If someone had asked me years ago whether, if one had to start losing one’s sight or one’s hearing, which would be the most diﬃcult to cope with? I would have said that sight is the most precious of our senses…’ (more…)
TV Star Cilla Black (71) has recently been diagnosed with hearing loss. She has had an implantable hearing aid fitted because of damage. Implantable hearing aids like that of the Lyric from Phonak are inserted into the ear canal by a professional Audiologist (more…)
As a hearing professional who has sat in front of NHS patients, one of the most common questions I was asked was, how do I go about getting a better hearing aid? However, owing to departmental impartially little advice or assistance was advised. These patients were largely left to their own devices to source more satisfactory solutions. Now sat in front of my private patients it is apparent that they are still ill informed and unaware of the vastly different options available to them. Leaving me to be the primary person answering their questions, which can be difficult to fit into a 90 minute consultation. After visiting several different health professionals, typically their G.P., NHS audiology, a national hearing aid company and doing internet research the patient arrives not knowing typical price structures, difference in clinical qualifications (competence) for achieving optimum outcomes, the importance of technology level and service packages in achieving satisfaction. Therefore I thought I would offer some advice based on the Which Magazine report.
If you decide to buy hearing aids rather than go to the NHS the price of the hearing aids is bundled with the service and follow up. In order to compare hearing aid prices it is important to compare like for like only. So make sure you know what is included. You are buying a whole on-going package not just a one off purchase. Independent hearing aid centres tend to be cheaper and have more flexibility when offering products because they are not generally tied to manufacturers. National companies tend to offer older technologies at lower price points, have higher overheads and therefore premium products are often more expensive and often they do not verify the fitting of the hearing aid which is important to ensure correct prescription. Hearing aid devices last on average 3 to 5 years, so you will need to build in the cost of replacing them. Manufacturer’s guarantees are attached to service packages to a maximum of 5 years, manufacturer’s guarantees are essential as you are buying an electronic device that can go wrong. Lifetime aftercare is a gimmick term used by companies to give you a false perception of the life of the hearing aid and the ongoing costs, it is a valueless term, as any quality independent hearing aid centre will always look after you and your hearing aid once you have purchased a hearing aid on an ongoing basis.
Ongoing costs can include batteries, domes and wax guards which can total an average spend of £50 to £100 per year. With some independents this cost is included in their premium packages. Batteries can be purchased for between £2 and £4 a pack (6 batteries).
There are 7 main manufacturers who all have four current ranges and therefore four price points. The four ranges are a basic, mid-level, advanced and premium level, with the performance and cost increasing as you go up the range. Average prices are from £500 to £3500 per hearing aid. The average spend in the UK is £3k for a pair of hearing aids. At Chalfont Hearing are prices range from £750 to £2000 per hearing aid with a basic service package. If you buy mid-level hearing aids from high street hearing centres you are likely to get older or lesser quality technology than obtainable from independent hearing centres. If you buy premium hearing aids (from high street hearing centres, like Boots, Specsavers, Hidden Hearing) you will often pay an unnecessary premium for exactly the same product. Hearing aids supplied by the NHS (such as the Oticon Zest) are mid-level technology and were released to the private market in 2008, they have since been super-seeded by 2 generations. We would advise against going for cheap hearing aids especially those under £500-£600 pounds as they are often old or extremely basic technology, these hearing aids maybe ‘OK’ for housebound elderly patients who can not get to the hospital but will offer limited benefit.
However getting value for money is about more than just the cost of the instruments. Actually the price is fairly trivial, its about service and therefore the difference of whether the hearing aids work or not. The amount you pay should reflect the quality of the instrument, the service and your lifestyle requirements. If your lifestyle is fairly relaxed and you rarely leave the house a more basic hearing aid is perfect, if you are still working and socially active then you will need something more premium.
Key questions to ask if you are buying a hearing aid:
1. Have you been offered a choice, have you reviewed the pro’s and con’s of different hearing aid styles and features?
2. Have you trialled them to see if they actually benefit you?
3. What is the warranty period (repairs and replacement)?
4. What level and quality will the fitting be done to?
5. How will the aftercare be delivered?
Five things to watch out for:
1. Some companies offer free guides on hearing aids and follow these up with home visits. They are often lead generation companies who operate in a sales based way.
2. Do not buy hearing aids online without a full hearing assessment, the hearing aid is only as good as the programming.
3. If you are shopping around, only compare ‘like for like’. That includes make, manufacturer, warranty, aftercare, additional extras, qualification of clinician and quality of premises and equipment.
4. Some companies have tie ins with manufacturers, this includes the NHS and therefore options will be limited if this is the case.
5. You should not need to replace hearing aids more than once every 3 years.
For your piece of mind Chalfont hearing Centre have considered and incorporated all of this information into our service delivery model to ensure our patients get the best advice on hearing aids possible. To have a hearing test and get informed and impartial information contact 01494 765144.
In October 2010 a Which? investigation revealed serious problems at ‘shops’ selling hearing aids to the public. In an undercover inquiry they sent researchers with hearing loss to branches of the biggest five high street companies, plus some independent shops. They found some ‘shops’ failed to ask basic medical questions or properly carry out hearing tests, and missed potentially serious problems. The report detailed below explains the shortcomings found across the industry.
In the UK there is no standardised way of fitting hearing aids, there are also various different qualifications that practictioner’s may possess in order to fit hearing aids. The outcome and fitting success can vary wildly depending on where you go. Some people may have had negative experiences with private hearing aids, some may have had negative experiences with the NHS. The main factor in the successful fitting of a hearing aid is the audiologist or hearing aid dispenser that is fitting the hearing aid. A hearing aid is only as good as the audiologist fitting it. When choosing a hearing aid it is important not to choose an aid based on price but on the competency of the audiologist. If the hearing is not fitted using some form of verification you may not achieve optimum hearing levels. Verification typically refers to the process of real ear measurement, insitu audiometry and speech mapping. If you hearing aids have not been fitted using this method they may not be working to their optimum. Under amplification may lead to a lack of clarity and over amplification may lead to feedback, noise, distortion and even further damage to your hearing.
To find out if your hearing aid is performing correctly contact us via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01494 765144.
A recent study has found that it is possible for the brain to cancel out some sounds, and focus on others when directed to. This is a particularly important consideration in hearing aid wearers, who need to relearn to listen with an acquired hearing loss. Hearing aids only provide an aid to hearing, focused listening and hearing tactics are just as important in achieving improved hearing.
I am constantly trying to reinforce to my patients that listening is just as important as hearing and that while I control their hearing they control their listening. Many patients are overwhelmed by sound when they are first fitted with a hearing aids, resulting on them being distracted by noise rather than listening to speech. However, when the patient finishes their acclimatisation period and is wearing the hearing aid all of the time, they will begin to become selective again. However, this is not a passive activity for the hearing impaired it is a much more demanding activity, that will take time to improve. Continued dialogue with your Audiologist is important to make the best progress.
The link below is to a video which explains the details of the hearing study in more depth