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?