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Blackminster Hearing Centre
professional & expert service with fair low prices


For friendly advice or an appointment please call 01386 830100 or email richard@blackminster.co.uk
 
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Useful Information
About Hearing Loss & Hearing Aids


I have set up this page with (hopefully) useful information about obtaining & using hearing aids. I hope you find it helpful. If you have any suggestions for additional questions & answers please do let me know.

HELPFUL HINT: This is a LONG page of information which could take a LONG time to load on a slow link - but hopefully it will be worth the wait! The questions & answers are not in any particular order. I suggest you get comfortable with a cup (or glass!) of your favourite beverage and settle down for a long read!
cup
     

LATEST NEWS - PLEASE READ THIS!
It's 2018 and the hearing aid world has changed!


When I originally wrote this "Useful Information" page, the hearing aid world was essentially the same as it had been for decades. Although digital hearing aids arrived in about 1996 the fitting choices were still the same.You could be fitted with either:

1.
Behind The Ear models:  Large, reliable, inexpensive - but  clumsy & visible
or
2.
In The Ear models:  Smallish, less visible, expensive - but often less reliable

However in the last few years two totally new styles of hearing aid have appeared - the Open Fit and the Loudspeaker In The Ear (LITE) models: Moxi

Unlike the ugly traditional Behind The Ear units these new designs are VERY small and can be almost invisible.

This design consists of a very small module which hides behind the ear.
This module contains a tiny battery, a digital computer chip and one or more tiny microphones.

A thin clear plastic tube or wire connects to a tiny "dome" which nestles in your ear canal. This "dome" feeds the boosted sound to your ear.

This new technology can handle a wide range of hearing losses from Mild to Severe.

Essentially, theses new Open Fit and
Loudspeaker In The Ear models can perform as well as most older Behind The Ear designs .. but in a smaller and almost invisible package.

I feel that these new designs are also less visible than most In The Ear models.

On top of all this, these new Open Fit and 
Loudspeaker In The Ear models use an "instant fit" design and so can usually be fitted on the day of your hearing test.

The era of taking resin impressions of your ears and then waiting for customised plastics to be made to fit your ears is almost over!

This new development means that for most people there is now an advanced and very discreet alternative to the traditional Behind The Ear and In the Ear hearing aids which have been the main solutions until now.

So ... please bear these new developments in mind when reading the notes below.

See my Open Fittings & Loudspeaker-In-The-Ear page for more information.

Note: If you have a Profound loss then you may need a traditional Behind The Ear hearing aid for best results.


Important Note:This document is provided solely for educational and informational purposes. The content is believed accurate - but may contain typographical or other errors. Please consult your doctor before making any major medical decision.

COMMON QUESTIONS
 AND MY ANSWERS

Err, umm ... the question needs to be asked: Are you officially  qualified to supply & fit digital hearing aids?
I am certainly fully qualified ... otherwise I would end up in court! For full details please click on my photo below:

Do I really have a hearing problem?
Only a hearing evaluation will be able to answer this question accurately. However signs of hearing loss can include:
  • The world seems to be getting generally quieter
  • You say "Pardon?" more often than you would like
  • Your friends & family say that they often need to repeat themselves
  • You turn up the TV or radio louder than some other people like
  • Conversations in groups can be hard to follow
  • Conversation in the presence of background noise can be difficult
  • Some female voices can be especially hard to follow
  • Children's voices can be difficult to follow
  • Other people often seem to mumble
  • You can no longer hear birds singing or bats squeaking.
  • Some voices are definitely loud enough - but are nevertheless hard to understand
  • Some sounds like "sh", "ss", th", "ff" seem difficult to hear
  • You can find it difficult to determine where some sounds are coming from
  • You are happier if you can SEE the face of the speaker
  • You sometimes don't notice the doorbell or the phone ringing
  • You sometimes miss someone calling from another room
  • You find it a bit difficult to hear on the telephone
  • You find cinemas, pubs, restaurants and meetings less enjoyable than in the past
  • You can follow voices for a while - but suddenly you get tired and "lose the thread"
  • You tend to turn one specific ear towards the person you are speaking to
If you aren't sure if you have a hearing problem, why not ask your wife/husband or a friend? Other people will often notice that you have a mild hearing problem some time before you notice it yourself.
Could "ear wax" be causing my hearing problems?
Ear wax blockages can certainly cause a mild hearing loss. In a very few cases, such as ear wax mixed up with cement dust or sawdust, the wax can cause a major hearing loss. I will check your ears for any wax blockage at the start of the hearing evaluation. If you do have a wax blockage then I will recommend that you visit the Practice Nurse at your local GP to have your ears cleared. You may then find that your hearing has returned to being 100% normal! However I don't want to raise your hopes too much: ear wax does not usually cause much of an acoustic blockage, so it is quite likely that a hearing test will reveal a hearing loss even after any wax has been removed.
My hearing is worse in the evenings - is this normal?
Your hearing can be good early in the day when you are full of energy - but your hearing may "fade" a little bit in the evenings. This is quite normal - but if you have any doubts a hearing evaluation might be wise.
Will I definitely need a hearing aid?
Many people are very sensitive to even a mild hearing loss. It is quite possible that a hearing test could show that you do indeed have a mild hearing loss ... but that you might NOT need any hearing aids. Many people might be aware that their hearing is not quite as it was when they were 20 years old ... but that doesn't mean that their mild hearing loss is in reality giving them any real problems. In such cases hearing aids aren't really required. If I suspect this following your hearing test, I will let you know ... I do NOT want to "hard sell" hearing aids when they are not needed!
Is hearing loss very common?
If you have a hearing loss, you are not alone! Around one in ten people have some degree of hearing loss. Luckily, around 90% of these people can be helped through the use of hearing aids. More than 50% of people over 60 have some degree of hearing loss. However .... only one in three of these who could benefit from a hearing aid actually has one!
What sorts of hearing loss are there?
There are two major types of hearing loss:

Sensorineural hearing loss:
The most common hearing problem is often called "nerve hearing loss. It relates to damage and "wear & tear" to the nerve sensors in the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by things such as aging, prenatal and birth-related problems, viral and bacterial infections, genetics, trauma (such as a severe blow to the head), exposure to loud noises, or the use of certain drugs. Sensorineural hearing loss is rarely repaired surgically - it is usually corrected with a hearing aid.

Conductive hearing loss:
This is a relatively rare problem which involves the outer and middle ear. It is essentially a mechanical problem - the sound entering the ear is for some reason blocked or attenuated before it reaches the nerve sensors in the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss usually results from a wax blockage, a punctured eardrum, birth defects, ear infections, or it may be genetic. A common cause is the ear problem called otosclerosis. Conductive hearing loss generally can be corrected surgically or with a hearing aid.

Note: A combination of these two hearing losses is often called a "Mixed Hearing Loss".
Am I deaf?
Relatively few people are truly "deaf"!  For most people it's simply a case of a relatively minor hearing loss making speech a bit awkward to follow - especially in the presence of background noise. Often for someone who has a mild hearing loss a small amount of high-tech hearing boost can greatly improve the understanding of speech. A mild hearing loss is a world away from total deafness - but it can nevertheless still be a real nuisance.
Can an untreated hearing loss lead to problems?
A hearing loss which makes it difficult to follow & understand speech can "creep up" on people over a period of some years. An untreated hearing loss can lead to the sufferer gradually giving up sports, hobbies, group social events and so on.  In bad cases the sufferer can become very isolated, frustrated, angry and depressed. It might take some years before anyone realises that a hearing problem is the underlying cause.
My child has a hearing problem - can you help?
I'm sorry, I don't accept clients who are under 18 years old. The provision of hearing aids to young people and to children is a very specialist task which I feel is best left to the NHS.
Should I get my hearing aids from the NHS?
I certainly recommend that you try to obtain a hearing aid from the NHS ... after all, it's what you pay your taxes and National Insurance for! The NHS now also provides digital hearing aids, which is a big step forward. However please be aware of the following if you decide to take the NHS route:
  • It can take quite a time to to obtain an NHS hearing aid
  • Follow-up, adjustment & repair appointments can be difficult to arrange
  • Each fitting session with the NHS can be quite short. They don't have a lot of time for detailed fine-tuning etc
  • The NHS will usually only provide a BTE (Behind The Ear) hearing aid. They rarely fit ITE (In The Ear) hearing aids
  • The NHS will often provide just a single hearing aid - even if you might be better served with a pair of hearing aids
  • The NHS has a limited range of hearing aid models available - but you may want a smaller model or a more modern version with lots of advanced features
  • You might see a different person on each NHS visit

Why should I consider "going private"?
In an ideal world you should be able to obtain modern hearing aids promptly via the NHS. Sadly, as noted above, the real life situation is not so rosy. I feel that the main reasons for obtaining hearing aids privately include:
  • Very prompt service - You could be up-and-running with new hearing aids within a few days. In some cases you could be fitted with new hearing aids on the day of your hearing test at my practice!
  • Availability of high-tech ultra-discreet Behind-The-Ear models - I can offer very discreet Behind-The-Ear models such as Open Fitting and Loudspeaker In the Ear models in addition to the bulkier models that the NHS offers
  • Availability of In-The-Ear models - I can offer discreet In-The-Ear models in addition to the bulkier Behind-The-Ear models that the NHS offers
  • Wide range of products - I can provide a wide range of models, some of which may be ideally suited to your personal requirements. For example, some leading products now have offer features such as advanced noise suppression, "artificial intelligence", FM radio links, Bluetooth radio links, tinnitus maskers, "open fittings", remote controls etc. In comparison, the NHS offers a very limited range of models.
  • Availability of pairs of hearing aids - Even if you would be better off with a pair of hearing aids, the NHS sometimes will only provide a single unit. I will recommend a pair of hearing aids should your hearing test results indicate that this would be advisable.
  • Improved cosmetics - You can choose the colour and style of the hearing aids to suit your hair style & complexion
  • Extensive counselling and fine-tuning - Each evaluation or fine-tuning visit to me lasts around an hour or so as I want to make sure that your evaluation if carried out correctly & accurately. I also want to ensure that any fine-tuning fits in with your needs as exactly as possible. Sadly NHS staff simply don't always have enough time to provide this level of service.
  • Excellent aftercare - the same face every time! - For better or for worse, you will see the same person on each of your visits to my practice i.e. me, Richard Hathway. In addition to loving the digital technology I work with, I also love meeting new people!

Pricing hint
If you are new to the exciting world of private sector hearing aids, here is a tip for you: As a very rough guide you should expect to pay around 600-1500 per hearing aid when bought from our dispensing practice. This may sound like a lot of money (and sadly it is) - but you will be getting a decent quality digital aid probably for MUCH, MUCH less than you will be charged elsewhere. Please rest assured that we provide excellent service in addition to our good prices!
Do you offer very low cost "budget" hearing aids?
I am usually reluctant to provide very low cost "budget" hearing aids. These models can be cheap - but you get what you pay for! In my opinion, most active people need a hearing aid with directional microphones and some noise reduction features. "Budget" hearing aids are usually too basic to offer these vital features. However I do find that "budget" hearing aids are suitable in the following situations:
  • As emergency spares  for a decent pair of hearing aids: "Budget" aids could "save the day" if your main hearing aids are damaged or are lost - especially on holiday!
  • For use by people who are housebound etc: "Budget" aids might be usable if someone spends all their time in a very quiet environment
If your budget won't stretch to decent private sector hearing aids then I really would recommend taking the NHS route. Their hearing aids might be hard to obtain ... but they are of a reasonable quality.

Note: I sometimes have a few ex-demo or over-ordered stock hearing aids available. You might get a very low cost bargain ... depending on what I have available at the time of course!
I am talking to another dispenser, but they seem very expensive. Can I have a "second opinion" from you?
If you have a pending appointment with another dispenser, or you are trialling a hearing aid, or you have just bought a hearing aid but are thinking of asking for your money back then you are effectively a current customer of that dispenser.

For ethical reasons it is not right for me to take on a new client who is still working in any way with another dispenser.

I can only take on new customers who have absolutely no current active involvement with another dispenser.

WARNING: If you contact me whilst you are actively working with another dispenser I will have absolutely no choice except to refuse any further contact with you now, or at any time in the future. Quite correctly, the other dispenser would have grounds to accuse me of unethical behaviour if I accepted you as a client. I make absolutely no exceptions to this rule so do NOT contact me if you are working in any way whatsoever with another dispenser.
I have an old "analogue" hearing aid. How are the new "digital" hearing aids different?
Analogue hearing aids were often very basic. They were essentially a microphone connected to an amplifier which then blasts the sound out of a small loudspeaker into the ear. This can lead to annoying unwanted quiet sounds becoming audible, and to loud sounds being over amplified so that they become painful. Many analogue hearing aid users take out their hearing aids when they are in noisy places because they can become much too loud. Analogue hearing aids can also be very prone to feedback "whistles". I feel that the old analogue hearing aid designs have not been a wonderful success overall.

Digital hearing aids work very differently: the microphone signal is converted to a stream of numbers, which are fed into a tiny digital computer.
This computer and its programs can process this stream of numbers to correct your hearing loss, reduce disturbing noises, to enhance speech sounds, to prevent over-loud sounds, to reduce or eliminate feedback "whistles" and so on. The computer and its processing software can in fact consist of VERY advanced technology. The computer then feeds the processed sound signals into a small loudspeaker for the user to hear.
Are hearing aids still huge pink horrors like my granny used to wear?
Definitely not! Modern digital hearing aids can be very small & discreet. Many can be almost invisible. Even the high power aids needed by the severely hard-of-hearing can be a lot smaller than they used to be.
My parents had hearing aids which whistled all the time - is there any way of avoiding this?
The analogue hearing aids from the past were very primitive. They were essentially a microphone connected to an amplifier which then blasted the sound out of a small loudspeaker into the ear. With this old design, any accidental sound leakage from the loudspeaker back to the microphone would be boosted (again!) which could result in "feedback" or "howl around". You can see (hear!) the same effect on a stage where the host gets his/her microphone too near one of the loudspeakers. However modern digital hearing aids are often packed full of clever computer software which is specially designed to "kill" any whistling or feedback within a fraction of a second. Feedback and whistling are much less of a nuisance nowadays. 
The "head in a barrel" or "head in a bucket" problem. (The "occlusion effect")
Many users of older style or poorly fitted hearing aids complain about the world sounding like they have their heads stuck in a barrel or in a bucket. This effect is caused by the deep low-frequency sounds of your own voice, and the sounds of  your eating food, travelling through the bones of your skull into the ear canal. Normally these loud sounds simply fly out of the ear canal so you don't notice them ... BUT ... if you are wearing a hearing aid the sounds can be trapped in the ear canal by the blockage caused by the hearing aid. This can lead to the boomy sounds of your own voice seeming VERY loud. This is called the "occlusion effect". It affects mainly those people who still have good hearing in the low bass frequencies, but who wear a hearing aid simply to boost the higher treble frequencies. In the past, holes called "vents" have been built into hearing aids in an attempt to limit the occlusion effect ... not always totally successfully. Luckily with modern Open Fitting and Loudspeaker In The Ear models this problem can usually be solved.

Can I use a discreet ITE (In-The-Ear) hearing aid  - or will I need to wear an ugly  BTE (Behind-The-Ear) hearing aid?
In the past this was a very valid question.

Until very recently the traditional Behind-The-Ear hearing aids have been rather bulky and ugly: many NHS aids are in this format.

In view of this many people preferred to "go private" in order to obtain a more discreet In-The-Ear hearing aid.

However the hearing aid world has changed very recently ... the new 
very discreet tiny Loudspeaker In The Ear models, hidden behind the ear, can be used to assist a wide range of hearing losses.

The need for In-The-Ear hearing aid styles has been greatly reduced.

However most people can still be fitted with In-The-Ear hearing aids if preferred.

Note: If you have a severe hearing loss then a Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing aid might be more suitable. A BTE might also be recommended if you have very small ear canals or if you have sensitive skin.

What styles of In-The-ear hearing aids are available?
There are various styles / sizes of In-The-Ear hearing aids available ranging from the tiny CIC (Completely In The Canal) models to the larger Full-Shell models. The pictures below show the various ITE styles available and also a BTE (Behind The Ear) model for comparison:
styles

Here is a similar set of views:
aids

Full Shell / ITE / In-The-Ear:
The largest style is the Full-Shell or "ITE" style. It is used with high power hearing aids because it gives a good sound seal which reduce the feedback risk. This style fills most of the ear bowl. This size often has a volume control and a program button fitted. Anyone with reasonable dexterity can handle these models - and they might also be usable by those with poor dexterity.

Note: The term ITE (In-The-Ear) is often used to refer to any sort of hearing aid which fits in the ear, in addition to referring to this specific size. The terms Full Shell and Half Shell can be more helpful terms.

Half Shell / ITC / In-The-Canal: This is a small hearing aid which does not fill the whole ear bowl. The surface of the aid is usually just outside the entrance to the ear canal. This style is easy to handle, is fairly discreet and usually allows directional microphones to be fitted. This small size does not usually have a volume control but may have a small program button fitted. Anyone with reasonable dexterity can handle these models.

MIC / Micro-Canal / Mini-Canal (no picture shown) :   A slightly smaller variant of the ITC style is called the "micro-canal" or "mini-canal" style. This can be used if more discretion is desired - although you then cannot usually have any controls mounted on the hearing aid due to its small size. You need fairly good dexterity to handle these small models.

CIC / Completely In the Canal: This is a very small model which fits entirely in the ear canal. Some can be very difficult to see, although many are still noticeable despite their small size. (These can also be called IIC aids - "Invisible In The Canal")

2018 UPDATE: Instant fit CIC/IIC styles have now arrived! These aids can work well - and require no resin impression. You can simply take them away with you on the day of your hearing evaluation!
What is an "earmould"?
Most traditional BTE (Behind-The-ear) hearing aids are simply a slim electronic package which rests behind the ear.

The BTE needs a way of channelling the sound into your ear. This is achieved via a "soundpipe" connected to an "earmould".

The earmould is usually a fairly bulky acrylic frame or clip which is custom made from a resin impression made of your ear. The earmould has a tip which rests in the ear canal and which carries the sound into your ear.

The hearing aid contains a tiny loudspeaker which sends sound to the earmould through a short piece of plastic pipe.

The picture below shows a Phonak BTE hearing aid connected to a soundpipe which then attaches to the earmould.:

em

The BTE hearing aid is then placed behind the ear and the earmould placed in the ear bowl as shown below:
bte

The NHS & some private dispensers can still use this style of bulky fitting. However the arrival of the latest very small Open Fitting and Loudspeaker In The Ear hearing aid models is changing this. Traditional bulky & highly visible earmoulds are being steadily displaced by the tiny often invisible domes used with the new styles of hearing aid.
Will I need one or two hearing aids?
If you have one very good ear or one very bad ear then you might need just a single hearing aid to help with the other "not so good" ear. However if your hearing loss is roughly the same on each side then you could be recommended to obtain two hearing aids. They are many benefits from using a pair of hearing aids, including:
  • Balanced hearing sensation
  • Reduced risk of "auditory deprivation" of an unaided ear
  • Improved directional sensing of where sounds are coming from
  • Improved understanding of speech, especially in noisy situations
  • Balanced "all-round" hearing in a car
  • Balanced "all-round" hearing in a restaurant or pub
  • No need to turn your head to focus on a speaker

Can I insist of having just one hearing aid, even if you recommend that I have two?
Of course - "the customer is always right" as they say!
Many people are happier with a single hearing aid, even if technically they should wear a pair. However you should be aware that aiding a single ear when both should be aided, can possibly lead to "auditory deprivation" for the unaided ear. This means that the unaided ear could slowly "go to sleep" and become less effective over a period of months or years. It is unclear whether this is a temporary or permanent effect - but please be aware of the possible risk.
Would using a single top-quality hearing aid be as effective as using a pair of slightly lower cost hearing aids?
If you have been advised to use a pair of hearing aids then it would usually be much better to buy a pair of medium-quality aids rather than a single super-quality hearing aid. The benefits of having TWO working ears will usually greatly exceed the benefit of using just a single hearing aid.
I have one totally "dead" ear - is there anything available that can help?
If you have a dead ear, you may suffer from the "head shadow" effect where you miss someone speaking on your dead side. If you spend most of your time in rooms which have hard walls which reflect sound then you may hear almost everything that goes on, through your good ear. However outside or in restaurants etc you may well miss most of what happens on your dead side. There is a possible solution to this annoying problem: you could wear a CROS or biCROS system where a hearing aid sends sound via a radio link from your bad side to a hearing aid on your better ear. If you are interested in a CROS system please contact us. (Modern CROS systems can be very effective and are also quite discreet)
What are "loops" or "telecoils" for?
Hearing aids can be fitted with a "loop" or "telecoil".
(This is in fact a very tiny coil of wire which acts like a radio aerial).

Some theatres, churches, cinemas and banks have special equipment to send out a special wireless signal to carry the microphone signal or film sound track to nearby hearing aids.

The loop in the hearing aid then picks up this wireless signal and plays it into your ear. Note that the hearing aid microphone is NOT used to pick up the sound - it comes from the wireless signal.

This technique can be useful - for example, the sound in a theatre can be very hard to hear ... but it can be very clear and crisp when received via the wireless loop signal.

Places which have a loop system installed usually show this symbol:
loop
Please be aware however that maybe 50% of these systems are faulty or not turned on, so don't be too surprised if you can't pick up any signal!

The loop system in a hearing aid can also be used with a variety of accessories such as gadgets which help you use a mobile phone.

The hearing aid will need a special program - or sometimes a little switch or button - to allow "loop mode" to be selected.

Note: Some smaller hearing aid models might not have the space internally to allow a loop signal receiver to be fitted.

Do you offer a "home visit" service?
I regret that I do not offer a "home visit" service. I find that I have too much equipment to transport around in the back of a car. Additionally, I do feel that the acoustic environment in a house or flat is not always suitable for taking hearing tests or for fine-tuning hearing aids. I really do feel that clients should visit a dedicated office, such as my Blackminster Hearing Centre, rather than deal with someone operating from the back of a car. Of course, if you are housebound then you WILL need the services of a mobile dispenser - but please be aware that their prices might be significantly higher than mine.
I have see some newspaper adverts for spectacles built into hearing aids. What are they exactly?
I too have seen adverts for spectacles with built-in hearing aids.

This is in fact quite an old idea - early hearing aids were quite bulky and so it was useful to be able to hide the components inside the arms of a pair of spectacles.

Little sound tubes mounted on the arms carried the amplified sound into the ears. This system however has some disadvantages:
  • The spectacles can be very bulky
  • If you take off the spectacles you lose your hearing too!
  • If you need a repair of EITHER part you will lose BOTH hearing & sight!
The arrival of small modern high tech digital hearing aids seems to have relegated spectacle hearing aids to history.

(I couldn't find a picture to use here - which hints at how common this style of spectacle hearing aids is!)

There is however one spectacle hearing aid style which has benefits for a limited number of users - "bone conduction spectacles" such as the Evo-1.
This style uses mechanical vibrators to send sound waves into the skull, rather than through the usual route of the ear canals. Again, these can be bulky devices as the picture below shows:
Spex

These bone conduction models can however be extremely useful in the fairly rare cases where:
  • The user has a significant conductive loss (a minority of people)
  • The user has a history of eczema or similar ailment where nothing in the ear canal be tolerated
  • The user has a damaged ear canal which cannot accept a normal hearing aid
I have only ever had one or two serious enquiries about hearing aid spectacles, which shows how popular they are nowadays.

In my opinion relatively few people are obvious candidates for any sort of hearing aid spectacles - and yet they are sometimes heavily advertised in the daily newspapers. I assume that the adverts are intended to attract new customers who will then be sold standard modern - and probably expensive - hearing aids.
What do you think of those low-priced "Two For One" and "50% Off" offers that are advertised by some big High Street chains?
I admit that when I first saw these adverts I panicked - I thought that these companies had beaten even my very low prices! However I then checked their websites and soon found that they offer a "range" of products. The lowest prices seem to be for obsolete models or for low performance "budget" hearing aids of the type that I would rather not provide. You have to pay rather more for their more advanced & useful models. Their advertising is indeed very effective - but I strongly believe that I offer much better value for money and a much more personal service overall. I also believe that, being independent, I can offer a much wider range of products. You also need to check what level of aftercare they provide - I have heard that many of their outlets are part-time ... BUT ... they still charge luxury prices!
How can I remove any ear wax?
I very strongly recommend that you get your ears professionally examined if you suspect that you have a wax blockage, just to make sure. If a wax problem is confirmed  I really cannot recommend any specific removal technique. However personally I would NOT use any of those potions that you can buy at the chemist ... some don't work very well and others are strong chemicals. I would NOT use "cotton buds" either. Certainly do NOT use bits of wire, paper clips etc to clean your ears! GPs often recommend the use of olive oil to soften ear wax ... but check with your GP's practice first before doing this.
Hearing aid warranties
As part of the purchase price, hearing aids are usually guaranteed against failure caused by manufacturing or component faults for a period of two or three years - or one year for a few models. These warranties will NOT protect against theft, fire, loss or accidental damage.
Extended hearing aid warranties
Some manufacturers sell "extended warranties" which can add one to three years to the basic free warranty period. In general we are not convinced of the true value of "extended warranties" and so we do not review these unless specifically requested. These warranties will NOT protect against theft, fire, loss or accidental damage.
Hearing aid insurance
It seems no longer easy to buy special hearing aid insurance to protect against theft, fire, loss or accidental damage. (Damage caused by swimming or showering or similar avoidable situations whilst wearing the aid is NOT covered). We recommend that you simply add the hearing aid to your household insurance.
Specific model or brands
If you already have a preference for a specific hearing aid model, but can't see it in our price list, then please ask us for a quotation - we can usually offer EXCELLENT pricing on almost any model of digital hearing aid ... possibly even if it has become obsolete!
What are "wax traps"?
The tiny loudspeaker fitted to In-The-ear hearing aids needs protection from being blocked up with wax. (A wax blockage can damage the loudspeaker - and at the very least it will block the sound output thus disabling the hearing aid). In order to prevent this possible damage, many In-The-Ear hearing aids have a little protective cover over the loudspeaker opening in order to prevent wax getting into the mechanics. This cover is called a "wax trap" and is only about 1 mm wide. Some wax traps are devices permanently fitted to the hearing aid, but nowadays tiny disposable plastic caps are often used, such as that shown (greatly magnified!) below:
dot
Most disposable wax traps look like a little white plastic dot on the narrow point of the hearing aid.
Wax trap

The customer will need to change the disposable wax trap every few weeks (or possibly more often) because the little cap will eventually fill up with wax and become unusable. Users of In-The-Ear hearing aids should allow a few pounds a year to pay for packets of replacement disposable wax traps. It is very easy for the user to remove an old wax trap and fit a new one. Each manufacturer provides a simple tool for this task. The diagram below shows how an Oticon NoWax disposable waxtrap is changed:
1:  a fresh waxtrap in a small "carrier" is taken from its "cartridge"
2: the old waxtrap is removed from the aid using a spike on the carrier
3: the new waxtrap is inserted into the hearing aid from the same carrier.
4: the carrier with the used waxtrap stuck on the spike is thrown away.
now

Some of the tiny loudspeakers used in Loudspeaker In The Ear hearing aids (see below) also use wax traps. The white dot on the end of the Loudspeaker In The Ear module below is a wax trap.
(
In order to allow the wax trap to be seen I have removed the small soft plastic dome which is normally fitted over the module)
Moxi wax trap

 These wax traps are used & changed in a very similar way as described above.
What are these new "Open Fitting"  hearing aids I have heard about?

What are these new RITE (Receiver In The Ear)  ... or SITE (Speaker In The Ear) ... or CRT (Canal Receiver technology)  hearing aids I have heard about?
"Open fitting" hearing aids are designed to overcome the "head in a barrel" or "occlusion effect" mentioned earlier. This style of hearing aid boosts mainly the medium & high frequencies, but allows the low bass frequencies to enter & leave the ear canal unhindered.
The best versions seem to be a very tiny BTE (Behind The Ear) device which feeds boosted high frequency sounds into the ear through a very narrow and almost invisible sound pipe.

This GN Resound model is a good example of this style:
Air

The RITE, SITE, CRT names all refer to what I call Loudspeaker In The Ear technology. These models look very much like Open Fitting aids ... but instead of the thin plastic tube carrying sound from a loudspeaker in the hearing aid, the tube carries a thin wire to drive a tiny loudspeaker nestling in the ear canal.

Unlike the Open Fitting models, which are limited to boosting high frequencies only, the Loudspeaker In The Ear models can help with a much wider range of hearing losses.

This Unitron model is a good example of this style.

Moxi

You can find more information on my Open Fittings & Loudspeaker In The Ear web page HERE.

Many people find both these styles of hearing aid can often be invisible to others, and are very comfortable to wear.

One excellent point is that both types of hearing aid are built up to match your physical ear size etc from a standard "kit", and so can usually be tried out on the day of your hearing test.

I have a severe hearing loss - can you help?
If you have had a severe or profound hearing loss for many years then you should not necessarily expect huge benefits from even top-end digital hearing aids.
You may have become very used to the "sound" of an early analogue hearing aid model, so you might initially find the "sound" of a digital hearing aid rather "odd".
The transition to using a modern digital hearing aid can bring benefits - but the transition can also involve a lot of work. For this reason I cannot recommend that you visit me for a powerful digital hearing aid unless you live reasonably close ... you will probably need several fine-tuning visits before the hearing aid is set up the way you like.
What batteries do hearing aids use? How long do they last? What do they cost? Where can I get them?
Hearing aid batteries come in 4 common sizes, all roughly similar to aspirin tablets in shape & size.

You can buy hearing aid batteries from various places including Boots, Tescos or from me.

A pack of 6 batteries costs around 3 - 4, depending on where you buy them. 


 A typical pack is shown below:
batts

(Note: I am cheaper than most High Street stores! See my spare parts website at: www.HearingAidSpares.com )

Hearing aid batteries typically last 1 - 2 weeks, although the smaller sizes can last around 5 days in some hearing aid models. This means that a hearing aid can use 1 - 4 worth of batteries per month. A pair of hearing aids can cost 2 - 8 in batteries per month.

The "shelf life" of batteries is over 12 months ... but I do not recommend buying more than 12 months supply at any one time.

Frost or over-warm or damp storage can damage hearing aid batteries, thus reducing their life, so store them carefully.

Hearing aid batteries use zinc-air technology which requires a small paper tab to be removed before the battery starts working. Once this tab has been removed, the shelf life of the battery will drop to 8 weeks ... so only remove the tab when you are about to use the battery in a hearing aid! A typical batter
y with its tab still attached is shown below:
cell

Turn off - or remove the battery from - the hearing aid at night, in order to save battery life.

Used hearing aid batteries are non-recyclable, so simply throw them away when empty. Do NOT keep them "just in case" - you will simply end up a stack of useless metal "tablets"!
Can I use those VERY cheap hearing aid batteries advertised on the Web?
Only if you buy them from my website at: www.HearingAidSpares.com !

How long do hearing aids last?
Most hearing aids have a two or three year manufacturer's warranty, which covers parts & labour for repairs.

I feel that BTE (Behind The ear) hearing aids can last around 5 - 8 years.

ITE (In The Ear) hearing aids have to work in a nastier environment (the ear!) so you might expect a 3 - 5  year lifetime.

Note: You might need some repairs during the life of your hearing aids.
Can my hearing aid be repaired after the warranty has run out?
Once your hearing aid warranty has ended, you will need to pay for any required repairs. The cost for these repairs could range from around 85 to 250. In extreme cases of physical damage you may need to buy a complete new hearing aid - but if this happens I can probably offer a HUGE discount on the replacement unit.
What are the annual "running costs" of hearing aids?
  • You should allow around 20 - 40 per year per hearing aid for batteries.
  • You should also allow 5 - 20 per year  per hearing aid for wax-traps, if you have an In The Ear model.
  • You should also allow 10 - 20 per year per hearing aid for replacement tubing & domes, if you have an Open Fitting model.
  • You should also allow 25 - 125 per year per hearing aid for replacement loudspeakers & domes, if you have a Loudspeaker In The Ear model.
  • You would be wise to allow say 125 every 2-years for repeat hearing tests and a fine-tuning session.
  • You should also allow for say 50 per year for repairs once the 2 year warranty period is over.
I suppose that all-in-all you should allow for around 100 per year running costs per hearing aid.

Are lots of "bands" or "channels" important?
Digital hearing aids often process sound in distinct frequency "bands" or "channels". For many people three to six bands are sufficient to accurately match their hearing loss. For more unusual hearing losses more bands can be helpful - some premium hearing aids can offer 20 or more bands! These work in a similar way to the "equalisers" that some stereos have. I feel that 16 or 20 bands are totally adequate for almost every type of hearing loss. In fact I feel that anything over 16 bands can be more of a marketing feature than a true benefit - unless these extra bands are especially intended to improve background noise reduction. Going the other way, I feel that the one or two bands offered by many low cost hearing aids can make fine-tuning of these hearing aids rather difficult - or even impossible.
Some digital hearing aids seem to have several "programs". What are these?
Digital hearing aids can be used in different acoustic situations, for example:
  • In quiet rooms (this would be your normal setting)
  • In noisy restaurants
  • With a telephone
  • When listening to music
Each of these situations requires different audio processing in the digital hearing aid software. For example, you need less voice enhancement but more treble and bass enhancement when listening to music.

Many digital hearing aids can be set up to offer a selection of 2 or 3 different "programs" to cover some of these special situations. I will discuss which options you would prefer when I program the hearing aid to your specific settings.

You can then select the program you want to use by pressing a tiny button on the hearing aid. This button will allow you to step through the programs to find the one you want. For example, 2 presses might get you to the "music program". You would select this when watching TV or listening to the stereo. A couple more presses would cycle you back to the standard "quiet room" program.

Note: All top-end digital hearing aids now have "acoustic scene analysis" which will AUTOMATICALLY select the best program for you. However you may still need some manually selected programs because the hearing aid software is not usually clever enough to recognise that you are using a phone or listening to music.

Most top-end aids also have remote controls available so that you need not touch the hearing aids to switch the program.
Do all hearing aids have volume controls?
It is no longer usual to provide volume controls on hearing aids nowadays. The new digital processors have automatic volume controls which work quite well. However if you really would like a volume control, then I can usually arrange for one to be fitted ... as long as there is space available on the hearing aid.

Some top-end hearing aids also allow the volume to be adjusted via a small remote control unit.
Many leading hearing aids have "directional microphones". Are these important to have?
Directional microphones are very, very important!
In fact they may be the most important feature of any hearing aid!
They allow  hearing aids to focus on sounds coming from in front of you, and they can reduce unwanted sounds from the sides and from behind.
This can improve your understanding of speech greatly, especially in noisy places.
I rarely recommend hearing aids without directional microphones, because I feel that the benefits of these microphones are so important. The diagram below shows how a hearing aid in directional mode picks up more sound from the front than the rear or sides:
plot
The latest top-end hearing aids have an extra trick up their sleeve: they can steer their directional microphones electronically in order to track voices and to avoid noise sources.
"I hate the standard NHS beige / "flesh" hearing aid colour. Are there any alternatives?"
I can provide hearing aids in a variety of colours. Grey, beige, marble grey, black and metallic silver are the most popular choices ... although I know of one person who chose RED hearing aids! Shown below is a manufacturer's typical range of colours. In this case it shows a Phonak BTE in Palladium/Silver and with a set of "buttons" showing the other available colours for this model:
cols

Note: the metallic colours are usually only available with top-end models.
I can't reach you during normal working hours. Are you available in the evenings or at weekends?
I am usually arrange appointments from 8:30 AM - 6:00 PM.

However I am happy to arrange appointments at other times: 6AM or 10PM are fine too!

Please let me know if you have problems reaching me during normal working hours ... I'm sure that we can work out a suitable time for your visit.
Some digital hearing aids claim to use "Artificial Intelligence".  What does this mean?
The very latest top-end digital hearing aid models use special advanced software to determine if you are in a quiet or a noisy environment. The hearing aid software then configures itself to perform well in the specific environment you find yourself in.

For example, the directional microphones can be turned on or off automatically.
Special noise reduction features can also be turned on off fully automatically.

This new technology saves you pushing a "mode" button on the hearing aid as you move from a quiet environment to a noisy environment, or back again.

These new automatic features are given fancy marketing names such as "Artificial Intelligence" or the more accurate phrase "Acoustic Scene Analysis".

The diagram below outlines Unitron's "Sound Scene" system:
scene
Are you a totally independent supplier - or are you part of one of those "chains"?
I am totally independent and I have no connection with any "chain".

I offer most brands of hearing aid - although I obviously try to avoid "budget" models or models which I feel are over-priced or which don't seem to work very well.
I believe that some hearing aids have "remote controls". What are these for?
Various digital hearing aids can be provided with small remote control units.

Some of the later top-end aids have very fancy colour LCD remote controls which are essential for the operation of the various wireless features available with these top-end aids.

These remote controls allow you to change the hearing aid volume or the currently selected hearing aid program WITHOUT having to touch the controls mounted on the hearing aids. For example, Phonak offers its tiny KeyPilot remote control for use with mid-range models:
rem
I don't feel that these remote controls are quite so useful if you have only one hearing aid ... BUT ... if you have a PAIR of hearing aids they can indeed be useful. It can look very undignified if you are sitting in a restaurant and then you suddenly stick a finger in each ear to adjust the hearing aid volume or program! A remote control allows you to make these changes very discreetly.
I have had a quote from another dispenser for an expensive premium model. Do I REALLY need to get an expensive top-end model?
I specialise in supplying top-end products - at a fair price, so there is no real need to look at middle-of-the-road products.

If you are talking to another dispenser who suggests that you purchase a top-end product, there may be a perfectly valid reason for his recommendation.

Be aware however that you may be expected to pay a substantial amount for their top-end offereings.

I normally recommend the expensive all-singing all-dancing models to people who lead very busy & difficult lives such as Managing Directors, jet-setters and so on.

People who are very focussed on high-quality products also can be keen to obtain the best products on the market.

If you are looking for a top-end product and top service please get in touch - I specialise in supplying top-end models at very competitive prices.

Note: If you have a challenging life, but you no longer spend much time in meetings or travelling around the world then a mid-range model would probably be perfectly OK - and they are not as expensive as the top-end products. My pricing for mid-range models can be very competitive!
How long does it usually take from my first visit to your office to getting my new hearing aids?
If  you are supplied with Open Fitting or Loudspeaker In The Ear digital hearing aids, you usually take away working hearing aids on the day of your hearing test.

If you need a custom In-The-Ear hearing aid, or a custom earmould for use with a Behind-The-Ear hearing aid, then I have to take impressions of your ears using a soft resin. I then have to send these impressions away to get your custom hearing aid or earmould made. Your new hearing aid or earmould then comes back in around two weeks.
I have a hearing loss - should I wear my hearing aids when doing noisy things such as mowing the lawn, cutting wood or strimming the grass?
Everyone should wear HEARING PROTECTION when working with loud equipment!
You should NOT be wearing hearing aids - they are NOT hearing protectors!

If you have a hearing loss then it is even more important to protect your hearing against further damage!

Note: We can provide high-tech in-the-ear noise protection to people who shoot or who operate noisy machinery.
I have ringing in my ears (tinnitus) - do you have any suggestions?
If you develop tinnitus (ringing in the ears) especially on just one side, or if it "pulses", or if it is distressing then you should visit your GP. Minor tinnitus is quite common - but if you have very loud tinnitus then you might need to seek specialist advice. The British Tinnitus Association might be able to help.

Once the medical situation has been checked, and if you have any sort of hearing loss, you might find that a hearing aid might provide sufficient "real world" sound to mask the tinnitus. Some modern hearing aids can even provide a special noise generator designed to help reduce the effects of tinnitus.
Are there any alternatives to hearing aids?
There are several ways of making your life easier if you are hard of hearing. Some examples:
  • Use a TV which can show text subtitles
  • Buy an amplified telephone
  • Learn "hearing tactics" such as getting in the best acoustic position to pick up sound, or in a bright place in order to assist with a bit of lip-reading.
  • Consider buying some useful Assistive Listening Devices such as vibrating alarm clocks, telecoil systems for your mobile phone, door bells which flash lights etc. 

I have eczema in my ears. Can I still be fitted with a hearing aid?
Eczema can be a problem with hearing aids ... hearing aids can in some cases cause flare-ups or infections.

The new Open Fitting and Loudspeaker In The Ear behind-the-ear models can be very useful in such cases, as the part that goes into the ear is very small and light, and also allows the ear to "breath".

 I would certainly not recommend an In-The-Ear hearing aid in severe eczema cases.

A traditional behind-the-ear hearing aid with a custom plastic earmould might be OK ... but it would be wise to consider using a lightweight/shallow hypoallergenic earmould for the best results.

I have diabetes - will that affect my hearing?
If you have severe Type One diabetes which is causing problems such as peripheral neuropathy then it is quite likely that your hearing will be affected too. For milder Type Two diabetes the jury is still out - hearing problems may occur but this is not yet proven.

Diabetes also creates other problems. Specifically the ear canal can become very sensitive to scratches & scrapes which can lead to infections. Hearing aid users with diabetes need to ensure that they keep their ears and their hearing aids spotlessly clean in order to avoid infections.

I have a relative with dementia - and maybe with a hearing loss too.
Should I arrange for a hearing test and maybe for hearing aids to be fitted?
Your first step should be to seek medical advice. Your relative will definitely need to have their ears checked - perhaps there is a treatable infection or a wax buildup? (One study suggests that 10% of hearing loss in this situation can be rectified by removal of wax) A hearing test would also be advisable - but it could prove difficult to carry out in some cases. I have tried to find a definitive answer to whether people with dementia benefit from the use of hearing aids. I had suspected that it would be a good idea to ensure that people suffering from dementia should not be allowed to become more isolated due to a hearing problem. Sadly there does not seem to be a clear view on this. However the study mentioned above suggests that 42% of dementia sufferers could benefit from the use of hearing aids. Overall, the articles that I have read indicate:
  • Existing hearing aid users need to be monitored carefully and their hearing aids kept clean & well maintained. Medical advice should be sought if the patient's hearing seems to be worsening.
  • Fitting a new hearing for the first time to someone with dementia can be difficult, due to their slow learning skills and also because they can find amplified sounds annoying or difficult to handle.
  • As dementia worsens, the hearing aid user might find it difficult to operate the aid or keep it in place.
  • Hearing aids which over amplify background sounds can irritate people suffering from dementia ... this might be an indication that hearing aids with advanced noise reduction could be helpful - or that hearing aids should not be used at all.
Essentially you need to seek expert medical advice and you might simply need to try out a hearing aid on a case-by-case basis in order to see if there is any benefit to the user and/or the carers.
I have had major surgery on my ears - will this be a problem?
Please discuss this with me before making an appointment. Some ear surgery can make the fitting of hearing aids very difficult or even impossible.

I have a perforated eardrum - will this be a problem?
It shouldn't be a problem - but please discuss this with me before making an appointment.

You should also read the small document HERE (a 132kb PDF file) that I have prepared for my customers who use hearing aids with perforated eardrums.
Do you offer any form of credit or stage-payment scheme?
Sorry, I don't run this sort of scheme - the fees and paperwork for my business would simply be too much.
Can I pay for my hearing aids with a credit or debit card?
Yes, I can now accept Credit & Debit cards.
What do other people in the hearing aid business think of your low prices?
Hmmm - good question. I suspect that the majority of other dispensers in the UK would like me to take up another career! I can find attending industry trades show & other gatherings a bit difficult - I need to buy a flak jacket!

Nevertheless quite a few people in the industry have told me "off the record" that they have no problem with my low prices. They realise that in every industry some suppliers charge top-end prices, the majority charge medium-level prices ... and there are always a few who charge lower-than-average prices. I fall into the low-price category - but I also provide an excellent service.

Most (but not all) of the hearing aid manufacturers are very supportive of my low prices. They are fed up with handfuls of hearing aids being sold at exorbitant prices. They would prefer the retail price of hearing aids to fall, so that sales volumes increase. This would result in more of the hard-of-hearing being able to purchase decent hearing aids at fair prices. It would also increase manufacturers' production volumes thus allowing them to reduce their prices and also to invest more in research. High retail prices for digital hearing aids can be seen to be very unhelpful to hearing aid users for a variety of reasons.

Note:
One manufacturer Manging Director has even said that my low pricing has forced most other suppliers in the UK to lower their prices too!
Why is your website design so basic?
I want to keep my prices low so I can't afford to spend too much on my website. I have been quoted around 20000 for a super-duper modern stylish website design ... which is roughly 19990 more than I would like to spend! Luckily I have the basic skills to build and maintain my own website - but sadly I am a bit weak in the artistic skills department! Nevertheless I think that I manage to get my message across ... and a good side effect of having a basic website is that it can load much more quickly than many "fancy" websites.

UPDATE: This in fact has worked out well - the relatively simple & clean design of my website works well with the latest mobile phones and tablet devices! You may notice that since 2016 my web pages can be tall-and-thin rather than wide-and-short. This is a result of the major web search engines penalising web site which have wide web pages.
How many visits will I need to make to your practice?
Most of my customers choose an Open Fitting or a Loudspeaker In The Ear hearing aid. If you take this route then the timetable is as follows:
  1. You will need to make an initial visit for a hearing evaluation and hearing test. This will last around one hour.
    (If you have a wax problem I might need to send you to your GP in order to have your ears syringed, which will hold up the process)
    If you decide to buy or trial a hearing aid I will fit & program them immediately - this takes about one hour.
  2. You will come back for a second free "followup" visit around three to six weeks later. This visit will last around one hour.
  3. In the event of further retuning etc being needed you might need to make a few more visits over the next few weeks.
If you want or need In-The-Ear hearing aids or traditional "chunky" Behind-The-Ear hearing aids with custom plastic earmoulds then I will need to take resin impressions of your ears. In this case:
  1. You will need to make an initial visit for a hearing evaluation and hearing test. This will last around one hour
    (If you have a wax problem I might need to send you to your GP in order to have your ears syringed, which will hold up the process)
    If you decide to order a hearing aid I will take resin impressions of your ears at this first visit. This will take a further 30 minutes.
  2. When the hearing aids or earmoulds arrive back from the manufacturer, I will invite you for a second visit to fit them. This visit will last around one hour.
  3. You will come back for a third ("followup") visit around three to six weeks later. This visit will last around one hour.
  4. In the event of further retuning etc being needed you might need to make a few more visits over the next few weeks. 
I live over three hours drive from your office - should I consider making an appointment?
If you are frail or if you have very little free time then I could not recommend that you travel a huge distance to see me.

You might need two or three visits in the first few months in order to get a hearing aid fitted and fine-tuned. This could add up to a lot of travel time. It could also lead to high travel costs which might detract from the savings you make from my low prices.

However if you regularly pass through my area on business or to visit family then we might well be able to fit in the required visits around your travels without too much trouble.

However if you are looking for Open Fitting or Loudspeaker in The Ear hearing aids, the situation might be a lot easier. I can often evaluate your hearing and then fit the hearing aids all in a single visit. You might only need two visits in total if the fitting went well.

Interesting Note: In fact I do see MANY people who travel very long distances to take advantage of my very low prices. I have had customers from many remote parts of England, and I have even had customers from as far away as Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, France ... and even Australia!

If you have reached this far ...

CONGRATULATIONS!

 


 

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