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Do's and Don'ts of getting hearing aids

Tue, Aug 12th 2014

June 30, 2010

There are hundreds of hearing aids on the market backed by companies that make wonderful sounding promises about their features and benefits. Often the consumer purchases one of these incredible sounding devises and is disappointed with the end result. Consumers end their experience disenchanted, assuming that nothing can be done about "their hearing," and finally sacrificing their lifestyle choices simply because they can't hear in the environments of their choice. This scenario bothers me.

Not every hearing aid is designed for every hearing loss. Not every technology is designed for every lifestyle. Not every style and shape of hearing aid is designed for every person. Not every brand or manufacturer has a hearing aid that will solve everyone's need. With all the variables that you, the consumer has to look at, how can you possibly know what is the right hearing aid to choose?

You have a unique hearing loss and unique needs. Your friend's hearing aids won't work in your ears. A hearing device you purchase over the internet or television is the equivalent of purchasing dentures through the same medium. Hearing aids are more than just amplifiers. I know there is a lot of free advice that is given by friends and "authorities" who will gladly tell you everything they know as they have acquired years of training and experience in the field of purchasing hearing aids. But, I would encourage you to be careful and use wisdom to prevent disappointment.

Since this is a Sound Hearing Instruments website, of course I'll promote Sound Hearing, but knowing this can be read as far away as China, and as close as Richfield, the information can be helpful no matter where you live.

Look for a qualified provider:

Most, but not all practices that have been in existence over five years probably are qualified. Here in Minnesota, we are regulated by a pretty good system governed by the Minnesota Department of Health. To be a practitioner, you have to be trained and tested in competencies and further your education each year with a required number of CEU's. Peers and consumers help to regulate the industry by filing grievances or reporting illegal activities as they see inappropriate behavior take place. Should a practitioner fail to follow regulations required by law, most likely they are not practicing after five years. By this time they have been asked to discontinue practicing, or consumers have heard about the reputation of the practice and the business runs its course into non-existence.

Find out a little bit about who is fitting your ears with hearing aids. Like any major purchase, you want to be acquainted with the provider and have a good, comfortable connection with them. If you don't feel comfortable, don't buy anything. It sounds like common sense, but our "Minnesota Nice," genetics sometimes gets in the way of our best interest, so we buy from the provider because it's the nice thing to do.

Purchasing a hearing aid is the beginning of a relationship with the practitioner. You will be seeing this person for cleaning, maintenance, repairs, reprogramming, re-testing of hearing, batteries, and of course, at Sound Hearing Instruments, cookies on Fridays! You want to be comfortable with the person you work with. You want them to know your hearing and know your unique environments that you participate in. You don't want a person who will be gone in ten months and has taken the money with them. You also don't want the tire sales person from the other side of the warehouse to be fitting you with a hearing aid.

Ask questions and be comfortable with the person who you are trusting with your hearing. They are the person who you will be relying on for a long time.

Avoid single product providers:

We often see a person who has just recently purchased a hearing aid from a franchise company that has just moved into town. Now they are looking for someone to service their hearing aid. I would absolutely love to take care of them, program their hearing aid, give them the best service in the twin cities. The problem is, they have a hearing aid that can only be programmed at that franchise. OUCH! Now that they find out they are locked into one provider and don't have the freedom to go elsewhere if they are unhappy with the services provided. Sadly, I have to send them away to get their hearing aids programmed, and know that while they are getting it programmed, they will be "sold" all kinds of propaganda about why they need new aids, and how they could buy all kinds of service. That's heart breaking.

If you go to a provider who works with multiple manufacturers and is not locked into the franchise model, you have freedom to go where you want. This means, if you just moved from Florida, and you purchased your hearing aid from a provider who works with all the favorite companies in the industry, you can come to Sound Hearing and we will test your hearing, clean your aids, repair them, program them and you will walk out of our office without seeing a charge.

Admittedly, we have our favorite brands we like to fit and have become familiar with. But you may have a hearing loss or need the kind of hearing aid that one manufacturer doesn't excel in. As an independent provider, we will know of a manufacture that makes the product that will work best for you, and will be glad to make that recommendation.

Featured product:

As mentioned, we have our favorite products. I have a new one. Not because of what the manufacturer says, but because of what you have been telling us.

Starkey Laboratories is a local company that is a world leader in hearing aid technology. In 2006 Starkey turned the industry upside down with the Destiny product, and have been leading the industry since. Now, a new product has entered the market through the geniuses within Starkey's research group, and the University of California, Berkley. The S Series, iQ is the product, and it truly is incredible what it has to offer.

The iQ circuit's truly exceptional feature is how well it works in background noise. Talking about this feature makes me a little cautious just because of some misunderstandings of hearing aids and background noise. First, hearing aids should NOT eliminate all background noise. If they did, not only would you get hit by a truck because you didn't hear it coming, you would feel like you are the only person in a restaurant even though you see other people talking all around you. That would be way too weird. You need some background noise to feel like you belong in this world. But, you want to hear speech in background noise.

Starkey's iQ circuit is so sophisticated, it is able to separate speech from background noise, even between the syllables of the person you are listening to. That truly is amazing! These are not the hearing aids my grandfather was fitting in 1946.

One of our patients who I have been working with has been wearing a set for a while now. We have struggled for many years to really find the perfect solution that sounds natural, and allows him to hear everything he wants to hear. Admittedly, he wants to hear more than what we are supposed to hear, and so it has been a challenge to find the perfect sound for him. When he came back for his follow up, I cautiously asked how he was doing, expecting to hear how they needed modification, and certain sounds weren't quite right, or the volume needed to be tweaked up or down at certain frequencies. When he sat down, he said, "These are a miracle." My reaction was shock. I fumbled for words, and tried to regain composure, but I think my face said it all. He doesn't smile much, but a grin came across his face and I knew he found the right hearing aids. You can't imagine the excitement that was going on inside of me when I heard how happy he was. These are some comments we wrote down as he was describing what the new hearing aids were doing.

"I could understand what people were saying rather than just knowing they were talking."

"I could hear what people were saying at the next table at a restaurant. It was like when I had real ears and could tune out what I didn't want to listen to."

"The first thing I noticed when I got in my car was that my car was quiet."

"Finally, I can hear my wife's voice."

"I could hold a conversation in a restaurant and I could hear everything people were saying in the conversation."

I was so elated to hear Mr. Roberts talk about his experience. Not because of the hearing aids so much, but because of the difficulty we both face when we try to fit his ears. I trust when this man tells me he thinks these aids are a miracle, there is something absolutely wonderful about this technology. I am now on board with this product, and you better believe I will be recommending it to others who can wear it when it fits their needs.

Mr. Roberts is not the only one talking about the technology. There are many others. But I wanted to mention this the experience of Mr. Roberts because he is the one that I know can prove a technology works.

Call us today for a free hearing evaluation and we will work with you to find out what is going to be best for your hearing needs. Be sure to check back once in a while for updates and new news!

All the best,

Dale Woodard, BS, BC-HIS
President