Newbie's report on 2nd trial of hearing devices

Newbie here. First, I appreciate this forum and all of you. I have learned much in the past 5 mos. I began my journey five months ago. Went to a GP, than an ENT and had an independent audiologist give me a hearing test. I’ve been reminded during this journey numerous times that there are no such things as “stupid” questions and to keep going even though others may not understand your perspective or question. I researched and had my first trial of hearing devices at Costco KS 10’s. I was underwhelmed by the first HIS and the 2nd HIS and though they used REM, I was left wondering if the hearing device was optimized for my audiology report (mild / moderate, ski slope). And the KS 10’s appeared to work well except for a slight lisp I heard - I was really unsure whether it was worth my time and effort to trial others. However my main goals were to:

  1. have clarity of sound - the best clarity I could reasonably get.
  2. reliable product that worked with my tech platform
  3. ease of maintenance
  4. an audiologist that understood and valued the process and the work they do
  5. determine if a disposable battery hearing device vs rechargeable was the way to go. I believed the disposable battery would generally be more advantageous with my work and lifestyle, but I was open to both.

After trialing the KS10’s, my biggest issue was whether or not it was worth my time to see other audiologists and trial more hearing devices. And I have to say as the KS 10’s have been pulled from the shelf at Costco, this didn’t make me feel very comfortable long term with those devices - on the other hand they seemed to suffice.

I decided to keep going because if I didn’t I would never know if my hearing was optimized.

I researched once more and drew up a set of questions and vetted the audiologists. This was not easy and took time. I had a few questions I valued for the audiologists office and two of them were: 1) Did they use real ear measurements (REM) and did they use a test box. And often I wasn’t speaking to the audiologist themselves so I had to be tenacious to get answers. Most audiologist’s offices were helpful in answering questions and/or in calling me back. The upshot was that few used REM in the manner I came to understood it should be used. There was basically only one audiologist in town to call that maybe used REM properly from the get go and a possibility of another who used REM, but only after the person had worn the hearing devices for two weeks. There were other audiologists who used it but more on a case by case basis. That meant, to me, that they may not be as expert in using it if they didn’t use it all the time. I may be totally mistaken on that last point.

Ultimately I visited 4 audiologists or HIS including Costco. All used said they used REM. I made an appointment to be fitted with an independent audiologist and as of yesterday I have been trialing the Phonak Paradise Audeo P13T RIC. Basically I believe it is the same HD as the KS 10.

All the audiologists I visited / HIS suggested Phonak due to tech connectivity. At the appoint yesterday, the REM was done, the devices had been tested in the Test Box, by the end of the day the I felt “at ease”.

The new Paradise hearing devices were incredibly different. But why do I hear better?

  • Is it the dome? The audiologist during the fitting gave me a open medium dome to make better use of the low frequencies that I naturally hear. At Costco the HIS off the cuff said I couldn’t use the open dome had to go with Cap size due to the size of my ear opening. I wasn’t questioning domes myself, they offered what they offered.

  • Another difference was that this new audiologist set the hearing devices to 100%, rather than the Costco which set them at 90% which apparently gradually goes to 100% over 3 months time.

  • I think the REM might have been mores precisely honed, though I do not have enough expertise to know this.

  • The whole tone of the fititng appt, which took the exact same amount of time as the Costco appt, was different.

  • At the end of the first day I felt totally at ease with these devices.

  • Love that they use batteries - it is like icing on the cake. Disposable batteries are great for my work and lifestyle - so pleased with this. In fact, I loved the experience of these hearing devices so much that I was looking forward to putting them on immediately upon getting up this morning.

The word for this experience - so far is “ease” - all the way around with one exception: the devices are more expensive, and I can’t say the Costco KS 10’s were “bad” - not at all but the new devices are so easy to hear with and to use, the difference is probably incremental, but oh so important and helpful. I can hear without streaming with some of my tech devices - nice, very nice! When I say I hear better, things are crisper, clearer.

And, a funny thing when I take these hearing devices off, I notice right away the sound difference, but when I took the KS 10’s off where I also notice the sound difference, it was not as nearly pronounced.

I’m glad I kept going. Of course I am trialing these, so keeping an open mind is important. Really pleased so far with everything but the cost.

I am also pleased with the audiologist. They appear to be very upfront, open, and knowledgeable.

A big thanks to everyone who participates in the forum and the people who provide it as well. It is a valued source of information.

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I really am having to bite my tongue when answering this. But the audiologist spent over $100K getting a Doctorate in Audiology, the HIS at Costco spend a couple of hundred dollars on a tutorial to pass the licensing exam. Who do you think is more knowledgeable? There is a big difference in doing REM and knowing what to do after doing it. You were happier with the audiologist’s fitting but who do you think paid for the time they spent with you, the next person who actually buys instead of just trialing. The whole idea of “free trials” hurts the industry in my opinion. There should be a fitting or trial fee involved to pay for the time spent. When you go to a physician, do you expect a free consultation? Since I am retired from the hearing aid industry, I no longer have a pony in this race but I empathize with those who do. I just had a knee replacement, I went to the best surgeon not the cheapest surgeon. With hearing aid fitting and satisfaction you quite often get what you pay for. Costco is inexpensive but although they do have some competent fitters, they are not known for paying their hearing aid people very much and have trouble attracting the best talent. If you want cheap hearing aids and have an easy loss to correct, Costco is fine. If you want the best possible results, I personally would not go to Costco. That being said, when I replace my current hearing aids, I may go there but will program them myself. Not having the volume I use to, their retail is less than my wholesale cost would be. I will close my rant by quoting one of my old patients," Buying hearing aids is just like buying oats. If you want good quality oats, you pay a fair market price. If you want cheaper oats you can buy them when they have been through the horse once already."

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Here we go, another bunch of keyboard warriors doing the “try hard” on dissing Costco…my audiologist is better then yours bah bah… ha ha

For the difference of 2K for great HAs at Costco and 8K for HAs from a clinic, I’m not sure I fully agree with that.

While I do agree you get what you pay for, my Philips 9030s from Costco have been amazing and almost on par with my Oticon More 1s which cost $4k-$5k more.

While I do agree when you go to Costco, you might have a less knowledgeable fitter, but with a bit of research, trial and error, this forum, and some good ole fashioned critical thinking, you can go back to the fitter armed with some great knowledge and work with the fitter to tune them properly. You can get terrible audiologists from clinics too. That said, I’ve had great experiences at Costco.

You should most certainly shop around. Don’t go to one place and see one fitter and buy it right away. You wouldn’t go to only one car dealership when buying a car because then you have nothing to compare the price and quality to. Same applies with any large purchase.

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I personally think it depends on how easy or hard the person’s hearing loss is to deal with. My first set of aids I went with the cheaper choice and quickly found out how difficult my hearing loss was to help. I am so glad to be a veteran and have the VA to deal with.

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I am sorry, but that isn’t at all in the same league; You can substitute oats with something else (Cannoli perhaps), since the stomach isn’t going to say thank you, whatever you throw at it, it just wants moar.
HA in another hand, ARE critical, there aren’t many substitute if none at all.
And I absolutely agree with you that Audiologist have to make a living, and he’s got plenty of time for that, just like a Lawyer or Architect…
I do disagree, that there shouldn’t be a free trial and the trial should be tied to a fee, for the average Joe (like me and my brother) who can’t join the two ends, thousands of $ in expenses on HA are a huge hurdle, the last thing he/we wants is being stuck with HA that don’t work and one way for him/us to make sure they do, is to trial different HA, hence why I think it is vital to offer free trial, not sure what the minimum length.
I am not sure if Costo’s Audiologist are less qualified then others, I don’t think that is a fair statement.

Note: Nothing personal, but my 2c, since it took me awful time to save money for my brother’s HA and he hasn’t had any way to trial them before purchase, it was a lottery draw, which I am extremely angry about, audiologist where he is should have provided him with free trial for a period of time so he can make up his mind.

I agree totally on this point! Trials should be pretty cheap, but not free. I think some folks do way too many trials, just because the trial is free. One here on the forum recently praised the hearing aids he was trialing and then said he would share the results of the next trial. Seriously? When you get a good one, stop already! I recently got new hearing aids from VA. I have 6 months to make up my mind. I made up my mind the first 12 hours. They are wonderful!
On a related subject, I also think that Audiologists absolutely should be willing to program hearing aids that were bought elsewhere…AND at a reasonable price. Maybe 250 dollars? 500+ dollars is ridiculous. I’m gifting an older set of phonak Bolero hearing aids and am having trouble finding someone who is even willing to program them.
My 2 cents for today
Dan

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I sure hope that turns out to be true. So far it’s more of a slog than I expected. And with 15 and 30 minute appointments, there’s little time to discuss or think things through with the fitter.

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An audiology office I called where I live charges a $250 per aid “re-stocking fee” if you don’t buy the aids after trialing them for 30 days.

LOL. Most of these clinics get free trials from the brands and/or have demos/loaners to give out for weeks. This just sounds like a bullshit charge. I’d be giving my business to Costco or some other clinic.

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@gorgeguy I am not sure if you are responding to me and my choices or if your rant is for the system. if it is to me, here is my response. Note maybe I used the wrong word for “trial”, however, a free trial or one with a reasonable cost would have been very helpful. I write what I meant below …

Given my mild to moderate loss and based on some research and other threads on this forum I thought Costco might be an appropriate place to go as a first try. However, I was unsure after that experience if I was really hearing optimally, how would I know? And I was uncomfortable with the reliabity of the KS10’s I purchased due to the fact they’d been pulled from the shelf. So I redoubled my research efforts, read more, talked to and made appointments with others. I paid for two visits to two different audiologists. The 2nd audiologist seemed the best fit.

Now, as I said, given my hearing, the KS 10’s were definitely an improvement and I could have lived with them, heck I can find a way to adapt to all kinds of things. But this is my hearing, and so I felt the need to “trial” another pair of hearing devices with the 2nd audiologist.

Mind that “trialing” to me means that I am entering into an experience where I will evaluate both audiologst / HIS and the product(s) and see / hear what is best for me - that I am keeping my options open. I think that is fair. And to be fair this also takes my time, energy and money. My trials were not free in that I had to pay - OMG - for the HDs- one is paying whether one is forking over money they may have saved or financing.

The word “trial” is the word I used to be sure, in my mind’s eye, I was staying in an evaluative/experimental mode. Maybe I used the wrong word. However had the audiologist had had a free trail, I would have snapped that up as it would have been so very helpful, instead if I return them, I pay a restocking fee, if I don’t decide to keep the hearing devices. I agree that the audiologist deserves a reasonable payment for their time and expertise.

Bottom line, I needed to see if my hearing would be improved with an audiologist that was qualified, that practiced best practices and that was curious and engaged with their clients. The HIS (I saw two - there is only one Costco in my area) were not curious and engaged. I was a number, a routine, a cog on wheel … this isn’t necessarily bad. I am not against Costco at all. I needed to see if my experience with an audiologist and a product suggested by the audiologist would be an improvement over what I expereinced at Costco. This seems reasonable to me.

The audiologist fitting and visit was a freaking blessing and so worth my time, money, energy - MY investment. I don’t think I treated the audiologist unfairly. I don’t think I treated Costco unfairly and if I continue to keep the HDs from the 2nd audiologist, I will have a return to Costco. Costco has an extremely generous return period! I don’t think I would have been treating the audiologist unfairly if the trial had been free. In fact, I found out after the fact that Costco had a free trial (I’d asked at the time and was told no).

I feel very uncomfortable with the idea that “good quality oats” are only for the people who can pay for them. The hearing devices I tested and that were programed for me are wonderful, I am terrifically pleased with the audiologist and HDs, however I’m not better than the next person. I was just someone who decided the investment in a pair of HDs was in my best interest and happened to able to finance it. I find it disturbing to realize there are other people who need quality hearing and for lack of money go unserved.

I am saddened the process is as onorous as it is in the US, much more onorous for some than for me. It really can take time, effort, energy, tenacity, and money and this hits everyone on all sides of the situation. On the other hand, many with the hearing changes I had had might well not ever have thought to go to an audiologist after having been to Costco.

I respect audiologists who value their service, themselves and the people they serve. If an audilogist does not think free trials serve, then they should not offer them. On the other hand not all audiologists are the same - neither are their clients.

Bottom line - the person whose hearing will be served by the audiologist (or HIS) is the one who must make the determination as to what is best for them and their lifestyles. All I did was due diligence. I am very grateful for everyone on this forum, for the providers on the forum, including you (helped me clarify a couple of things for myself), for Costco and for the audiologist I went to see last week and all the others I encountered. Without everyone I might not have the ease in hearing I have at this moment - I’m still amazed.

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This is my opinion and my feelings only:
Hearing is very personal, and only the individual can make the decision to how they are hearing. I have been wearing aids for about 18 years and most of that time never fully felt I was hearing optimally. Well when we have hearing loss, and wear hearing aids we will never have optimal hearing again, it just isn’t possible. Hearing aids are just that aids, they can’t give you your hearing back, and don’t have anywhere near the capacity of glasses. I have found as hearing aid technology has improved my ability to hear has improved some. I will never understand all of a conversation that I am in, I will never hear everything that I once did. I hav been wearing aids long enough to understand that I don’t even know what normal sound is.
My recommendation is find an audiologist you fill comfortable with and work with that audiologist to find tune your aids the best possible for your speech understanding. If DIY is something you feel you might like then learn everything you can about hearing loss and hearing aids.

You have a mild to moderate hearing loss you can even possibly use OTC aids.
But my experience has shown that my hearing is slowly getting worse and there isn’t much anyone can do to prevent it.

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I didn’t give them my business. Less because of the re-stocking fee, which I figured was really a way to compensate them for their time (which would be ok with me if they were upfront about it instead of calling it something else), than because when I asked about the trial period length I was told 30 days as required by the state of Missouri. So apparently if not required, they would offer no trial period. I found their demeanor off-putting.

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Yes, but modified slightly, in my humble opinion:

If you have mild hearing loss, and you want to hear the TV or familiar voices in your controlled, home setting, then you can even possibly use OTC aids.

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@cvkemp: I agree fully, and I think this “Quest for Optimality in Hearing” is a load of crap. You’re right, Chuck - our hearing will never again be “optimal”, and it will change from day to day because it is a psychological, as well as a biological process. The biological part of our hearing systems is forever damaged, and the technology with which we attempt to replace it lacks the inherent plasticity of the original equipment.

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I don’t see anything wrong with compensating an audi for their time after a client AGREES to trial one aid, and then moves on to another aid, or two, or three. And yes, it’s understandable to trial a number of aids, especially when starting out. But the Audi isn’t working for free.

Do you?

As for audis with “an offputting demeanor”. It’s always a good idea to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Audis have had a good number of clients who string out the process and make demands that no one can meet and then move on, expecting to pay nothing. Having worked a long time in retail, I’d suggest that a collaborative attitude goes a long way in these kinds of scenarios.

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If you’re asking me if audiologists should get paid, re-read my post. And other posts where I’ve said people should be paid.

As to demeanor and collaborative–you sure make a lot of assumptions. I called this office to ask some questions to see how they do things to be able to make some determination about where to buy a product and get services. If I do that with any company and I get a sense this isn’t going to be the kind of place I want to do business, that’s the end. No collaboration or any other interaction involved.

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Agreed…mostly…My newest hearing aid is a vast improvement over the last one. I am hearing more clearly than ever. Tonight I heard rain differently than I remember ever hearing it. I could hear individual drops as opposed to a constant hum/roar. I also am not sure that what I am hearing is like what I heard as a young person, But it is darned good.
My current 2 cents worth
Dan

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The problem is the obscure way in which the industry operates.
I was very upfront with my audi and told her that I would be very happy to pay for her services if she would let me shop around and program HA that I would purchase elsewhere. But they don’t accept that. The clinic she works for wouldn’t allow it. Because there is no discrimination on pricing. The person who buys those $8K HA is paying for those who trialed but didnt purchase. I don’t want to be that person. So I went to Cosco as well. But I was honest with my audi. I could have purchased on eBay the same HA she was selling me (Oticon More 1), for $2.5K. And it took me a week to obtain the programming software and $200 for a Nohalink. So I asked her, why I have to pay $6k for your services? I was happy to pay her a reasonable fee for that, like you would do with another professional. It is obvious those extra $6K pay for all the services where there is no sale at the end. But that is totally unfair with those of us who are not big income earners. I also chose my knee surgeon. Like I chose my orthopedist and other professionals and they all discriminate the cost of their services from the cost of the materials, hospital fees, etc. So I am glad that Costco and OTC HA is forcing this obscure industry to change!!

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In the U.S. most other medical issues and equipment are covered by insurance (if you have insurance) but not hearing aids. IMO that’s a major problem and it affects the nature of the hearing aid industry.

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