TruHearing--is there a catch?

I will be returning my trial TruHearing HA’s next week, for which I have coverage in a Humana Medicare Advantage plan. Here is what I learned. This is a very long post, but it covers about all the TH bases one needs to know . . .

First, just to get this detail out of the way, “Average savings of $1,100 per hearing aid”, from the TH site. Per aid pricing appears typical in the industry.

Second, there are two categories of insurance coverage, Choice and Select. I have the Select plan, with “Advanced” (tier 2) aids being $600 per and “Premium” being $1000 per; these HA’s are re-branded Signia. Their RIC (which I have) are exactly the X which was the newest tech Signia offered until a few months ago. They are not locked. The full line of Signia HA’s are offered, but only Signia.

The Choice plan is offered thru insurers that provide a certain amount of coverage for anything in the TruHearing catalog, at the discounted prices shown. I.e., you save a lot compared to typical retail, but still pay more than Select while getting much wider brand choice.

TruHearing uses a network of private providers. Because I’m in my 70’s now and am replacing old Phonak Brio’s from Costco, I am well overdue for a quality test, and my TruHearing price is in the Costco price range, I decided to give this a try. I was offered 4 names within ~30 miles, just one of which is an experienced Audiologist and she is attached to an ENT practice. I was able to research the other HIS names and was left very unimpressed. Because my experience with Costco was uneven and again my age, I thought it wise to see the Audiologist at least for the testing.

So far, all looks pretty good, including the value, i.e., tier 1 Signia X aids at an excellent price. BUT . . .

Audiologists in private practice should provide the highest level of service; theirs is a labor-intensive business model and plenty of this along with deep knowledge of the technology and brands is what you are really paying for with the extra $. An Aud in an ENT practice has a similar but different business model in that they bring new patients into the practice and help retain them as yearly return patients; this is the case with the Aud I saw. So . . . I got tested, fitted, and have had a couple return appts. Each appt I could feel eyes on the clock. I know my TH/Signia aids need a lot more tuning, but even though I have a strong tech background I’m still new to HA science and so struggled with how to best work with someone who is obviously time-pressed. I asked her which HA’s she mostly prescribes; they are Phonak and Resound, with TH being ~half-dozen of new patient candidates a month. She does not prescribe Signia otherwise. My test showed a WRS in one ear half that of the other; even she was puzzled by this, but she did not re-test. She does not do REM or speech-in-noise or tympanometry. When I asked how to mute the HA’s, she did not know. She struggled some with the app. When I asked why the Noise program was of so little help, she explained that smarts/speed between aids vary considerably and by level (although these are premium), all of which is true but with the obvious implication that you get what you pay for.

Now, don’t get me wrong. She is probably a good Audiologist on average. But she is under heavy pressure for her time, and really can only manage deep expertise with two prominent brands. TH is probably close to break-even for her and only justified by the follow-on business to the practice or providing Phonak/Resound to TH customers like me who don’t like what we got. I suspect that getting the max benefit out of HA’s is an impossibility for one individual across 4-6 brands. So something’s got to give, and that something is time.

So after working my HA problem now for several months, I have an appt with a highly-regarded Audiologist farther away who performs Best Practices. Her reviews are replete with patients who have seen her for many years; she has a large number of reviews, averaging 4.9 stars. Reviewers praise her for recommending the right HA’s for their problem, even if for a lower price. My conclusion is that if you want the best that HA’s can provide, see someone who has the expertise, communication skills, and patience that such requires. Buy the best technology you can afford from the best provider you can find. That takes homework, and great providers are in the minority, so don’t be surprised that this takes a good while.

Hopefully this is useful info for you (and others).

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Dr. Cliff Olson has a video where he tells us that he left TruHearing because they were not paying him enough to cover what it took to do things right.

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My healthcare provider has a contract with TruHearing and they made an appt with an hearusa audiologist. The audiologist only deals with Signia hearing aids and Truhearing private brand aids are made by Signia. None of the Signia aids have enough gain for my very profound hearing loss. I wanted the Phonak Naida UP aids. She couldn’t help me. Called Truhearing again and they set me up with another Truhearing audiologist. I went to see her and l wanted to opt out of the program because none of the private brand aids can help me. She called Truhearing and was told that l can’t opt out of my healthcare provider hearing aid contract with Truhearing. She said she can’t help me anymore. I had to find a hearing aid seller online and was able to purchase Phonak Naida Paradise P70 UP aids at a good price. I got a call from Truhearing that the last audiologist l visited dropped out as TruHearing agent.
I called my healthcare provider and told them that l had to buy the aids myself and they send me an reimbursement form and they will review it and hopefully they will reimburse me for the aids l pay out of my pocket. TruHearing has a high turnover because audiologists can’t provide the better client care at lower cost. TruHearing doesn’t cover all the costs to what it took to do things right with the client. I called my healthcare provider to request to change their contract with Truhearing and go with their plan that l can choose which aids at discounted price instead of being locked to their private brand aids only.

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Heck of a story.
It all about the money.

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I used TrueHearing. There’s an audiologist I wanted to use and asked TrueHearing if that place was on the TH provider plan, it was. I went ahead with the process. I did get some background info from the Audi on the deal: they honor TH prices in the devises, and include 1(maybe 2) follow up visits. Anything after that is pay-as-you-go. Audi said they probably would not have been able to match the TH price if I had bypassed TH. I got Widex, can’t remember the model number right now, but was one step down from their top of the line. I got the feeling the audi wasn’t a big fan of the way TH negotiated prices and maybe any other behind the scene fees, but that corporate or whatever group owns the audi place made the deal. For me, I got a good aid at a good price. Since I pay as I go, if I want good follow up service or tests I pay for it only when I feel like I need it.

Next time? Maybe I’ll pay the audi price, but unbundle follow ups. It will probably cost me a few extra bucks but I won’t feel like the audi is thinking l’m too cheap to pay for good service.

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I would have much rather preferred that my insurance provided the TH Choice plan, rather than the Select. I pay less with Select, but I am locked into 1 generation old TH/Signia and an audiologist who is marginally skilled in that brand. The Choice plan is much better, and allows for more flexibility in the provider as well.

I went through a similar experience with Hear.com, which has a similar set up like TruHearing where they hook you up with an affiliated local provider of your choice but you pay Hear.com directly and the local HCP just provides the fitting/programming service.

When I learned that I’d only have to pay 5% co-pay (after my deductible which I already maxed out on that year) and my insurance would pay 95% for the HAs if I use in-network HCP, while it would have been 30% co-pay for out-of-network HCPs, and Hear.com is not in-network, I decided to find an in-network HCP. But at that time, the Hear.now local HCP provider that I was hooked up with told me that she would honor the 5% co-pay even though she was still an out-of-network provider if I went directly with her (and no longer through Hear.now) and she’d bill my insurance the rest.

So I got the full service from my HCP because I ended up going directly with her and not through Hear.com, although it wasn’t made clear to me whether it would have been much more limited service if it were through Hear.com. At least while Hear.com was still in the picture, nobody ever mentioned about the limited service, although it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be limited.

The point here is that if you find a local HCP through TruHearing that you like, and in the end, you decided not to go with TruHearing for some reason, ask that local HCP how much it’d be if you went through them directly. Maybe they’d charge you more, but maybe they’d match the price like mine did. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

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I have no insurance coverage at all for hearing aids. That’s sometimes an inconvenience. Other times, since it means I’m paying cash and doing my own negotiation, I sometimes feel like I’m being treated more as a customer than someone that’s costing them profits. When I showed up as a TH customer, I really felt like the audi just wanted to get me in and out of there before I lost then any more money.

Yes,this is very similar to my experience with TruHearing. This is almost verbatim of what my HCP told me. I got the Resound Key for a little less than my Resound Fortes from Costco cost. I went through TruHearing because this local well respected and experienced HCP was one of the listed providers. I wish I would have spoken to him before and given him a chance to price something out for me.

I have been wearing hearing aids for 7 years. I went to an audiologist that I trust very much. She mentioned that since I had Humana I qualified for the True Hearing aid made by Signa (sp). The testing was very thorough and all my questions were answered. She went beyond the normal allowed fittings until everything was perfect. I purchased the premium brand for just under $2,000 for both. I am extremely satisfied with the hearing aid from True Hearing.

I have Truhearing through Humana (Medicare Advantage) and purchased a pair of Naida Paradise UP for $3250. That payment went to Truhearing. I also decided to get a pair of new molds that cost me $140. You probably all know you can get them cheaper at Costco or Sam’s Club. Each appointment has been with the same audiologist and I was very impressed with the quality of each session (three so far). The sessions didn’t seem rushed at all and she was comfortable programing Phonak aids. I paid an additional $25 as copay (Humana) for my initial visit to see the audiologist. That was my total expense. When I signed up with Humana (primarily because of the new hearing aid cost savings) and spoke with them about how much the aids would cost I basically got wrong info and my actual cost ($3,250) was significantly higher than what I expected. Truhearing rates are connected to the insurance policy so some people may pay less (or maybe more). After reviewing the cost, I decided to go forward and purchased them.

Overall, I am very pleased with the hearing aids. Sound quality has improved and the bluetooth capability is a big plus for me.

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Of course … can you elaborate a little, meaning just how much skill/experience is there in doing REM correctly? Assuming that a fitter is conscientious how likely is it that poor technique (placement of the microphone close to ear drum, or whatever) is going to happen? Would not (most of the time) if REM “suggests” that the initial programming needs to be adjusted by >5DB at several frequencies wonder whether the placement of the REM probe was off and check it?

Most important is any advice you can offer to us clients of how we might notice that REM testing might not be done correctly? Of course (and especially for an experienced HA wearer) if the adjustments after REM do not sound right and if word recognition or whatever is worse, it is our responsibility to provide feedback.

Is driving the REM test like driving a formula 1 race car, or is can anyone who has driven a stick shift car handle it? Couldn’t think of a good analogy for how hard it might be to learn to use the REM “tool” properly.

I have more than an idle curiosity as I will be getting new HAs soon from new professional who will be doing REM. Thanks for your general comments to the community.

Edit to add these two links on REM procedure steps and proper way to do it. Look forward to comments/advice from our Member expert. If REM interests you and you want to be a better informed client, I’d recommend reading the many answers Dr Cliff gives in the Comment section. I have been biased a bit against Dr Cliff, but am shifting opinion as I believe he points out some important things about proper understanding of REM.

https://www.interacoustics.com/guides/basics/a-beginners-guide-to-real-ear-measures-rem
and of course a Dr. Cliff video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMSQemYlC80

REM is relatively easy to do, assuming it is calibrated correctly and and the probe tube is placed correctly. The skill and art come in the ability to interpret and use what the REM shows. Matching the target gain is easy, as long as the provider does not stop at “good enough”. But the real key is patient feedback and how to correct or enhance what the patient notices. Unfortunately, I don’t have any easy way for you to determine your professional’s skill level at these tasks. Experience is a good thing, although I have seen very “experienced” providers who did not have a clue about proper REM use. Probably not what you were looking for, but it is what it is.

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I went to a TruHearing affiliate called Hear Michigan at Zeeland, Michigan. They did a hearing test that was not as good as when I had it done at Costco on June 7, 2021. I had to pay $250.00 memebership to get their deal on the hearing aids a Starkey Livio 1000, and out of pocket after my Medicare Advantage plan paid would be $350. THEY DON’T DO REM at the Hear Michigan locations. What the heck?? The $250 membership pays for wax guards, follow up visits, etc. Seems like $250 could buy a LOT of wax filters from Amazon!

If I were to use my Medicare Advantage hearing-aid benefit, I would no doubt be referred to that same Hear Michigan location, but, having seen the TruHearing prices for the Phonak 90RT aids (to which the Costco KS10.0T are very similar), I decided to stick with Costco and now have a pair of KS10.0T.

As for the Starkey Livio 1000, I found a thread here from as long ago as June 2019 in which someone asked about those aids (among others) and was told that they were a low-tech version of an aid that was a generation or two old:

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Yep have to use one of their providers and older technology in cases to get the discounted price. Hard to find Audiologist who participate in it in my area.

I do see current-model Phonak aids listed on the TruHearing Web site, but which aids a client may qualify for at a reasonable price depends on which level their insurance plan covers: IIRC, there are both “Choice” and “Select” levels.

Great for you. That is still older technology like I said. I have it and understand it. Have a great day.

I bought the pair of Starkey Livio 1000 to have as a back up to my KS10T I bought from Costco. I really like the KS10s a lot better. However, I think the Starkey HA fitting could be adjusted and improved just a bit for me. There is another “in network” provider in Wyoming MI, Kaczmarski Hearing Service, that will DO the REM for $110.00…

There was a large ad. for Hear Michigan in an advertising flyer that came in yesterday’s mail. There were photos of the two co-owners, one with a CCC-A and the other with an MA – neither of them an AuD, which many of the anti-Costco posters seem to be arguing is an essential qualification.

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