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Subject : A post from another board ...|
posted by kacey on Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:33 am
|This was posted to the http://www.hearingaidforums.com board, re the process of getting HAs:|
I can't tell you what the normal process is, but I can tell you mine. I am a new hearing aid user. I got my first pair at the beginning of December 2008. My audiologist recommended ReSound Dot 30 for $5,200 after two annual hearing tests that indicated I needed help. At the time, I knew nothing about any of this. She also told me that she was required by law to accept them back within a month with a small $400 fitting charge. At first, I had no plans to shop around.
I did some online research and found serious alternatives. Prices seemed to be all over the map. I found what appeared to be hucksters peddling all kinds of things. I found other retailers that had prices similar to my audiologist's. Then, I found a couple of on-line forums; this one and one here: http://hohadvocates.org/wwwboard/lis...tes&expnd=none.
There was a lot of conversation about hearing, services hearing aids, etc. A couple of names came up on a regular basis: Costco and America Hears.
At my local Costco, of which I was a member, I found Costco's Kirkland Signature behind the ear open fit hearing aids for $1,999 per pair. After a free hearing test that matched the one from my audiologist, I got a pair at my local Costco Hearing Center. They came with 2 year, no deductible loss prevention, a 3-year warranty and a 90-day 100% refund if I changed my mind. They included a heater/dryer/cases, etc., batteries and unlimited adjustments. According to the fitter, these are private labeled Rexton Gems and had only been introduced a few weeks prior.
I also got a pair of America Hears Freedom AD SIE over the internet. for approximately the same price. They didn't have quite the number of the accessories, but came with a plug in programmer and software for my PC that I can adjust or their on staff audiologists can create download files that I can load onto the programmer for adjustment. The only offer a 1 year standard warranty (against defects), but have optional 1, 2, and 3-year loss damage policies (with deductible) for an additional charge ($100, $150, and $200 per unit respectively). Their loss policy has a $200 deductible per instrument. They also came with accessories, such as hard and soft cases, batteries, and a programming wand. When I purchased the programmer, I got unlimited consultations for one year. After that they would cost $49 (with two follow-ups). America Hears allows 60 days with a full refund.
I have until the end of February to decide which instruments I am going to keep. The sound of both, while different, are both good. The AH units treat transient background noise, such as paper rustling, louder than the Costcos. There appears to be more sibilance in the sound of the Costco that the AH. On paper, the AH units seem to have better specs. I am struggling to decide which ones allow me to hear better, which is the ultimate goal for hearing aids.
I can call AH, speak to an audiologist, get an adjustment made, downloaded and installed (if I'm home) in just a few minutes. I can also go in and make my own adjustments. If I'm still messing with them after a year, I'll either have to pay for the help or do it myself. (By that time, I would most likely do it myself). When I am wearing them, to change the programs on the AH Freedom ADs, I need a magnetic wand (which I hope not to lose). I have to wave it at each hearing aid to make the program change.
The Costco units require a visit to Costco to get any adjustments made. According to the fitter there, this is free for the life of the units and I imagine it's available at any Costco (he downloads my setup from a remote server). I suppose I could purchase the software and hardware to program the units at home, but it would be extremely expensive and I would not get the level of support that America Hears provides. The Costco units each have a small push button on them. Pressing either button changes programs in both hearing aids. Both are always in sync. They also have a remote control available (for a nominal charge, ~$90) that changes the programs and also provides for volume adjustment.
For service and support, America Hears is a phone call away, sending the units in to be fixed requires a Fedex shipment, which is relatively painless. I have spoken to both Judy and Susan, audiologists. They are friendly and professional and know quite a bit about hearing and hearing aids. Other than the inconvenience of changing programs and distance, the AH units are tops.
I haven't needed to get my Costco instruments fixed so I don't know if they would need to be sent away and if I would get loaners. While the fitter that I used wasn't a degreed audiologist, he seemed fairly knowledgeable about his products and how to use the fitting software. I wouldn't put him in the same category as Susan or Judy at America hears, though. Even though the prices were about the same for America Hears and Costco, Costco's policies for warranty, loss/damage, and support put their overall value several hundred dollars better than America Hears.
To help me decide, I created a pro/con list for each.
More natural sound
Virtually never produces feedback
Knowledgeable, friendly staff always available by phone
Loud transient noises
Requires a tool to change programs
Repairs mean sending units in for repair and going without
Limited free professional support after first year
Extra cost for loss/damage coverage with deductible
No remote or volume control
Costco Signature BTE
Available locally (several locations in my metro area)
Unlimited free support during the life of the aids
Transient sounds not as loud
Voices seem slight more sibilant
Easier to change programs (1 button on either aid)
Remote control available to adjust volume.
Better warranty and loss/damage coverage
Consultations are with certified dispensers, not audiologists
Adjustments require an appointment (during the work-week) and a visit
Sometimes they produce a little feedback (which the fitter told me is normal)
As I said at the beginning of this post, I don't know what normal is. I am just beginning the journey. I may be agonizing over this more that I should. The ultimate prize is how they improve my ability to hear and communicate. After that, everything is details. My biggest struggle (and yours should be, too) is what make you hear better. I hope I get some sort of epiphany before I have to send one set back. The quest continues!
If anyone can offer some testing or other suggestions to help with my evaluation, I am all ears!
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