Need Hearing Aids But Need Advice

Hi, I have been lurking here for over a year or so, trying to gain as much knowledge as possible about hearing aids, and now I am compelled to post this in hopes somebody can relate and advise on my problem/issue.

Put plainly I have what I think is “moderate” to maybe borderline severe hearing loss. I need hearing aids and have needed them for years (I’m an ex-rock musician). I cannot afford much; at least I cannot afford to spend more than two or three thousand dollars on them. I am living on Social Security and have no hearing insurance. I have saved a few thousand dollars but not the 6-8k I gather it would cost to get the newest, best aids and fitting from an audiologist or one of the various franchise stores.

Compounding the problem is that I am in a very, very rural location in the middle of the north woods. The nearest place that fits and sells hearing aids is over 45 miles/1 hour away. These locations are for brands I don’t feel comfortable with; e.g.; Beltone, MiracleEar, Starkey-exclusive stores. There are literally 6-8 of these types of businesses all within an hour to hour ½ from here. There are no other independent audiologists or HIS other than at the small local hospital, and they make it pretty clear the only way to offset their sky-high prices with them is to use their insurance (the hospital system just happens to own and sell their own health insurance).

Of course I know about Costco, and would be all-in to go that route; prices well within my savings range, long trial period, variety of name brands etc. But, the nearest Costco is 210 miles away (3 ½ hour drive each way). I would be good with that drive if I knew I would only need to make 1 or 2 trips. Has anybody had experience with that long a drive to get fitted at Costco?

I am also hesitant to consider online/mail-order route, but mostly because I just don’t know enough about people’s actual experiences with that approach. I also see questionable satisfaction with those type aids. Oh, and I know beggers can’t be choosers, but I really worry about fidelity, being a music lover and musician.

I would really appreciate any insights, opinions and advice anybody might have as to how to get going in the right direction.

2 Likes

Welcome to the forum @don4787… Unfortunately, I think you may have to bite the bullet, and do the 7 hour round trip drive to Costco, not unless you want to go the DIY route, which is a learning curve, but you will find plenty of assistance on here… @Musician got his aids online from Germany, from a very helpful eBay seller, perhaps he could advise… Good Luck, Cheers Kev :wink:

1 Like

Nothing is going to be ideal, but I second the idea of trying Costco. There are many people who are satisfied with the initial settings. On the flip side, many are not and require multiple adjustments, but the only way to find out is to try it. You’ll learn a lot in the process. If music is still important to you, it may be more challenging. Musicians are often the most challenging to get a satisfactory hearing aid fit. I’d look at purchasing hearing aids from Costco as going to “hearing aid school.” If you’re not satisfied with what they can do for you, there is still the option of do it yourself programming. And if after 180 days you’re not satisfied, you’ll know a lot more and still have the option of mail order and do it yourself. Other than gas money and time, you won’t be out much. Once you do get an audiogram, posting it here is helpful. (Top of page, click on FORUM, and then My Hearing Tests

7 Likes

@don4787 Have you called all of the (somewhat closer) business and asked directly for instance “Can you fit and program a Phonak device if I bring one to you?” I ask because if you go the Costco route you could get the KS10 models, which are very programmable by any audiologist that supports Phonak.

OTOH, the notion that it’s a single round trip is wrong … you’ll do one for the hearing test, etc, and then another weeks later when the device is ready … at least my local stores do NOT stock any.

But you’re suggesting you’ll be OK with two round trips (as much a PITA as that will be). How successful that fit will be has a lot of randomness to it, not least of which is the skill of the person fitting you. But if there WERE someone closer that handled Phonak devices, you could then ask them to take over programming the device. That won’t be free, of course, but I’ve heard less than $200…

I also second chatting with @Musician about this…

3 Likes

You might want to look at something like Lively aids. They are “mail order”, but their top aid is a Resound One copy and for the price is a great aid at a great price. They can do all of your adjustments remotely and have a 100 day trial I believe. I have Resound One aids and talked to a guy that was very happy with his Lively aids and hr said the service was very accommodating. Their top end aid is approximately $2k. I belive they offer an online hearing test, but i would recommend getting a real hearing test from your dr or another professional although many have said the online tests closely resemble their audi furnished hearing test. It might be worth a look. Also, all of the current aids Costco sells support remote programming…

3 Likes

I’ve heard of some people talking to Costco in advance and telling them about a long drive and that they’d like to buy a certain aid and to please have it available when they show up for the exam and Costco accomodated. Would require knowing what aid one wanted and having Costco agree to it. Would be nice to know what receiver strength was needed, although not mandatory. (Sorry for awful run-on sentence)

3 Likes

I too am about 3 1/2 hours from the nearest Costco. My previous two sets of aids were purchased through them and I think they did a very good job in fitting and maintaining the HAs. You will probably need three appointments: one to test, one to fit, and one for adjustments. Depending on the aid, you might be able to have adjustments made remotely. Currently I am using aids that I got through Ziphearing and they set me up with a local Audi. The prices were more reasonable than what is regularly charged but not in the same league as Costco.

2 Likes

I am very satisfied with the KS10s I was recently fitted for at COSTCO. I have made three trips there (2 hr round trip), but you could probably do it in two trips. Most COSTCO HA centers can do remote adjustments on the KS10, so you would probably be fine with any follow up tweaks you need without having to drive to the store again. Just make sure you get a supply of domes before you leave the store with your new aids.

2 Likes

In your situation, I would also opt for costco. You will get a great hearing aid plus save thousands. Making three trips over the course of say 3 months to me would be worth saving $1 to 4k depending on brands you would get from another provider. Plus the warranty is outstanding.

2 Likes

I am an amateur musician, and I have found the Costco KS10s to be satisfactory, and I am happy. I can understand my wife and play music. However, there’s a big HOWEVER here. I have gone to two different Costco centers–I live in a metropolitan area. In both cases the testing and fitting were unacceptable. For example, I don’t have such a low frequency drop-off as shown if you click on my name. If I didn’t DIY, I would return the KS10s. I did return the Philips aids from the first Costco I went to. At that Costco they also were unable to do remote fitting, though it should have been possible.

The KS10 is rechargeable. Some like that. I don’t, but I’ll live with that. As you have read, you never get back the hearing you had when you were young. You compromise.

Another thing to consider is that if you have significant low frequency loss, you may need molds. That’s two trips to Costco or an accommodating audiologist. Do budget for more than just the cost of the aids.

2 Likes

My situation is very similar to yours. I have been frantically looking at information on-line to try to become somewhat fluent in hearing aid terminology, but I still feel overwhelmed, and I thought I would have new ones by now. (looking for aids is about 10 times more complicated than looking for a security camera at Amazon – they have about 40,000 models to look at)

For me, the 3.5 hr drive is significant. (at gas prices at $4.60 and going 210 miles at 30mi/gal comes out to about $35 per trip in just gas). That’s because of my age and on limited funds.

Also, Costco does not sell some aids of interest to me, such as Oticon. I’m not a musician, but on their site, they say that the platform of deep neural network, or DNN, will help give musicians a better listening experience. The AI platform gives a listening angle of 360 ֯ . (so they say)

Also, don’t forget to take your iphone (along with PCP referral, insurance cards, hearing test), and find out about compatibility for the apps needed. In my case, I have an Android phone, and have to wait until the Android 12 is added to my A02s for some brands. (they say it’ll be out next month)

And last, I found that audiologists not on commission will spend more time with you and go into more detail, as the last one I visited did. I was going to get them there until she told me something strange.
She said I could trial a pair of aids for 1 month, and if I wanted to trial another pair to see if it was better, that I could not “go back” to purchase the first one. (this sounded like craziness to me)

So, call first, and ask them about trials, insurance, warranties, etc. In my case, as an old guy of “advanced age” (as one poster referred to me), I’ve found from experience, that if I don’t plan enough, I’m sorry for it later.
Good luck!

2 Likes

If you don’t mind, I’m going to ask my hearing aid supplier in Germany about you and what he could do for you if anything. I’m thinking that you would get your test from your local person and then buy your aids online as a possibility. I got some more ones for $2400 and I really think they are the best for musicians. My student, who is also a professional singer, got a pair and loves them.

4 Likes

Hello Don. I told my German person about you. He can help you if you get yourself a hearing test. They are cheaper models than the one I got. This guy is very helpful. If you want his WhatsApp phone number just message me.

Regards

3 Likes

I self program my Resound One’s and in my music program, (along with custom molds) took a while to get the adjustment correct but they do sound really good. Not anything like real headphones, but much better than anything else I have tried. I also have Oticon 1’s and haven’t been able to get music to sound near as good as my Resound’s, but the Oticon’s are older

1 Like

Seven hours, which would definitely wipe out any savings, at $5 per gallon, and more than one visit required for adjustments makes me think something a little closer to home would seem more practical, even if more expensive. Sorry if I missed it but have you had a hearing test done

Holy Cow. I didn’t expect such great response to my post. Too Cool!

It seems my suspicions were correct that suggestions would be leaning toward Costco. If they were 20 minutes away I might already be wearing aids provided by them.

However your replies have opened up other possibilities I now need to mull over. It’s clear I have some more thinking to do given the great insights I have been provided last 24 hours.

A few things I did not mention previously that maybe I should have are that I am not an IPhone person, strictly Android. I use smartphone very seldom since in my location I don’t have reliable cell service, just hit or miss. It seems every aid appears to prefer IPhone. Does using Android limit my choices; it’s hard to tell by reading the manufacturer’s blurbs. Also I wear glasses; wire rim. Do some aids fit better than others for those with glasses?

I have scheduled a hearing exam with the only Audiologist within a few 100 miles, but they are booked solid until mid-July, so I guess I have some additional time for more research (and hair pulling). They say I might be able to get in sooner if they have cancellations and to check back weekly.

I am not opposed to a DIY approach except I don’t know what that entails. I am technically oriented, background in electronics servicing and software development so not too worried about getting my hands dirty.

I need to spend some more time now going over these responses, and can’t thank you all enough for your insight so far.

2 Likes

Regarding Android. Most new hearing aids are compatible with iPhones and some Android phones. The Android Phone needs to be ASHA compatible. In general, Samsung or Google Pixel phones with Android 10 or later are ASHA compatible. There’s also the issue of app compatibility. In general, if the phone will stream to the hearing aids, the app will be compatible. Phones that aren’t compatible can usually be handled by some sort of intermediary device. If you want somethi.ng that will stream to laptop, tablet, etc., as well as the phone, without an intermediary device, Phonak uses regular Bluetooth and can do that. Others will need an intermediary device I’ve given “in general” comments. When it comes down to specifics, verify before committing.

3 Likes

Thanks for quick reply MDB.

I’m pretty good with technology but am a confessed neophyte when it comes to smartphones. I’m pushing 70 and for the last 30+ years have lived essentially without a smartphone because
A) I get no reception at my location B) I work from home as a software developer and strictly use landline for business, C) I have internet access via DSL and have multiple desktops/laptops I can use, D) I travel very, very little, E) I’m on a low budget and currently have a very low cost Motorola phone with prepaid service.

Literally the only thing we (my wife and I) bought smartphones for was for emergencies or so I could find her at the Walmart or call with a question from the grocery store.

I’m now sensing a new smartphone (or an adaptor as you mention) is going to be another requisite expense. Also I’m not clear about the need to stream; I get that the phone needs to talk to the aids via an “app” to perform settings, but not sure what else streaming provides that I would need or be interested in given I seldom ever use the smartphone for anything. About the only thing that I think I would like is to stream TV; I mostly watch with headphones currently so I can crank the volume without disturbing others.

I figured this would happen; the more I dig in, the deeper I get with questions and reservations. I shall persevere. Thanks again for your info.

1 Like

Others will disagree, but I don’t really think one needs the app. I never use mine and I don’t stream from my phone since I rarely use it. Streaming from the TV is very nice. Most hearing aid companies sell a compatible TV Streamer.

I am not a musician but enjoy listening to high end audio equipment. My hearing loss is typical aging dropping off at ~4K Hz by 70dB. One thing that I found trialing the receiver in the ear hearing aids was a complete loss of sound stage and depth. RIC is in my mind not really receiver in the ear but transmitter(speaker) in the ear. The true receivers are those two small mics sitting on the top of the ear, so they completely lose the benefit of pinna. I tried both Oticon More and Starkey and found that stereo became monophonic sound…I could not locate the origin of the sound at all. I finally settled on Signia Insios ITC…I have my stereo sound back. However, even purchasing via Zip Hearing online they fall outside your target pricing raBeHearnge. Prior to the Signia Insio purchase I found that the BeHear Access(~$300 on Amazon) did a very good job(better that either the Starkey or Oticon More at ~$4000). BeHear Access has a very good app(both Android and iOs) that allows its adjustment.When I have done audio sweeps, every hearing aid cuts out at ~8 K Hz. You cannot match that high range you have lost.