Who or what is a preferred provider (and why should I care)?


#1

And what does that mean? And how do you find them?

I’m interested in both the Oticon OPN and the Phonak Marvel. And I’m looking for “experienced” audiologists near me who are recommended by the manufacturer. I’m hoping that, if recomm’d by the producer, those units/persons/businesses will have had experience working with that brand. Seems sensible, right?

Looking on the Phonak provider page, many hearing centers are noted, but none in my location have the silver star icon by their listing. My current audiologist says that the “silver star means they well trained in Phonak whereas no silver star means that practice is “friendly to Phonak” but doesn’t work with this product often.”

On the other hand, Oticon’s online provider search engine brings up every hearing center around me, with no denotation of one being more trained or recommended than another.

Can anyone shed light on this? How might I find out who has experience and who doesn’t?


#2

You do your homework on the products. Read the documents available on the professional sites (there is usually a link in the menu on the consumer site). Peruse this forum and read the experiential evidence of the people posting here. If you can get an audiology text and become familiar with the ear and the problems causing hearing losses. Read about “best fitting practices” so you know what is involved and then make phone calls to the clinics in your area. Some will stand out and some will make you wonder how they stay in business. You’ll narrow your choices down to the point where you’ll probably do well with whichever you choose. This assumes you live in an area where there are multiple choices. If there aren’t then you will at least know what is required to be fit properly and be immune to smoke and mirrors B.S.


#3

When you call the clinic, don’t ask “are you familiar with Phonak/Oticon pruducts” because everyone will say yes. Ask which manufacturers they fit the most.


#4

I would suspect that the silver stars have more to do with financial arrangements than with experience. If you call a provider they will tell you they can fit anything, but they should also be able to tell you what their preferred brand is.

I personally don’t care a whole lot how much experience they have with a particular brand. When I asked my audi about Resound, he said he would fit any brand I wanted, but wanted to be honest in that he had never fit Resound before. He said “If you can be patient with me, I’ll figure it out.” I like that. He’s honest, and he’s willing to do the work. Usually, the fitters have almost instant access to phone support from the manufacturers as well.

What do I look for in a provider? A lot of it is gut feeling. Do I think they know what they are doing? Do I feel I can trust them? Are they honest? I always take my wife along, because she has a very keen sixth sense about people. Google reviews can be somewhat helpful too.


#5

And they might respond we fit everybody. But there ARE honest, and capable audiologists out there whose first concern is the patient. You might have to look a bit they’re there. Caveat Emptor.


#6

BlueCrab, my take on this is a bit different. I think it is more important to use an audi who has done dozens or hundreds of fittings with the brand you’re considering. IMHO specialization is important in HA fitting. There are a lot of possible adjustments to be made in the HA manufactuer’s software. You want someone who has already gone through the trial and error process many times to see how various software tweaks operate in the real world.


#7

Yea, I can understand that. To each his own.

Perhaps I base my opinion on my own professional experience. I’ve dabbled in some Technical Writing throughout my career. By far the dominant word processor is MS Word, and I’m pretty proficient in it. But sometimes the customer needs the document in FrameMaker, WordPerfect, Pagemaker, RoboHelp, or some other obscure software format. Many technical writers know that when the customer asks “can you provide my document in XXX format?”, the answer is always “yes.” Then you go figure it out. I know I can create a clean, well formatted, professional looking document in Framemaker, but I also know it will take me twice as long as it would in MS Word because I have to figure out which button to click to make it bold and which button to click to indent. In the end I know I will succeed because I know the core concepts of what makes a good document, and I know the software can get me there.

A good fitter should know the core concepts of what it takes to get you the best hearing you can get, and they should know that the software can get them there. It’s just a matter of persistence until you find the right button. I see those qualities in my audi, and that’s what made me decide to work with him.

Now, we’ll see if I’m right when he fits my Marvels on the 10th! :thinking:


#8

This is my feeling. All manufacturer software is basically similar, they just hide the options in different places and call them different things. If you have basic computer skills and some familiarity with a particular manufacturer’s lingo, clicking through and finding when you need is pretty easy.

Except finding the Resound feedback management. No one who is unfamiliar with their software will ever find it without calling in.:laughing:


#9

LOL!!! Ain’t that the truth? And here I thought it was just us folks wearing the aids who were led on Easter egg hunts to find the optimum features on our aids. Just about every time I visit my aud-guy, I ask about a feature I’ve learned about here on this board. Then HE has to go find the Easter egg … hippity HOP!

My own 2-cents’ worth about finding the best audiologist to fit a precise make or model is that it’s trial and error. Not all areas have the best audiologists. One may be luckier in a large city, but then the options would be almost overwhelming to sort through.

The best advice already given above is to do your homework, ask friends/family for referrals, read about the features of the aids you’re interested in, and then go with your GUT instinct. Some folks have had luck at Costco, but I am fortunate to have found an aud-guy I’ve seen for almost 14 years now. He knows my issues and goals. Even so, he has to occasionally get on the phone with Tech Support to get the answers I’m looking for.


#10

Good suggestions, all. Thank you.

Neville, I’ll admit that I would have asked something like “are you familiar with x or y products,” but you make a compelling case for my asking about what manufacturers they fit the most (or have the most experience with). I wish I had thought of that, but from now on I’ll use your advice.

BlueCrab and 1Bluejay, your advice also rings true for provider evaluations. Gut feeling, looking for a sense of trust and honesty and whether after talking with them I think they know their job. I also feel a bit overwhelmed about the process because I don’t know a lot, but I know enough to feel like something is missing in the information I’m being given (after reading about the features of the aids I’m interested in) and therefore I need to interview more than one audiologist. There’s only a few audi options in my location and even less when you take into account the insurance network. I have good insurance, but need to stay in network for providers, so may also need to travel somewhat out of my local area; we’ll see.

I have an appointment with a new audi in the near future and already I feel like I’ve messed it up by telling the appointment setter on the phone that I was interested in the Oticon OPN and Phonak Marvel. Perhaps I should have said nothing and then asked what products they were the most familiar with.

Mark, Caveat Emptor, indeed. But at the moment this learning, questioning process also feels like another job on top of my daily one. And a daunting one at that. Not griping; I’m lucky with good insurance coverage and the time to make a decision about what I want and who I want to work with.

Anyway, thank again for your advice. I’m reading some of the early reviews for the Marvels and will see how future meetings with audi(s) go.


#11

I know that feeling well. It was only 3 years ago that I got my first aids and I joined this forum in a total panic. Take a deep breath. Relax. You’ll get through this. Just keep learning all you can, and keep participating in this forum. I find the benefits of this forum to be priceless. I work with only one other person who wears hearing aids, but I come here and there is an entire community filled with people who know and understand what I’m going through. And a lot of people who have been doing this long enough to offer a treasure trove of information and advice.

You’re not alone.


#12

Familiar with it, I am. #ResoundYoda

:wink:


#13

Do NOT fret about asking about specific models. Sometimes the audiologist has to actually GET a demo model from the manufacturer before s/he can even have a meaningful app’t with you.

Such is the case with my own aud-guy. I called in advance to see when he’ll get ahold of a Phonak Marvel. I called again today to ask if it’s there yet, and if he’s had a chance to work with it. I told them if he feels he needs more time to get familiar with the Marvel to just re-schedule my app’t - no point in wasting my time or putting undue pressure on him to have it ready for me by next Wed.

Even so … FINGERS CROSSED it’ll be there and my trial will begin. :smile:


#14

Update. Or perhaps I should revise my title to “3 providers, 3 different explanations on why I should choose brand x.”

Per usual, I’m interested in your opinions and thoughts on my experiences with audiologist interviews – your advice and experience are very much appreciated.

Quick recap: I am researching new HAs. My current model is Phonak Audeo Yes 9. Purchased 2011, so lots of technological improvements (so I hope) since then. I began by reading about newer models and went to see a local audiologist, who provided me with a hearing test and a suggestion for new aids: Oticon OPN. In the meantime, I read about the new Phonak Marvels, which are less Apple-centric. After reading about folks trialing more than one model here, I thought that I would like to trial both the Oticon and Phonak to get a sense of their difference, the pros and cons of each. How would I know the difference in sound, if there is any, or sound quality, if I don’t try more than one out? I have only experienced, in depth, this one pair of aids. Last time I was able to trial another Phonak model before purchased, but I preferred the Audeo. That’s all I know.

Audiologist 1 said I should get the Oticon OPN 1 with t-coil, plus some other hardware, such as mic, tv connector. I asked her why she is suggesting this model and she said that she thought Oticon was the best. She based this on my hearing test and from asking me many questions about my lifestyle and hearing needs. When I asked if I could trial the Phonak M model also, she was very honest and said that she didn’t offer Phonak; and that trialing another was more than she wanted to offer. Her pricing is bundle-based, with free cleanings, batteries, domes, etc. for life of aids. 4x per year. Still, I wanted to trial more than one, so I am interviewing other providers.

Audiologist 2 also suggested the Oticon OPN (with no level denoted). This was a free conference with no hearing test. She would do a hearing test, but we ended up spending most of our time talking. She said she sold 85% Oticon. Why? Because they were the best model out there; most of her clients loved them; Phonak used to be the most technologically evolved, but now Oticon is, she opined. When I asked about trialing, she was willing to offer that service; says she works from where her clients are; said she would trial each for one week, but willing to extend for approximately another week if asked. Since I had just received a hearing test, she would work from other audiologist’s audiograph, if I provided such. She does REM at fitting and said that’s the only way to get an accurate fitting. I liked her and felt she was knowledgeable, however I am not convinced of her knowledge of Phonak. For example, when I said my current HAs were Audeos, she didn’t ask which model, didn’t look at them and seemed quite convinced that Oticon was the best option. She didn’t mention the t-coil, but seemed fine with my choice. Her pricing is bundle-based.

I had my third encounter today. This is a hearing clinic called My Hearing Centers; it appears to be a franchise. The owner is a hearing instrument specialist, but had an audiologist provide a free hearing test using words that I repeated and a sentence in sound test. Both of these tests were also provided by Audi #1. Most of the session was between me and the owner/his guy. He didn’t ask me much about my “lifestyle,” said they based their suggests on the tests and if we are wearing a particular brand, and like that brand, generally suggest that brand. He did have a strong sales pitch for the new Phonak Marvel and while I wasn’t comfortable with the “pitch,” he did seem to know his stuff about the new model; verbally ran through the Phonak model progression from Audeo to Marvel; talked about their changes; said he had already sold 12 of the new model; was open to trialing any models I wanted for 30 days each; offers follow up service for model life; similar bundling plan. When I asked about his thoughts on the Oticon, which they also offer, he said that they hadn’t come up with anything new for two years, but they were good at marketing their product. Said he used to work for Oticon. Said the difference in sound between O and P is that O is “tinny” and P is “rich.” Said that Phonak is more technologically advanced. Said that I wouldn’t need the assistive listening devices, such as tv connection or microphone because the Marvel connects with bluetooth, so seemingly no additional devices needed.

He wasn’t pushy about signing a contract or making a commitment, but I was aware he was selling. And yet…he also took the time to go over the audiogram from my test and he was the first person who ever explained how to read it – where a “normal” hearing range would be – how the speech in noise test worked in terms of decibels. Brought out the Phonak M dome for me to see the changes between what I have and new model. He seemed techno-saavy, which I admit was lacking in the previous encounters. When I mentioned the t-coil, he said that I had a moderate hearing loss and he didn’t recommend that option. He said that they offered the t-coil primarily for folks with a severe loss; that I wouldn’t need it, what I’d get from t-coil beyond the range of new HAs would be minor. He also set me up for a free trial consultation (short-term, in-office) where I could quickly test both a Phonak and Oticon. He said I could try this or cancel as I wish. And again, I recognized a sales tactic in his doing so, but still…why not set it up as I could cancel beforehand – and this gives me time to reflect on each of these meetings.

Okay, I know this is a long message; I’m trying to figure it all out. And I wish choosing a new provider was simpler. Audi 1 was caring and took the time to ask questions about me, but she was primarily pushing one brand and not open to others. Audi 2 was open to trialing both as I wished, no sales pitch, but I got the feeling she didn’t know much about Phonak nor anything about new Phonak technology. And no. 3 complicates my decision because while he offered the most information overall, seemed the most knowledgeable about various brands, offered me the options I wanted, the clinic had a feeling of being more centered in selling than service. Perhaps they are just more honest in the bottom line – that this is a business after all? I’ve made no commitments to anyone or any business yet. Any thoughts, please?


#15

Not sure if I’d agree with this explanation that tcoil is for folks with severe hearing loss primarily. It’s just another way of picking up sounds through magnetic induction from speakers or sound loops that generate a magnetic field instead of ̣̣̣(or in addition to) sounds through the air.

It has nothing to do with the severity of the hearing loss. But the tcoil functionality may be preferred where available by some people over sounds “through the air” because they can reduce or mute their mics which pick up sound through the air so that they only hear the magnetically induced sound through the tcoil. So it kind of becomes a “noise reduction” feature of sort because the sound through the air may have “noise” mixed in with it as well. Plus churches tend to have a lot of echos and a direct tcoil sound pickup would help reduce if not eliminate the echo and reverb, which make speech clearer to understand.

Tcoil usability is not as popular as before because smart phones don’t have magnetic speakers compatible with tcoil like land lines usually do. Also induction loops in churches and theaters are not as pervasive as it’s been hoped to be. Plus advantages in HA technologies help make it easier to hear through the mics nowadays so reliance on tcoils become less and less. Also BT streaming also helps make tcoil more and more obsolete as well.

The trade off for tcoil is primarily a bigger size HA, and maybe more money (although not always necessarily more money). Also availability. If I remember correctly, and I may be wrong here, but the tcoil availability for the Marvel is not until 2019 some time. Maybe that’s why the third provider is pushing for no tcoil.


#16

If I were you I’d go with the 3rd provider simply because they seem to know more about the Marvel than the other 2. Although by the same token, I don’t know if the first one knows more about the OPN than the third one or not, judging by her selling only the OPN exclusively. Nevertheless, since the first one doesn’t sell the Marvel anyway, she should have already been eliminated.

Selling is OK to me, as long as they’re not pushy about it, and it sounds like they’re not.

One option is to go to the first or second provider to trial the OPN, and the third one to trial the Phonak. This way maybe you can have an overlap between them for A to B comparison. I would start out with the brand I’d be less inclined to keep first, if you know which it is.


#18

I’d want to know a few things about fitting practices from the third clinic, particularly REM, and if I was comfortable with that I’d go there. Provided this HIS is a competent fitter there is nothing better than wearing them. All other things being equal, I would be at the place offering the most options. Because you can’t know which aids are best for you until you plug them into your head.


#19

With hearing aids I looked at, the only way to get a size 13 battery is with the telecoil option. The larger battery is important to me in order to be able to do a weekly battery change and not worry about batteries dying at an inappropriate time.


#20

I had to read over your post a few times because at first I thought you were faced with a pretty complicated choice. The more I read it though, the more the choice became clear. It was a process of elimination. Option 1 is not open to trialing more than one aid. Eliminated. Option 2 offers trials for one week, maybe 2. not long enough, eliminated. Option 3 will trial any model you want for 30 days, seems more personable, and more tech-savvy. You said he seemed to be “selling,” yet when it came to the T-coil, he didn’t try to sell you on that.

I think that out of the options you’ve presented. Option 3 is the clear winner.


#21

BlueCrab…ya, I am leaning in that direction also. I do have some concerns about the “My Hearing Center” corporate or franchise mode of operation (not that I know anything bad about it). They are only open two days a week in my town, as they are in the process of establishing themselves here, but say that will change shortly. Looks like MHC is buying up a number of small audiologist practices – or the practices are buying into the franchise. 'Not sure how I feel about that, but they do seem to offer the closest to what I was seeking. Thanks for your insight.