Hearing Aids/Hearing aid

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Question
I am 61 years old and have been wearing CIC hearing aids for sensorineural hearing loss in both ears for 30 years. My right ear is the better hearing ear (moderate loss). I currently wear a  Starkey Destiny 1200 aid in that ear and have no problem with it. However, it is almost 5 years old and I am planning to replace it before it fails, because without a hearing aid in that ear I am functionally unable to hear and could not work. My audiologist has given me a preliminary  estimate of $2200 for a new aid. She likes Starkey but says there are now better options from Phonak.I know that Costco sells CICs for around $1500. I believe they carry Resound, Rexton, and their own brand which I have heard is made by Siemens. I am a bit relucatnt to buy from Costco but the price is quite a bit cheaper. I do buy my eyeglasses from Costco. Do you have an opinion about my best course of action?  Thanks.

Answer
Hello David,

You ask a great question.  My advice is very simple, but with a more detailed explanation.  Unlike purchasing eyeglasses, which correct visual acuity problems quite easily with minimal adjustment by either party, hearing aid benefit is much more dependent on provider skill and appropriate verification measurements.  I would advise you to choose hearing care services based on the quality of the individual provider.  

Whether you realize or not, you are paying for more than a device when you purchase a hearing aid.  Most companies "bundle" all the professional fitting service charges and even the "free" hearing tests they provide into the overall price you pay.  Bundling is part of an old model for hearing aid delivery based on a time when they were sold predominately by salesmen (hearing aid dealers).  Unfortunately, when audiologists were recognized as the most highly trained and skilled health care providers for hearing and began fitting hearing aids with better practices, for some reason they stuck with the bundles pricing model.  My point is that it you are paying a substantial portion of the overall price for the fitting services, which are not all equal.  And this inequality of services has a huge impact on the ultimate benefit and success of the individual user.  The skill of the provider to select, counsel, fit, and prescribe (through verification measures) the most appropriate amplification has been too often overlooked with devastating consequences (sold an expensive hearing aid that was not appropriately selected or adjusted, becomes disgusted, puts in drawer, turned off to the idea and suffers without help for year after).

Costco (and other large chains) offers "discounted" prices to the consumer by reducing their own costs by at least a couple of different ways.  One is on the product side--they are a large company and have likely negotiated lower costs on the goods sold.  The other is on the service provider side--most providers working in Costco are either hearing instrument specialists with no formal education, but instead training on basic testing and fitting techniques for the purpose of selling hearing aids, OR you may find an audiologist but often these positions are not highly sought-after in our field.  Both cases likely result in a poorer-than-average quality of provider, although there are always exceptions to the rule.

What I am talking about here is VALUE.  How much benefit per dollar spent.  It goes with the saying that "you get what you pay for."  Although you can definitely pay way too much for what you get too!  In fact, although audiologists are the most capable hearing health providers, hearing aid pricing is often the same or less than compared to hearing aid specialists (dealers) since audiologists provide many other billable services to help offset overhead costs. I speak from a position of experience, as I started out as a hearing aid specialist before my formal education in audiology.  I urge you to realize the value of the provider and choose based on good judgement of character, credentials, and reputation.

I hope this was helpful to you and I wish you well!

Clint Keifer

Hearing Aids

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Dr. Clint D. Keifer, Audiologist

Expertise

I am qualified to answer all questions related to the diagnosis and rehabilitative treatment of hearing and balance disorders. This includes evaluation of hearing and balance, counseling, amplification (hearing aids and assistive devices), tinnitus (noises in head) evaluation and management, cochlear implants, and audiology in general.

Experience

I started my career as a hearing instrument specialist (on a trainee license) in 1998. After almost 2 years, I decided that I needed to pursue higher education if I was to provide the best care to hearing impaired patients that I could. In 2007, I completed my Doctor of Audiology and have been providing audiological care for over 5 years. I have vestibular, cochlear implant, and pediatric experience along with prescribing, fitting, and verification of hearing aid amplification as part of comprehensive hearing loss rehabilitation.

Organizations
Audiology doctor and owner at Great Lakes Audiology in Toledo, OH. phone: 419 327-2273 website: www.GLAudiology.com American Academy of Audiology, American Speech-Language Hearing Association, Ohio Academy of Audiology

Education/Credentials
Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Western Michigan University, Speech Pathology and Audiology Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.), Ohio State University Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A)

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