Getting Online Hearing Aids

SilverDia2_CMYK_1024x1024I was born with crappy hearing. High frequencies such as high pitched bird calls and bleeping electronic devices run above my hearing range. Worse, I will often confuse “s” sounds with “t” sounds thus turning my perception of ordinary conversations into a never ending avant-garde poetry reading.

Good hearing is part of a good life. Friends and relatives get frustrated when they have to yell or repeat things. And there’s research indicating that hearing problems can contribute to dementia later in life.

Generally I’m not a fan of Silicon Valley’s “disruption” tactics, but if ever there was an industry that needed shaking up it was the hearing aid biz. Until just a few years ago hearing aids were expensive, costing thousands of dollars each for a device that’s far simpler than our much cheaper smart phones. For most people in the U.S., insurance won’t pay for hearing aids.

When I first got a hearing aid ten years ago from HearX, at $2,000 per ear, I could only afford one. It’s an outrageous price since, according to the New York Times, the device probably costs around $100 to manufacture. It’s just a microphone and speaker with a modest amount of signal processing. The computer on which I’m typing out this blog post also has a speaker, a microphone and much more sophisticated audio signal processing capabilities. It can also play cute cat videos and costs half as much as one hearing aid. And why, if I just went to my doctor for a hearing test, am I paying for someone at HearX to do the exact same test?

When it came time to replace the overpriced hearing aid which HearX would no longer service, I checked out Costco. Their hearing aids were half the price of HearX but they still made you go through another hearing test. A friend (annoyed with my bad hearing) sent me an article on new online hearing aid services and I discovered that they were half the price of Costco at around $500 to $600 an ear. I ended up going with Audicus and I’ve been pleased with the two hearing aids I purchased. I went to my doctor and got a hearing test (she also did an MRI to make sure that there was not something else going on). I sent the hearing aid test to Audicus and a week later they sent me a box with two hearing aids.

With my Audicus hearing aids the part that goes in the ear is a one-size-fits-all plug as opposed to the custom earmolds used by HearX. This cuts down on costs and means that you don’t have to go in for a fitting. I haven’t noticed any significant difference in terms of audio quality or comfort between my Audicus hearing aids and my HearX hearing aid. I’ve been using my Audicus hearing aids for two years with no problems.

I have a few important tips if you’re considering a hearing aid:

  • When I first got hearing aids a friend who is an audiologist told me to wear them all day everyday even if I was alone. This is because they take awhile to get used to. For me I was hearing sounds I had never heard before some of which were unpleasant.
  • Even when you get past the early phase you should still wear them as much as possible. I’ve been bad about this lately. It’s important to remember how important communication is for ourselves and for our relationships.
  • And don’t worry about aesthetics. Hardly anyone will notice that you are wearing them. People don’t look at your ears when they are talking to you they look at your eyes. I went with the silver colored mode above rather than a flesh colored hearing aid.

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  1. oh, wow this is great!!! My husband of nearly 30 yrs has genetic hearing loss that has been declining at an alarming rate as he nears 60 ( I tell him hearing loss is the number one cause of death in married men.) Why aren’t hearing aids covered by health insurance!! My husband’s last set cost about $4000 or so. He doesn’t wear them when he is home with me. I feel bad knowing he can’t hear bird song, can’t hear the frogs whose calls I love do identify, the Fowler’s toads with their loud harsh calls. I will pass this info on and hope he tries it.

    • I’m bad about wearing them at home too. I’m going to try to be better about this. And it’s criminal that health insurance doesn’t cover this. Of course, health insurance in this country often doesn’t cover artificial limbs either!

  2. I have had numerous hearing tests, mostly self-imposed. I am told I have better hearing than most people and why am I there.

    This infuriate me since I can mostly hear when I watch mouths. I am attentive to others and was attentive to professors who noticed and like it, but I need to see your mouth if you are talking to me. I had students who had long hair that hid their mouths, and I had no idea what they were saying.

    Put me in a little sound proof booth and make squeaks, and sure, I can hear.

    My ear drum burst when I was an infant. It seems I have been plagued by ear infections since birth.

    I hear the lights! No one believes me. I also have tinnitus that is white noise.

    And, I always notice hearing aids. I think the silver ones look better than the skin colored ones that are obvious and never the right skin color.

    For years, I have said I could hear better with my glasses off. Now, it seems research bears out my observations. The leg of the glasses impairs a nerve that helps one to hear. Look it up to see the better explanation.

  3. Thanks for this! My partner has some hearing trouble such as you and Trish described – high-pitched bird calls, frogs, etc. I’m definitely going to show him this. Maybe it will move him to do something.

  4. Great timing Eric. There’s an interesting article in this morning’s WSJ (A15) as to whether or not hearing aids should be sold over the counter in local drug stores.

    • I saw that too and forgot to mention it in my blog post. I guess I still think people should see a doctor and audiologist first if just that they aren’t going to try to sell you something.

  5. Thank you thank you thank you for this timely information! Major hearing loss runs in my family, I have it and my adult son who lives with us has it (tho’ he won’t admit it). My husband, who worked in a factory his whole life, doesn’t have hearing loss-big surprise, he never listens to me!
    Anyway, my son and I have comical avant-garde conversations and don’t understand what’s going on, often. Thinking we couldn’t afford hearing aids has prevented us from looking into hearing tests and going further.
    Thank you so much for this news, now we CAN be tested and get help. I’ve read that the longer you go without hearing aids, the harder it is to get used to them, because your brain quits knowing how to process sounds. Hopefully, at least my son for sure, we can benefit from them.
    You’re changing lives with this post!!!

    • Hearing aids are just as important as glasses but our culture tends to overemphasize vision over hearing. Hearing is really important!!!! Everyone who needs hearing aids should get them!

    • Thanks for mentioning this. And the batteries can kill them. I’m very careful to lock up my hearing aids when not in use.

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