Who Knows the Right Hearing Aids for Me?

change

By Lolly Wigall

Browsing the web is so easy today. While I was listening to a podcast I heard a statistic that was staggering: Seventy percent of Americans now have a smart phone.

In 2007, the iPhone was introduced. It has changed how we use our phones, listen to music, listen to Podcasts, play games, use apps, look for information, and just plain function on a daily basis. In just seven years cell phones have made a tremendous impact on our lives. People of all ages have cell phones.

We don’t just use our phones to make calls. Data usage doubled last year. When you go to the Web on a smart phone you use mobile data. Smart phones have a GPS function. It is kind of scary to go online looking for a restaurant, and the phone asks you if it can use your current location. The phone knows where we are on the earth! It is helpful when the phone can also give you directions to a new location. I personally find it helpful to find store locations and immediately the store website is visible. I like that I can see the store hours and know if they are open now or not.

We were looking for Christmas cookies to mail to my family in California. It was great to do a search and see many options available. My husband and I could search each company’s website to decide which cookies to order and select the delivery date. It was very helpful.

 

A NEW TYPE OF PATIENTS

Recently we had a new patient come into the office. He had had a hearing test somewhere. I don’t know if the test was done online or in person, by a hearing instrument specialist or an audiologist. He did not bring the test with him. He had done research on the Web and decided which make and model of hearing aids he wanted. He wanted us to program them, but he did not want any services such as follow-up or batteries.

He was willing to let us do a test so we could program the aids, but he was only going to pay what he deemed was the correct price for the aids.

I don’t know his profession, his training, his expertise or his experience, or how he decided which make and model of hearing aids to select. Since we had not done a hearing test, we didn’t even know what his hearing was.

When I talk to other audiologists in private practice they report noticing the same trend. People without any experience with hearing aids are conducting research on the web and deciding which make and models are “the best for them.” There is definitely a lot of information about hearing aids on the web. Numerous blogs express opinions about features of certain models of hearing aids. Many consumers give their opinions about hearing aid makes and models. It is good that people can express their opinions and experiences with particular hearing aids.

hurdle.shutter.ubj-280But hearing loss affects different individuals in different ways. Hearing loss in certain frequency regions has different effects on one’s ability to hear and understand speech than does hearing loss at other frequencies. Some people cannot tolerate loud sounds, while others don’t mind sudden sharp noises such as a dog barking. Some people have more trouble understanding consonants than others do who have similar hearing losses. And, the age when a person started to lose their hearing and the age when the person decided to purchase hearing aids can also affect the outcome.

However, many people don’t seem to understand is that hearing loss is not a “one size fits all” condition.

Finally, to me, the biggest factor is that there is no “hearing center” in the brain. Hearing and understanding are greatly affected by one’s ability to process the speech and sounds that are being introduced into the brain. Every sense, vision, taste, touch, and smell can affect how the brain interprets a sound. Crinkling paper and fire crackling are two similar sounds. But, when a person sees fire and smells smoke, the brain interprets the sounds differently than if the person hearing the noise is looking at someone reading a newspaper.

 

MAKING A DECISION

Deciding on the make and model of hearing aids can be a daunting task even for a trained and experienced practitioner. Listening to the patient and their struggles plays a huge part in deciding which features a person may or may not need. Learning about a patient’s personal priorities for hearing better affects which make and model we select. A patient’s ability to handle batteries and to put their hearing aids in and out on a regular basis is an important consideration.

Vanity plays a part too. If a person needs power hearing aids but refuses to wear them, then purchasing products that will not be worn is a waste of money. On the other hand, some patients want to make a fashion statement by purchasing a red or blue hearing aid.

Purchasing hearing aids is not similar to purchasing magnifying glasses to read the menus at restaurants. Personally, I cannot use magnifying glasses; I need custom lenses. My glasses are expensive because I need bifocals. But, many friends buy $10 glasses at the drug store, and coordinate them to their daily outfits. We have different needs based on our vision. Some people’s vision problems are more complicated than others’.

It’s the same with hearing.

Some people’s hearing problems are more complicated than others. It takes a trained professional to sift through the information to obtain the best results.

Doing research on the Web about hearing aids can be helpful to consumers. Learning about hearing aid features can give them some insight on the capabilities of hearing aids today. But, not every hearing aid user needs every feature that’s available. Some features can make wearing the aids more complicated for the wearer.

I have been fitting hearing aids since the mid 1970s. I still like the “keep it simple” method for most hearing aid wearers. True, hearing aids have changed dramatically over the years. But, the bottom line is still the same: Hearing-impaired people need to wear their hearing aids in order to benefit from them. If the aids are not programmed properly and adjusted over time to meet the wearer’s needs and wants, they will not be worn. The aids will end up in the drawer collecting dust.

Do yourself a favor; go see a trained professional for your hearing test and hearing aids. Then make sure you go to follow-up appointments and talk to the professional about your frustrations and concerns. Only in this way will you achieve the best results and hear better.


12 Comments

  1. The “customer” who you are so scathing about is ME!

    If I choose to up grade my NHS hearing aids to expensive Private ones I will have done every possible bit of research, read every review and dug deep into every bit of info I can find on the web to try and extract proper technical data sheets.

    If you help me in this process, you might just make a sale.

    If you continue with your arrogant “I’m the professional, I know what’s good for you” attitude my credit card will stay firmly in my pocket!

    1. Dear Bad Bunny

      I don’t think I was talking about you personally! NHS National Health Service hearing aids is what I am “assuming NHS stands for. Quite honestly, I LOVE people who do research on their own about hearing aids. But, as in every profession, there is lingo, nuances that are understood by the professional with many years of experience, and a lay person doesn’t or can’t know all of the ins and outs of each company. I love it when a person can tell me exactly where he/she is having difficulties (what situations, or person). That makes my job much easier.
      My job is to find and fit the most appropriate aids for your needs, wants, hearing loss, and life style, and budget. I like to give every patient as many options as possible. I let them choose what they want. Some patients want in the ear aids, some want the new RIC (receiver in the ear) type. But, it is my job to let them know the pros and cons of each style based on lifestyle, their comfort level, dexterity, etc.
      I don’t depend on the wonder specs that the manufacturers generate because based on your ear and fit, the hearing aids function differently. The specs are from KEMAR in an anachoic chamber, where most of us do not live. So, to me specs are ok up to a point. I am more interested in your ear canal, lifestyle, hearing loss, etc. to help you select the aids that would work best for YOU! Everyone is different. Their needs are different. I do not have an arrogant “I am the professional” attitude. But, this particular patient thought he/she knew better than the professional. And, he/she didn’t want to let us do our job when we have years of experience and training. The person only wanted to pay us for “what he/she thought we were worth” He/she was the arrogant one.

  2. You should be aware that hearing aids are worn for extended periods of time, which leads to stress on the electrical components and limits batter power.

    1. Yes, NHS is the UKs wonderful, delightful and imperfect National Health service.

      It breeds, perhaps, a different kind of health consumer than the USA system.

      We are used to waiting, to seeing whatever doctor (or audiologist) happens to be on duty and muddling along with good enough.

      Some of our HCPs (health care professionals) are brilliant, some are a bit so,so.

      Thus we don’t think of doctors etc as always right. We do our own research and we do our best to get the best out of short, appointments with who ever is a available.

      Hearing aids are really serious money.

      Paying serious money for health care is really alien to Brits.

      We resent the odd £100 to dentists and opticians.

      £1000’s is way out of our comfort zone, especially when our hearing aid dispensers or little back street shops or off shoots of major opticians. (And I’ve had 37 years experience of good and bad opticians)

      I have no reason to assume their staff are really good at dispensing hearing aids and no way of finding out until I’ve parted with my money.

      So sorry I will do my research (and I am arrogant enough to feel -with my very techy husbands help- that I can do a pretty good job of understanding what I need to to make an informed decision)

      After all it’s my credit card and my ears.

  3. I just read “Students Need Sales and Marketing Skills” I agree the current curriculum in most universities do not teach marketing or sales in audiology training. Most audiologists I had hired in the past had to be taught how to market themselves and to learn how to demonstrate the product or service they were attempting to “sell”. It used to be that the word sell was a poor description of what audiologists do. I recently had a discussion with an audiologist who prefers the word “fit”. So we fit our patients with hearing aids. We do not sell hearing aids. I reminded her once money changes hands you are indeed selling.
    I have been dispensing for 35 years and I have seen the shift in audiology from straight clinical audiology to clinical and dispensing. I have recently started a business to educate not only audiologists but others how to market and sell their goods and services. The art of selling refers not just to the product or service you provide but it refers to relationship building and gaining the trust and respect of the potential patient or client. Once this relationship is established you can then proceed to other aspects of the procedure. Selling is finding a solution to a want or need. Most audiologists I have met have difficulty with these issues. I live in NYS and I am a qualified trainer as awarded by New York State. I would suggest that a course of marketing and sales in our industry be available to those in need. I am currently working on this effort.
    Thank You Mark Lavine, HIS

    1. Mark

      Thanks for your comments. I agree. I don’t understand the hang up audiologists have with the word “sell” or “sales” Read my post next Tuesday and I would be interested in your reactions. I have been seeing patients since 1970 when I was in college. It was unethical to dispense hearing aids way back then. Personally I love the selling part. I love to figure out the puzzle to help the person purchase aids and improve their lives. I love the look on their faces when they can hear the fan of the heater that they didn’t hear before. Lolly

  4. I have never really thought of how big of a difference smart phones have had on our day to day life. However, I have read a statistic that the easy access to listening to music has caused the younger generation to constantly have there music in there ears, causing an epidemic of hearing loss like you mentioned. I wonder if the technology of hearing aids will increase as the need for them increases too.

    http://www.craigbarthaudiologist.com/

    1. Hi I believe the technology in hearing aids will continue to improve. And, I believe we will be able to control them better with our smart phones. Having hearing aid manufacturers talk to phone manufacturers is pretty exciting. I know that most engineers who are in silicon valley really do not have a clue about hearing aid technology. Maybe we will have more conversations in the future.

  5. By keeping it simple I meant I try to give each customer the features and benefits they want and need. I ask lots of questions about their lifestyle and daily life. If the client is young and technology savvy, great. I tailor each fitting to the individual.

  6. Separately, Wayne Staab answers your “A New Type Of Patients” [sic] in “Call Them Customers:”

    “Many believe that a massive paradigm shift in the hearing aid distribution system is required, because that which is currently being provided may allow for continued repeat sales and service charges, gradual and long-term eventual acceptance of hearing aids, but no substantial growth. Exchanging hearing aid purchasers with one’s competition to grow sales is not only costly, but also unproductive. I recall from a few years ago that 25% of a dispenser’s sales consisted of the buyer being someone else’s customer for their last purchase. Some have furtively referred to this as “stealing from the competition.” Is this the way to grow the market?

    “Real growth is not going to be accomplished with renewed efforts essentially mimicking the same, failed procedures of the past, only with greater intensity. What directions might be taken? A suggestion might be to look at reality and not theory. And look outside the box, so to speak. A questionnaire and statistical analysis are not required to determine what the problems are, especially when common sense is likely to provide more realistic answers, and in a much more timely manner. True marketers seize the moment at hand, not push My Caution the problem down the road continuously…

    “If a person wants to be a physician or work within the medical model, call the people you serve patients. However, if one wants to grow business, call them customers. I don’t think I am wrong, but I believe that there are MANY more customers than there are patients. As previously mentioned, amplification is in reality a consumer, not medical product for the most part, regardless of its current FDA classification. So, why limit the distribution of amplification products to patients? All one has to do is look at the various amplification products available worldwide to know that these are not being used just for individuals with measurable hearing loss – whatever that means to the potential purchaser. If limited sales growth is desired, then continue to sell hearing aids to patients and not customers.”

    Full article at:
    http://hearinghealthmatters.org/waynesworld/2014/call-customers/

  7. “Keep(ing) it simple” can be a disservice to some patients, especially when it comes to recommending wireless accessories to first-time Boomer users, and to longtime hearing aid users.

    For example, although “keeping it simple” may work for an 80 year old first time user, his 45 year old niece will probably want her new hearing aids integrated into her shiny new iPhone 6 as part of a hearing “system.”

    1. I try to view each patient individually. I ask lots of questions about lifestyle and needs. Some young people are not technology savvy, others are. Some older people are very tech savvy. It takes time to evaluate and select the hearing aid system for each patient so they can get the maximum hearing and lifestyle benefit from their purchase.

Comments are closed.