November 19th, 2008

hat

hearing aids

I went to an audiologist to try out hearing aids today. For during the visit, she gave me a pair to put on while we talked. It was weird; when she put them in and turned them on, I expected everything to get louder, but it didn't. Her voice stayed roughly the same volume, but was somehow a little bit clearer. Turns out that this is because the aid was "open fit": it lets exterior sounds pass through and in fact does not amplify anything below something like 1000 Hz, letting my own hearing do that. After that, she toyed a bit with them, fit them back in, and the left one started buzzing. She was able to fix that, but then it was still sounding staticky. She then told me that this is something that could be fixed with adjustments as well, but there wasn't as much point since I wasn't going to keep them.

We discussed my options. The basic question was how "active" a life I lead. I clearly fell into the "very active" category (remember, most people who get hearing aids are a bit older than I), which would indicate that I should go for the premium, top of the line hearing aids. But we discussed the differences between the high-end and mid-range aids and it wasn't clear that it would make a big difference. Since I get a 30-day trial period on the aids (required by state law!), the audiologist recommended that I try the mid-range ones, and if I'm a little disappointed in their performance, I can try the premium ones for another 30 days to decide if they're worth it.

The costs are a little daunting. The pair of mid-range hearing aids costs $4900. This is a little higher than the prices I had seen (e.g., from Hearing Planet, but the difference is exactly the amount that my insurance would cover, and I figure it's nice to have a local audiologist. The little remote that controls some of the functions is priced at a ridiculous $500. Hopefully I'll find I don't use it that much and return it, though I thought it might be nice to have it along for the trial. And the premium aids costs $1400 more. Plus there's a non-refundable $150 fitting fee.

But the prospect of not having hearing aids sounds worse, so I asked the audiologist to order a pair for me. They'll be ready for me right as I get back from Thanksgiving, so I'll report more then.
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hearing aids, cont'd

While speech went through subtle changes, a lot of background noise went through more dramatic ones. I noticed that the chair had squeaky wheels, and that the audiologist's keyboard made clicking noises. I also heard very clearly the sounds when she opened up desk drawers and rustled papers. And when she dropped something on the table, I almost jumped. I can see why people like my dad might be tempted to leave them off a lot of the time, even though they work better if you leave them on for longer.

It will be interesting discovering what noises I have been missing. Some have been obvious: I don't hear beeps from things like the microwave very well now. And I realized this morning that I can barely hear our alarm clock, even when fanlain says it's blaring. (In retrospect, I realized that when I use the iPhone for an alarm, I hear the buzzing from the vibration, rather than the actual alarm.) But, like the paper rustling, I think most of the noises I can't hear now, I simply don't realize that they're gone.