Newbie would like info on hearing aids

I have a hearing loss and it’s been highly suggested that I get hearing aids. The audiologist in my ENT’s office is suggesting that I get Oticon Opn hearing aid but I don’t know if they are good or bad or what. Can anyone tell me what I’m getting into or whether another brand is better or what. I have not made any decisions thus far but I like to be better informed before I make any decisions. Thanks.

The Oticon Opns are fine hearing aids. Many think they’re the best. From an audiologist, they’re likely to be pretty expensive–in the neighborhood of $6000 on up. If money is not an issue, try them out. If money is an issue, I think there are better values, but others would disagree. If you want more feedback, a copy of your audiogram and the situations where your hearing bothers you would be helfpful.

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At this point I do not have a copy of my audiogram to share with anyone as none was offered to me during my last session. I can probably get one and will post one soon. What I recall from the graph is that compared to my left ear, there’s a big downward dip in my midrange frequencies and then the graph goes backup up and closely follows the graph of my left ear and then both my left and right ear starts going down in the high frequency sounds. She said that I could get by with an aid only in my right ear but she indicated that at age 67 both ears would benefit from hearing aids.

Because this hearing loss in my right ear was rather sudden and unexplained and did not respond to steroid injections I’m always skeptical about someone recommending me something expensive. An analogy would be similar to a Cadillac and a Buick. Both are very nice cars and both will get the job done of getting you from place to place but you’re going to be paying a lot more for the Cadillac. Now if you can afford the Cadillac and you want everything the Cadillac offers that’s one thing but if you’re looking to get the same result, good transportation, then the Buick will be just fine. Not that I’m suggesting that the Audiologist is attempting to rip me off I’m just wondering how much extra value exists if I get the OPN hearing aids over another brand and model and what that other brand and model might be.

If you are in the US and near a Costco, they now have the latest Bernafon aid which is Octicon’s second label. It has it own programming and is $2800/pair at Costco.

Buyhear.com and others sell the OPN for just under $4000.

You describe a cookie bite loss. The person who fits the aids will be more important than the brand. It is an unusual loss and the fitter should be familiar with the kinks needed to fit it properly.

If the other ear has good numbers and good Word Recognition Score. A single aid might serve well. If you do that, the fancy features in the premium aid doesn’t work and you should buy a single aid which will give the same results. A single entry level aid would be around $1600 from a clinic.

From a local audiologist there’s probably not going to be much difference in price between the Oticon Opn 1s and other premium hearing aids. The Opns have a mystique about them that I don’t know is justified or not as I’ve never tried them. From what I hear, many people love how they sound. To me the best value out there is Costco. I have no connection to Costco other than having bought hearing aids there. Other than the hearing aid department, I really don’t care for Costco. At Costco you can get a very thorough exam for free as long as you have a membership. The aids Ken mentioned (Bernafon Zerena) are made by the same company as Oticon but it’s unclear how much they share in common. I suspect they would sound “nice.”
Costco also has an excellent aid from Resound for the same price and their value leader is the KS7, made by Rexton for $1700. Using the car analogy, I’d put the Oticon in the Cadillac category, the Bernafon and Resound in the loaded Buick range, and the KS7 more as a Buick without all of the options, and last years model. Ken’s right that your cookie bite loss may make fitting more challenging.

If you’re sticking with your audiologist, I’d think the value path would be one Oticon Opn 3 and the premium approach would be a pair of Oticon Opn 1s.

Everyone:
Thanks for the feedback as you’ve hit on a number of my concerns. On one hand I believe that we should trust our medical professionals to do the right thing in terms of treating their patients however, to use my car analogy again, if you’re only offered a Cadillacs you may not be getting the best price/performance option that best meets your needs. On the other hand theirs the service after the sale where I would worry about buying a set of hearing aids through a online store like Buyhear.com even if I was getting an Opn model. Unfortunately, there’s no Costco in the Pensacola, FL metro area and the nearest Costco is in Mobile, AL which would certainly be inconvenient for service after the sale. We do have a Sam’s Club but the only BTE units they sell in our store are the Liberty Hearing Engage 32 and 64 models and the GHI Simplicity. Granted, there are a lot of hearing aid companies in the area that I can choose from and I could certainly be re-examined by another certified audiologist but as a Newbie I still wouldn’t know a Cadillac from a Yugo (showing my age) so where to you start if you want the best bang for your hard earned dollar? Right now I’m at least comforted by the fact that the Oticon Opn models are not the Yugo’s of the hearing aid world but I’m still concerned that I could be just as happy with a Buick vs. a Cadillac. So based on the above are there other suggestions on what to do and where to go? Thanks.

If you like your audiologist just fine, I’d stick with her. If money is not an issue go ahead and try a pair of the Oticon OPNs (I’m guessing she’s suggesting the premium “1” model. If money is an issue, or you really want to see what you can get by with, tell your audiologist you don’t want to spend that kind of money. I’m thinking you could get significant benefit from one Oticon aid and with only 1, a lower level aid (level 3) would probably suffice. My bias would be to stay away from Sam’s Club for hearing aids. From a local audiologist, I don’t think you’re going to see much price difference between Buicks and Cadillacs, so I’d try the Cadillac. I emphasize “try.” If they don’t help significantly, make sure to bring back before your return period ends.

What my audiologist said was that the company she works with, which appears to be Oticon, makes 5 models that would work for my loss however she would only recommend one of the top 3 for me to purchase. Since she gave me a brochure for the Opn line and they make the 3 models in that line I’m sure that I could choose anything from a Opn 3 to a Opn 1 and she indicated that it all was based on features. Well, we haven’t gotten into discussing these so called features yet so I’m not sure what she’s talking about. My goal, like I’m assuming is the goal of everyone else, is to experience as near to natural hearing as possible and if that means paying a bit more I will but I’ll have to figure out what the differences are between the Opn 1, 2 and 3. Note that she indicated that I could get by with one aid she recommended 2 aids because I do have a loss in my left ear across all frequencies but not to the extent in the midrange as my right ear has experienced.

Most of the features deal with how well you can hear in noisy situations. I think these more advanced features work a lot better in tandem then with solo hearing aids. That’s why I suggested a 3 in solo. If you’re never in noisy situations, a pair of 3s might do just fine, but the people I’ve heard from who tried different level OPNs ended up with 1s. Key is how well do you like and trust the audiologist? Being limited to one brand is a downside, but not an overwhelming one.

Just a small clarification that Bernafon is not really Oticon’s second label. Bernafon, Oticon and Sonic are sister companies under the William Demant holding group, So I would say that Bernafon is William Demant’s second label and is a sister company with Oticon. However, I don’t see any evidence that the Bernafon Zerena recently released to Costco has the same processing technology as the Oticon OPN, although they do seem to share a lot of the hardware and programming resources.

The Sonic Enchant 100, the other sister company’s new product, seems to be similar to the Bernafon Zerena in terms of its processing technology. And the Enchant has had good review from a forum member who’s had a chance to try both the OPN and the Enchant.

But buying HAs through Costco should definitely give you a higher value for the money than buying premium HAs through an audiology channel for sure.

Like MDB said, the biggest difference between the 3 OPN models is that the 2 and 3 has the noise reduction feature reduced to make it less effective in noise. I would call the 2 as being “reduced” and the 3 as being “crippled”. Basically the power of the first stage of noise reduction (through directionality) is reduced by 50% on the 2 and 3, and the amount of max noise reduction in the second stage is reduced from 9dB for the OPN 1, to only 5dB for the 2, and 3dB for the 3. There are many other reductions as well, but I think those are the most significant.

If you decide to go the OPN route with your audi, I would suggest you ask to try out both the OPN 1 and 3 to see if you can tell the difference between them or not, and make sure you try them out in very noisy environments like at restaurants and see how speech clarity works out for you. There have been forum members who did this and all of them chose the OPN 1 afterward because they said they could tell a difference.

My philosophy in going with a premium model like the OPN is why cheap out when trying to save a few hundred bucks to settle for a more crippled model because you’ll lose out on what makes it most effective and premium in the first place. As you’ll find out the more you do research on hearing aids, noise reduction for speech clarity is like the holy grail and is the most difficult challenge to tackle for all hearing aid brands and models. To settle for a lesser model with less effective noise reduction for speech clarity just to save a few hundred bucks seems like a crime to me. Just the fact that Oticon cripples the OPN to create the model 2 and 3 already seems like a crime to me, but I can understand them doing this to get more market share. Many other HA mfgs do this anyway.

There are six big(major) manufacturers and they all make a range of fairly good aids - Oticon, Phonak(Sonova), GN Resound, Siemens Signia, Starkey and Widex. Many manufacturers also have secondary brands which they use to market “cheaper” aids but often using many common parts but different fitting formulae. Each model of hearing aid has at least three levels of aid within its range - top, mid level and basic. Each time a new aid is released it is likely to go through a flavor of the month time. If the new aid seems to be a big advance it is often because the person getting new aids is likely to have been wearing technology five or more years old. There have been lots of changes over the last 5-10 years.

Which brand the audiologist recommends depends on the following factors:

  • Who owns the store? Many manufacturers have bought up clinics and only sell their brand.
  • Does the store have a deal to buy all or most of their aids from one preferred manufacturer for somewhat cheaper prices?
  • Is the audiologist paid commission on the sale of aids and is the commission defendant on the price of the aid?
  • Is the audiologist independent but has more experience with fitting one brand which they prefer?
  • Is the clinic independent and willing to fit any brand depending on your needs as they assess them? They might not be as experienced with one or more of those brands.
  • Brand preferences at any clinic may change over time if any of the above factors change.

Ask the questions and try to work out why the aid chosen for you is being reccommended. And remember, to use the car analogy, that one person may prefer a Ferrari while another may prefer a Jaguar. It does not mean one of them is a bad car. And the features in the top cars of five years ago are all standard on most brands today.

Psocoptera,

Thanks for the insight as it was very educational. I think that my audiologist is independent as she’s in practice with an ENT specialist. In my opinion she’s making most of her income from office visit charges and charges billed to insurance companies for services rendered. She also said that she’s not in the hearing aid business for a profit as she said that that they don’t make a lot on sales. I think that she sells Oticon brand aids as she feels that they are the best quality aids.

Tonight I was talking to a friend of mine in the neighborhood and found out that his wife is a audiologist so I explained to her what happened and what kind of loss I was having and although she didn’t have a copy of my audiogram she told me that if I were her patient she would recommend 2 aids and that she would recommend the Opn 1 from Oticon. So now I have two audiologist that recommend the Opn line of hearing aids from Oticon. So now I’m wondering if I’m now wasting my time doing more research as it new appears to me that the Opn line is highly recommended and is of excellent quality. Your thoughts? Anyone else want to weigh in?

I don’t think it’d be a waste of time if you want to do more research so you can make a more informed decision instead of just following recommendations blindly without knowing why. Even if in the end you decide to go with the OPN as recommended, you’ll have a basis of why you choose the OPN and the satisfaction that you make your own choice.

The OPN is a very good HA but it doesn’t have an intermediate streaming device available yet if you’re an avid Android phone fan and want streaming capability from your Android phone. One of the forum members here dumped the OPN after 9 months of owning it to go with a different brand that has streaming to Android phone because she didn’t want to wait for the Oticon ConnectClip 3.0 streamer anymore (slated to be released end of this year, original promised for end of Q1’17). But if you own an iPhone then it’s all good because it’s a Made For iPhone model for direct streaming without a streamer.

I mentioned the above just as an example of how doing some research would reveal that kind of thing that may make or break a deal depending on which type of phone you own, for example. So if I were you I’d still do more research, even while knowing that the OPN is a good recommendation. But then if you’re the type who don’t like to do research and money is not a big issue, it’s safe to say that you probably can’t go wrong with the OPN.

You will not know for sure until you try them. I really wanted a made for iPhone pair of aids but found at the time that Phonak were better for my hearing and more comfortable in my ears. I opted not to go for their Streamer because I’m not willing to wear a clunky Streamer. I really miss the made for iPhone features because I’m an all Apple household and direct streaming from my iPad, iPhone and iPod in particular was great (I tried the Resound LiNX² and LiNX).

When you trial a pair you should ask first about the terms of the trial period.

  • Do they offer free trials with no money up front? How long and which brand?
  • Do you need to buy the aids first to trial them?
  • What is the return period if you purchase?
  • Is there a “restocking fee” if you return them?
  • How long is the warranty - expect 3-4 years on premium aids.
  • What is included eg. Loss insurance, batteries, consumables like wax filters, domes and receivers. How many adjustment visits (anything from 1 to the life of the aids) are included or is it pay as you go with unbundled billing?

It depends on who you are. If you like learning about this stuff, do more research. If you’d rather be doing something else, trial the OPNs and if they help notably, consider it done.

I did a little research of my own a few weekends back. I was at a gathering with a lot of seniors from both sides of the USA/Canada border. Being in the market for new HAs, I asked everyone I saw wearing them about theirs.

Some knew the make and model, some knew the brand, others knew nothing. I did not learn much about the various hearing aids. I learnt that most had blind faith in their practitioners which further substantiated that a lack of informed consent is the norm in the profession. Or at least different from other health professions.

Maybe I’m different. I look at it this way, since hearing aids cost more than I’ve ever spent on a vehicle then they are worth researching. I wouldn’t dream of buying a vehicle without knowing its tow rating. I have a small light recreational trailer that I occasionally tow. Most vehicles meet the specs but it is comforting to know that the one I buy will do the job I need it to.

I need my hearing aids to work in certain ways to properly function.

Coming from a company that offers all of the name brand hearing aids, and has tested them extensively… the Oticon OPN is the best hearing aid you can get.

Second is the Phonak B series.
Third is the Unitron North series.

Thanks everyone for your replies. I had another meeting with my Audiologist yesterday and we went over 3 typed pages of questions (Hey, I’m a former analyst and that what analyst’s do and why does this sound like a GEICO commercial :smile:). Anyway I’m fairly satisfied with the feedback as I found that I can get a 10 day trial and I have a 30 day money back return if I decide that I don’t like them and I can get 18 months of financing at 0% interest. My audiologist also stated that their policy is that any support visits that I need to make regarding my hearing aids will be free for the life of the hearing aid. There were many other answers I received but those were the highlights.

My only question for you all to weigh in on is price. What the Audiologist conveyed to me was that of the Opn1, 2 and 3 she would want to see me in a Opn1 or Opn2 but only the Opn3 if cost was an issue. Well, her price on the Opn1 is $6,700, $6,200 for the Opn2 and $5,200 for the Opn3. Compared to other places that dispense hearing aids do these prices seem reasonable considering the free for life hearing aid support from the Audiologist?