The Problem with Audiologists-Programmed Hearing Aids

As a result of decades of hearing abuse, international flights in noisy airlines, neighbors playing music too loud, using a lawn mower, etc., my aged hearing is not what it used to be. I lost my first set of hearing aids, and the company I purchased them from wanted full price for an replacement set. Actually, more than I paid for the original set, because the price had gone up. I refused to pay.

Instead, I purchased a set of analog “audio amplifiers” online. The companies that sell these devices are not allowed to call them hearing aids, because they are not tailored to an individual’s hearing loss and are not sold by an audiologist. However, mine work pretty well.

A few weeks ago, I decided to spring for a set of custom hearing aids programmed to my specific hearing loss. They set me back thousands of dollars. After I picked them up and had them “properly” programmed by the audiologist, I discovered that there was something radically wrong with the left hearing aid. The sound was so distorted that I heard better without the hearing aid.

I returned to the audiologist, and noticed a problem. When I complained about the way the hearing aids were programmed, she was skeptical about them according to my feedback. She took what I was saying with a grain of salt. I left with the hearing aids sounding better than they had after the first programming. However, after wearing them for several days in an attempt to allow my brain to adapt to the new sound, I have come to the conclusion that they still sound worse than my cheapo generic “audio amplifiers.”

I believe that the new digital hearing aids are capable of delivering better sound, but the weakness lies in the way that they are programmed. Adjustment relies on my telling the audiologist in imprecise language what needs to be corrected, her interpretation of what I said and probably discounting part of my feedback. Then she makes some changes, and it’s up to me to go out into the world and see how they work.

She cannot hear what I hear, and I cannot accurately describe what I hear, so there it is impossible for her to optimize the hearing aids to my hearing. It’s a hit-and-miss procedure, and the audiologist is content if she gets the adjustment close enough that the customer stops complaining.

I believe that these hearing aids are capable of much better performance, but given the primitive process of adjusting them, the chance that they will be properly programmed for my hearing are almost non-existent. If I could make adjustments to the frequency response of the hearing aids, I could optimize them, but then I would have no need for an audiologist.

I have 30 days to return the hearing aids and get most (but not all) of my money back, and I’m going to do that.

I am now looking into self-programmable hearing aids. There are more and more of them available. You start with hearing aids programmed to your audiogram and then make the tweaks yourself to optimize your hearing. There are more and more of this type of hearing aid available, but I want to be careful and make sure that I purchase a quality set with quality programming tools. Most of these are sold over the Internet, but there are many scams out there.