Audiologist versus online options: My experience

gfmucci

New Member
After a couple of weeks of research, I went to my local Sams Club for a free evaluation and audiogram. They sell Lucents starting at around $1,700. My health insurance provides $1,000 per ear, but only at one local audiologist. A week later I went to that local audiologist for an evaluation and fitting which, surprisingly, was more superficial than the evaluation at Sam's Club. He fitted me with a Widex Moment RIC - my cost $1,800 with insurance for the pair. I thought "not bad."

The problem arose from two sources: 1) He was a bit on the condescending side; I knew more about audio than he was willing to tolerate. 2) Five hours after he literally crammed the receiver in my ear, I felt a moist, popping sound in my left ear. It was blood in my canal from his poor chairside manner. The next day I requested and received a refund - not wanting to use my 30-day trial period for my healing process and preferring to avoid his style of dealing with patients.

So on to plan B: Internet providers. I researched several. Initially, I wanted RIC, rechargeable, and Bluetooth, like the Widex. But RICs provide less cushioning due to the size of the speaker and casing than regular BTE models. And they require more dedicated maintenance/cleaning.

Now I'm down to rechargeable and Bluetooth. Rechargeables add from $100 to $600 to the cost of each aid. Being tight-fisted, I opted for a mere Bluetooth model which was provided by MD Hearing, their Core model for $1,000. I discovered a year's worth of Ray-O-Vacs cost less than $20. And each battery lasts longer than 3 or 4 days @ 6 or 7 hours of wearing per day.

So, based on my experience, for those with some understanding of audio/frequency response/distortion characteristics/equalizers, etc., those who like to do their own research, those who are familiar with and like to mess around with Smartphones and technology generally, and those who have some patience, the ONLINE route for getting cost-effective hearing aids is a good option. Not all audiologists are created equal, and there are less than stellar ones out there. You either need a good personal recommendation you can trust, or you need a good dose of luck.

Setting up the Cores, I discovered the setup was very similar to the tone tests used at Sams and the audiologist. And, lacking real-time A/B comparison, my belief is the results are comparable to my experience with the Widex, but with less pain.

I will also be testing the Nuheara Ear Buds hearing aids. They are both rechargeable and Bluetooth, but not as discreet as the BTE models. But what they have going for them are four things: 1) They provide a frequency response test that appears to be at least the equal of the MD Hearing Core. 2) They have excellent sound quality for music rivaling Bose and Sony earbuds. 3) They have an effective noise-canceling feature, and 4) They can be used to stream from other Bluetooth devices like TVs, laptops, tablets, and phones - iPhones or Android. And they cost $319 - more than most earbuds, but less than most hearing aids. I will provide an update of each of these devices as experience dictates. I can vouch for the fact that high-quality Bluetooth earbuds for listening to music have superior audio quality to the best hearing aids.

If both options do their job, I may keep both. The BTE for going out where a more discreet appearance is more comfortable for me. The larger more prominent Ear Buds for at home to listen to various Bluetooth music sources and phone calls, while still having an effective amplified and equalized pass-through function so I can communicate with my wife.

UPDATE 3 months later:

I returned the MD Hearing aids and kept the Nuheara. The MD aids had unnatural and excessive treble and raspiness for me. Music sounded thin, unnatural and unpleasant. I realize hearing aids take many weeks to get accustomed to hearing frequencies that weren't heard in years. But in my case, they weren't getting any better. I have multi-band EQs on my audio equipment and use Sony and Sennheiser earphones, boosting highs above 2,000 Hz, so I have become accustomed to good audio.

Even though I kept them, the Nuheara rechargeable buds have atrocious battery life: 2 to 3 hours using Bluetooth. 6 or 7 hours without. They are definitely not designed or usable for long duration usage. I kept them in spite of the poor battery life because for the few hours of use, the audio is great, and the hearing aid features work well.

Fortunately I just got qualified for a Veterans Administration audiology appt., described in a separate post.
 
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