New hearing aid user confused and frustrated. May need a new audiologist?

Back in August, I went to an ENT about worsening tinnitus. They did a hearing test and the ENT described it as “significant” hearing loss and thought that I would benefit from hearing aids. I’m 47 and have never noticed any loss though there have been a few things that concerned me (harder time understanding dialog on TV/movies, sometimes difficulty understanding conversation). This was still surprising to me but I decided to go ahead and get hearing aids. Since all of this was new to me, I had no clue what I was getting into. :slight_smile:

Now the problem is that I don’t think the audiologist that I’m seeing is right for me. This is at a hearing center in the ENT office. For my first visit with this audiologist, I had to fill out a form with what was most important to me in a hearing aid–it’s a little hard to have much insight having never worn hearing aids and not even knowing anybody who does. When I met the audiologist, she put a pair of hearing aids on me first thing and we talked about technology tiers and pricing which took about an hour. She didn’t really make any recommendations or offer much insight other than I might not need the highest tier aids with my level of loss. I ended up choosing the penultimate tier but there was no discussion of specific brands. Went back the next week for the fitting. She had chosen the Widex Moment 330 and put them in with medium domes. She ran the feedback program (I believe) and then did a hearing test through the HAs (while there was a lot of noise from people walking in the hallway just outside the door). Then we sat and talked for a while as she asked me how things sounded and did some tweaking. I was annoyed by “static” which turned out to be my hair rubbing the microphone (which I had to figure out on my own later that day). She changed out domes to the large ones because I thought those sounded better. It is really hard to tell about how they sound in a strange place and a room with high ceilings, laminate floors, plexiglass between me and her, and no real sound deadening material.

When I went to work the next day, the frustration set in. There are long hallways and a lot of glass with no carpet where I work and so there was a fair bit of echoing. There is also a constant white noise from the HVAC system which now sounded muffled. This was all a bit disconcerting to me since I was used to the way everything sounded having worked in this building for 21 years. I complained about all of this at my first follow-up 2 weeks later. I mentioned that the large domes seemed to be working themselves out of my ear canals and when that happened, the muffled quality of sound got worse. I told her if I pushed them as far as I could until they would just start to hurt a bit, the sound was very clear. Her suggestion: don’t keep pushing them in. :eyeroll: She tweaked some stuff and asked me how things sounded. In that room, I thought it was better. I asked about PureSound and she turned that on for me even though I’m out of the range for it per Widex. HVAC was still muffled at work and the echoing was still there. All of this made it hard to understand people at work, which I’ve never really had much of an issue with. At the second follow-up I again complained about these things. She tweaked some more and set up another appointment which fell outside the trial period. This was on a Wednesday and by Friday I was ready to take them back for good. However, after the weekend, they seemed to be much better though there was a constant hiss in a quiet environment which was new. So I called and got another appointment before my trial was over. She described the hiss as “electrical noise”. I tried to explain that this wasn’t constant and that I could hear the hiss kick in after sound stopped, I assume due to them amping up the gain automatically. She did lower the high frequencies a little which has mostly fixed the hiss. And for the first couple of days everything seemed good and then one morning when I put them in, everything seemed more muffled than the day before. I don’t really understand that. I had mentioned it to the audiologist and she chalked it up to something wrong with my ears such as stuffiness which doesn’t seem correct to me.

In the meantime, I’ve been researching all about this. I found Dr. Cliff’s videos and this forum which have me questioning the quality of care I’m getting. I made an appointment with another audiologist from Dr. Cliff’s list and went and saw her. This second audi said with my complaints she would recommend the 440s due to better performance in noisy environments and more frequencies to adjust. She also said that I might benefit from trying a different brand. She said she was disappointed that the ENT didn’t do a speech in noise test. She does do REM (which has never been mentioned at the place I’ve been going to) and she seemed passionate about helping and all the reviews I’ve found have been great. I think I want to switch to her. The main issue is cost/insurance. I’m not sure that I would be able to return the 330s and start over with a new audi by the end of the year. And her pricing was more expensive and seemed to come with less perks (cleaning visits etc). I could keep the 330s and then go to the second audi for programming though I would have to pay for that. And I’m not sure if keeping the 330s is the best idea. I did ask my current audi about upgrading to the 440s with the thought that at least I would have the best and I could still go to the second audi for programming, but current audi said the 440s wouldn’t help with my level of loss.

I assume that some of what I’m experiencing is just the normal process of getting used to HAs but not sure if that is all of it or if they just aren’t programmed correctly. It’s very frustrating to have to drive an hour to the ENT office for tweaking them and not really being able to tell if it helped or not until the next day and then having to wait for a couple of weeks to try again.

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I’m shocked they think it’s significant, it’s a mild to moderate loss. It’s unusual but not significant.

As it’s unusual and not the standard / most common hearing loss shape, getting the hearing aids programmed will always be harder.

It is good to find the right audiologist.

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Sounds like the Audi is not been honest.

Difference only between 330 and 440 is features ONLY not power.

Your loss is not that bad so you could easily have both.

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@DWes17: I think this us an invalid assumption, on your part. I suggest that you return your present HAs and do some serious shopping for an audiologist.

I must admit, I do find some of your descriptions to be “cryptic” (like … don’t we want HVACs to sound muffled, and not sharp and clear?* … also: of course we should expect everything to sound different with HAs! They should be allowing us to hear things we haven’t been able to hear for years!) but it doesn’t sound as though your audi is communicating with you very effectively. IMO that’s what hearing and HAs are all about: communication!

Perhaps take a step back and study some more before you part with your money? You need to have a clear idea of what your hearing problems are before you can develop an effective strategy for solving them.

(FWIW: Your audiogram looks funny. I’d have the test repeated by a different audiologist.)

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@Zebras: Why aren’t you being more sceptical about the validity of the OP’s audiogram?

The second audiologist had issue with the ENT using “significant” too. I think he was using it more that my hearing was bad enough to warrant hearing aids and not in the sense that the loss was severe.

And I was/am concerned about the shape and programming. I can’t remember for sure but I think the second audiologist mentioned that the shape meant that I would be a more difficult fit.

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@DWes17: Again, strictly FWIW - I think your instincts about a lot of this new (to you) stuff are good. I’d go with them … Question everything because a bad/ineffectual fitting will cost you years of frustration, time, and money.

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I was meaning more of the quality of the sound. It’s quite different from what I’ve always heard and because it is more muffled that it ever has been in the past, it makes more of a roaring sound than a hiss. And this makes it harder to understand people.

I wondered if it was more of a noise suppression algorithm but the audi disagreed though didn’t offer up any alternative. I said it would be better to not hear it at all and she said I wouldn’t want that because it wouldn’t be natural.

I agree that the audiologist is not very good at communicating. She wasn’t too friendly to begin with though that has improved but most of the time when I complain, she either outright says that it’s something I need to get used to or she’ll make some adjustments but still acts like it’s just the way it’s going to be.

Yeah, after googling about audiograms and looking at what people have shared here, it does look odd. I’ve actually had three different tests performed by two different audiologists at the ENT office (every time I see the ENT basically) and they’ve all got the same pattern. The HL varies for each frequency but not by a whole lot. And I’ve done a couple of online tests and an iPhone app that generates an audiogram and they all have the same weird shape. I was kind of in denial that the test was accurate at first but it definitely seems repeatable.

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Looks like a reverse cookie bite loss to me, and maybe @Neville or @Um_bongo could give their professional opinions… But I believe they a difficult to fit? Could be wrong though… Good luck, cheers Kev :wink:

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@DWes17: Thanks for your clear response to my questions: it has laid to rest some important things that I was not understanding correctly.

But there’s one card left on the table for me, and that’s the audiologist. I don’t know how many audiologists grow in your part of Kentucky, but I’d be aiming my Hawken past this one onto a different squirrel.

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@SpudGunner i have dealt with audiologist that have hearing loss and also the ones without hearing loss. The ones without hearing loss have never understood my complaint an always said I would have to accept my loss and get use to it. The ones with out loss never really took the time to do the correct fittings. I hope that not all of them are that way. I have had two really great audiologists that have had hearing loss and really took the time to do the fittings right.

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That’s my thought. There are several places within an hour’s drive from me so I have some choice. Hard to know if any are really good. A coworker whose daughter wore hearing aids for a while went to University of KY Hospital audiologists and she recommended trying them out but I’m not sure whether that would be a good idea or not.

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It makes perfect sense that audiologists that deal with hearing loss themselves would know more about how to really make things sound the best. Someone who doesn’t need hearing aids won’t really have that experience. Of course, neither do I at this point! :slight_smile:

I think my other issue is that my loss is mild enough that I’m not getting a “wow, I’ve never heard that before” feeling. I’m actually struggling to notice any differences at all really. I noticed parts of songs that I’ve never heard before. Maybe this is just me paying closer attention since I’m looking for differences. I did notice something the other day though that did somewhat surprise me. I was listening to a song on my way home from work. I got home before the song was over. The next morning I went out to McDonald’s to get breakfast but didn’t put my hearing aids in to do that. When that song picked up again, the singer (Katy Perry) sounded very shrill and screechy. So much so that I had to turn the volume down. Tried the song later in the day with the aids in and it was no longer screechy so I take that as a noticeable improvement. I mentioned this to the audiologist and she didn’t seem to understand why I thought it was significant.

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@DWes17: FWIW, that’s where I’d be going if I were you!

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Thanks for that! I always question going to a University setting since you sometimes hear stories about lackluster treatment even though they are supposed to be experts. I may have to check them out. My coworker did mention that they replaced the bones in her daughter’s ear with titanium replacements and she doesn’t need hearing aids now. I didn’t even know that was possible.

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My VA audiologist is a professor of audiology at the state audiology school and I have been in the classes that he gives it is interesting to listen to the interaction between students and professor. And the fact there are always patients that are used as reference for the study.

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@DWes17: The difference is due to “brain plasticity” and - if you noticed a difference in such a short time - I’d say it bodes well for your ability to adapt to HAs .

This is another big plus in your favour: your expectations are realistic.

At any rate, I send kindest regards and best wishes for a successful fitting!

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The Widex app has an equalizer setting that you can adjust. Have you tried playing with it to see see if you can find a setting that seems better? It’s not very precise (only three channels) but it could give some ideas as to what might work for you.

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The audiogram shows the greatest hearing loss (and thus the greatest gain probably being supplied by the HAs) is in a very low frequency range. Most speech sounds are higher frequency than that. My hypothesis is, the HVAC noise is being amplified (and perhaps the HAs are applying a noise reduction algorithm at the same time). This could account for the hiss becoming a roar, yet a rather muffled roar. Meantime, this is competing with speech sounds. One possible solution would be to add an “at work” program that you could select while you’re there, which does not amplify those low frequencies at all.

No, when the HAs make your speech comprehension worse, do not believe for one second that it’s just the way it must be or that you must get used to losing comprehension just for the sake of wearing HAs! There should be ways around this; otherwise, they can keep their HAs and you keep your money (for now).

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I have played around with the equalizer and the MySound functionality. Sometimes I can improve things but usually it doesn’t help much at all. Or it will make some things better and others worse. With the current programming, I’m finding that I’m having to bump the volume up a notch to counteract the muffled sound. Of course, it resets every day so that’s annoying. I also find it very strange that PureSound sounds horrible. I’m pretty sure that the audiologist didn’t bother to really program PureSound at all. One other oddity that I’ve noticed: when I’m listening to music it sounds great for the most part. So the music program is pretty good–though when I pointed that out to the audiologist she seemed very confused like she didn’t understand what I was talking about. But then she looked at the software and said that I was spending 17% of my time in the music program. This is not streaming music through the hearing aids–the sound quality doing that is horrible.