I did want to take it home and try to figure out how to communicate the sound differences to the audiologist and perhaps have it adjusted more to my comfort, but after the Naida completely mangled the high, pure flute notes in my favorite piece of classical music I just… gave up.

I returned the Naida this afternoon. I now have 2 working, refurbished Phonak PicoForte analogs and I’m thinking about ordering a third one online while I wait for word from the repair lab on the whereabouts of my old one. I know that I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to get my hands on these analog gems! So here are my thoughts on my failed attempt to switch from analog to digital –

I have heard sounds a certain way all my life, since my parents first got me an aid between 2-3 years old. However my auditory cortex has developed, it has been in conjunction with the older analog technology. I now have over 3 decades worth of auditory memories that would have to be re-programmed by my brain if I were to switch to digital, as well as just “getting used to the sound of it.” Even though my audiologist assured me that my “normal” perception of sounds is not actually physiologically correct, my “normal” hearing has allowed me to be a straight-A student in school, fall in love and get married, start my own business, enjoy many types of music and hanging out with friends, understand speech pretty darn well most of the time… and I realized that I currently don’t have the emotional capacity to work on getting closer to being “correct” hearing-wise. So I’m done. We’re out of money for more experimentation now anyways.

Perhaps in the future I will re-visit the digital options, if I can find an audiologist who’s willing to toss “prescriptions” and “targets” out the window in favor of my comfort and who will work reallllly slowly towards actual improvements in my speech comprehension if I feel I need it. More likely, I’ll order a Hi-Pro box from ebay, purchase slightly-older model aids from someone like JustinHIS here on the forums, and pirate the fitting software.

I know this was really long, but I hope my experience might help someone else in this predicament. It will definitely take either the help of a super-experienced and sympathetic audiologist or a completely independent DIY mindset to make the transition! Thanks for reading. =)

Well, it looks like you’ll be in good shape for a while – whether or not they find the old aid. I know the folks at Lloyd’s will do their best to get it back for you. Nice people.

You aren’t the only person that’s complained about moving to digital here. So, you aren’t alone.

Hi,

as I said before, an audiologist who takes things seriously would have to make an in-situ-measurement of the old aid.

Then you can program a digital aid to reproduce that sound. Then you can slowly (!) improve those settings if you want.

Congrats to your new “old” aids. Those are quite some achievements you have listed and I think you are right in staying with the analogs.

If you want to try digital aids again, I´d ask the audi up-front if he is willing to take the in-situ measurement of the old aid as a starting point. If not, go somewhere else.

Honestly, taking an audiogram, entering those numbers in the fitting software and let the computer do the work is a piece of cake. I can do that in 15 minutes with the software I am used to (including taking the audiogram, without audiogram: 5 minutes)

I could produce a “no compression” program in another two minutes, even if the software has no “linear” button.

A case like yours really would need a professional: Taking correct in-situ measurements is not easy, re-programming a digital aid to match this isn´t easy either (because you have to start from scratch, there is no target that will match this). But if the so called professionals just go and press the button and tell people like you that you aren´t normal, because you don´t like what it sounds if “on target”, then we don´t need professionals.

I´m sure that there are great audiologists around, but it seems that the button-pressers are legion.

Yours

Musician_72

So it sounds like the settings for your hearing loss sound too loud to you. Doesn’t that tell you that you have had them set too low for a long time? You may need to go through an adjustment period like a new wearer, 1 hour the first day or two, then 2 hours, then 4 hours, and so on. Things like crinkling paper, running water, electronic chirps, etc. will sound way too loud at first but you will get used to it pretty quickly, and your brain will start to filter out those things.

The high tones will get much clearer in a couple of months. My first one was a Starkey Destiny CIC and high tones were terribly distorted and fuzzy. Music sounded terrible. I just thought that was the way it was with hearing aids. After about 6 months I noticed one day that high musical tones were incredibly clear and pure. It had been a long time since I had heard music like that.

One more question, about taking a hearing test. Do you press the button as soon as you can identify there is a sound, or do you wait until the tone is loud enough to hear well. If it was the latter that would account for hearing aids set for your “prescription” sounding too loud.

Did you get two hearing aids? If so then you would definitely have to go through the new wearer adjustment, and yes, they will sound loud at first.

No on-board volume control?

Trying seven aids in a few weeks?

My suggestion would be Oticon Nera2, or better, devices. Or if you are working with older models, you can go with Agil, or Alta. Do not go with Acto or Ino or Nera. You will struggle more with any other aids on the market from any other manufacturer. The reason is because of Oticon’s VAC fitting formula. The VAC formula attempts to mimic a “minimally compressed, analog window” around the speech signal, isolating it from the rest of the compressed digital signal. You will want to move very slowly. Basically, you will work to get the devices “comfortable” enough to wear them all day. They do not have to sound perfect to you, but just comfortable enough to wear all day without screaming. Then your fitter needs to look at the final end result goal and extrapolate a manual adaptation path where you come into the office every 2 weeks or so for a minor adjustment to transition you from your “comfort” setting to the “prescriptive” setting. It may take several months to get you there, so it will take some patience and persistence on your part. I would also look into doing auditory therapy exercises through brainhq.com while this process is going on to better train your brain on the new sound quality.

Hello, Just joined the forum today. So, yeah, this thread is like a year old, but I can’t believe no-one has said this: General Hearing Instruments, (GHI) based in Louisiana, will make you a analog aid.

I had the same problem a few years ago - my aids failing, time for new ones, and low and behold, it’s all digitals now. Yeah, sucks. But GHI will still make you one!!!
I have two of them, (CIC) and quite honestly, they are just as good or better as the siemens/starkeys/others that I’ve had in years past…

Please check them out. www.generalhearing.com - they have a search feature to find dealers in your area.

And, to you, Viridian, I love your story because mine is so similar, however, I’ve been lucky enough to be dealing with some top-ace audiologists in my journey. Sadly, mine retired a few years back so I’m still looking for a new one for the eventual replacements… you mentioned, you live by Lloyds? I assume Rockford, IL? Well, there are several audiologists that deal with GHI that are well within a one-hour drive from that area.

Good luck, I hope someone who still wants a brand-new analog aid is reading this.