Do you need a hearing aid?
Most Boomers think their hearing is just fine. But we are in denial. How many Boomers with significant hearing loss are out there? The data can be daunting. This is from the NIH: “Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. “ So how come we generally don’t believe we have a hearing problem? Mostly hearing loss is very slow in the making, and we adjust to it subconsciously. It starts in your 20s and 30s (remember those rock concerts?), and we do not notice it until someone is brave or bold enough to tell us about the problem. And, of course, when was the last time you had your hearing checked? Hey, it’s possible that you don’t have hearing loss, but if you are reading this, you already think something is going on with your hearing.
So how do I find out if I have hearing loss?
There are multiple ways, and it will not cost you much to find out (depending on your insurance, Medicare will finance an annual checkup). First, you can settle the issue right away by taking the National Hearing Test, a federally funded program, in the privacy of your own on home. Call us at 888 564 2436 and we will provide you with a FREE coupon to take the test. It will take all of 5 minutes and you will know immediately if you have any issues. You can read more about this test and organization here.
Well, now that I know, what’s the next step?
If you have taken me up on my offer to provide you with a FREE COUPON, taken the test, and found out that there is indeed an issue, it makes sense for you to go to a doctor. Go to a real doctor, an ENT (for ear, nose, and throat) specialist, so that the nature of your hearing loss can be diagnosed. A real examination by a physician is often covered by insurance, and even Medicare will cover the examination. So do this, because there are some real-world consequences of not addressing the issue. If you want to know more about this totally painless examination, you can read about it right here.
What’s an audiogram?
As part of the examination, you will be taking a hearing test given by the “in-house” audiologist. The results of this test—and you should take a copy of it with you (that’s your right!)—are printed out as a chart called an Audiogram.
First, immediately below is the background grid on which your hearing will be mapped:
"Audio23" by Audiology6 (talk) (Uploads) - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Audio23.jpg#/media/File:Audio23.jpg
Next, here’s an audiogram showing very slight hearing loss. No responsible person would suggest hearing aids for this kind of loss:
"Tonaud w norm" by Welleschik - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tonaud_w_norm.jpg#/media/File:Tonaud_w_norm.jpg
And here is another audiogram, showing typical age-related hearing loss:
http://hearing.osu.edu/9371.cfm from Ohio State U.
Most doctors, looking at this chart, will tell you that you could be helped by hearing aids, but the decision is left to you. The MD is not in the business of selling hearing aids; the audiologist is!
Why not buy a hearing aid from the audiologist right there?
In a word—it’s expensive! In two words—very expensive! Buying hearing aids from audiologists is by far the most costly route to solving your problems. We discuss separately the “politics of hearing-aid acquisition.” Here my point is that you will pay top dollar going to audiologists. The average price of a pair of hearing aids (and you will need two) is over $4,000 when you buy from them. The price drops significantly when you go elsewhere. Costco and other online providers cut the price by as much as 50%. Some go further. We do—ours cost 75% less!
Of course, not all hearing aids are the same. But recently, an audiology professor ran an experiment with different hearing aids and found that most people could not tell the difference among them. You can read more about this here.
Why buy hearing aids from me?
I am a poster child for age-related hearing loss, as well as the sucker who bought expensive hearing aids from an audiologist. Let me be absolutely clear: my audiologist is a very nice and competent professional. But the current system, which audiologists are doing their best to protect, prevents mainstream hearing aids from being sold to the public at reasonable prices.
Thus, the hearing aid I sell, which is made in America, is sold by audiologists for about $4,000. Our price is $1,000. BUT we had to change the label, at the manufacturer’s request, to protect the traditional model of high-priced hearing aids.
Is my hearing aid inferior to the one sold under the brand name?
Absolutely not. It’s the same hearing aid. What’s more, we have worked with the manufacturer to pre-configure our hearing aids to typical age-related hearing loss. That means you can wear them right out of the box. We asked the manufacturer for the features that are important to people with age-related hearing loss: Natural sound (HD), additional loudness settings, and extra noise suppression for restaurants. Finally, since we live in the New York area, where many of us go to the theater, I made sure that my hearing aid has a T-coil feature. T-coils are becoming more and more widespread in theaters as a way to pump sound directly into your hearing aid (instead of the clumsy, ill-fitting earphones still provided to people who do not have hearing aids or this feature in their hearing aids).
So how can I can sell hearing aids for $1,000 if they cost $4,000 from the audiologist?
Hearing aids don’t cost all that much to produce. Their price is a function of how many hands they pass through before being sold to you, the consumer. My deal with the manufacturer is that I do not cannibalize its marketing structure. In other words, I am not selling to audiologists, who can then mark up the price. I am not a distributer and can sell only direct to the consumer. That’s what I wanted.
So why am I doing this?
First and foremost, I was offended that a device so small, which is basically a hi-fi with a microphone, should be sold for such an absurdly high price. By the way, my first hearing aids cost me $7,500 from an audiologist. I am now wearing the ones I sell—they are just as good, perhaps a bit better.
The clincher was finding out that delaying the treatment of hearing loss can lead to accelerating mental decline (and possibly even to early death). I decided to jump into action and alert my generation to deal with hearing loss quickly and not wait. The only way to do that was to get solid hearing-aid technology at a significantly lower price.
I am on a mission to improve your hearing, because the more of us stop denying our hearing loss, the more likely it is that there will be more, better, and cheaper solutions to hearing loss and the more likely it is that we will be listened to—pun fully intended!
Do hearing aids work?
Partially! Hearing aids are not like eyewear, which correct vision fully because the eye has a lens whose problems can be corrected by superimposing another lens. You can’t correct what is broken—at least not yet! You can salvage what is left and help make things significantly clearer. Hearing aids do that pretty well, but not perfectly.
So if hearing aids are only partially helpful, why bother?
There are two practical reasons: First, you will definitely hear better. It is mind blowing to find out, the first time you put on a hearing aid, that you can hear things you have forgotten about—many birds (instead of a few) and conversations that you may have sat through silently because you did not really hear what was being said. Second, and this is becoming important, we are finding out that not treating hearing loss accelerates mental decline (you can read about that here and here). So it’s really imperative to get over the fear that you will be stigmatized for wearing hearing aids.
So if I buy them and don’t like them, can I return them?
Yes. FDA rules require that all hearing aids be returnable within 30 days for a full refund at the customer’s request. Our policy is 60 days. Why? Because I know from personal experience that it takes time to adjust to hearing aids. The reality is that they require getting used to, just like glasses—only more so.