Question about hearing aids for Mom

folkvictorianSeptember 4, 2012

What is the process for getting hearing aids? Once they're sized (or whatever?) and ordered, can they be returned if they don't meet your expectations? I haven't got a clue, but I need to discuss this with my mom.

Mom is getting to a point where she has trouble hearing things but won't admit that there's any problem (probably because she doesn't know how much she's actually missing). She doesn't hear some things unless she's looking right at the person who is speaking, often times, and I find myself repeating sentences to her. She phoned me today and spent much of the time telling me that she needs to adjust the phone volume or something because she couldn't make out much of what I was saying.

My brother and I discussed this and he brought it up to mom after some very obvious instances of her NOT hearing family members in different situations. She said that she'd had her hearing checked during her routine physical and the doctor didn't say there was a problem.

So how does the process work -- could she go to the doctor so they can do a more thorough exam and then "build" and fit the correct hearing aids? Or do they just have a supply of various strengths and she could try them there? If she tries them and hates them, then what? I just want to gently encourage her to try some to see what she's been missing!

Please note that during (completely unrelated) conversations about elderly folks needing to live in assisted living homes or nursing homes, mom has volunteered the information that the only way she's leaving her house is on a stretcher. She said it jokingly, but she was being honest, I believe. Just a little insight for you all....

As always, thank you in advance for your wisdom and the willingness to share it!

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She needs to have her hearing tested by an audiologist. They will have hearing aids for her to try out in the office and usually there is a trial period (three months or so) to try them out before the final purchase.

Some of todays aids are so tiny they can easily be concealed in a women's hair (if that's an issue). I would definitely do some research on the reputation(how satisfied patients are) of the audiologist as the fitting and adjustments make all the difference in how successful the aids are in correcting the hearing deficit.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 6:33PM
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Elraes Miller

My son went to an audiologist. They made a form of his ear and determined the type of hearing aide needed dependent upon his sound level issues. Took about 2 weeks to get it. They had a 1 year replacement insurance. It is important to make sure the fit is right during the first couple weeks of using one. His also has a remote to change volume and different sound levels depending upon the environment. He doesn't have the squelching like old ones did.

The insurance was great, he dropped his working on the plumbing and never could find it. They replaced it immediately.

The audiologist told us that my son was reading lips and had learned to get through for a very long time. He was in the Army when this loss came about. Although the VA would not do anything for him.

I think he paid 450 which included the initial exam and followup. Of course the new micro ones came out shortly after and he would love to have one.

Your mom will have to want to do this. There is some daily care involved and remembering to use it, even when no one is around.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 8:32PM
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Yes take her to an audiologist, they will test her and advise you on what to do. The aids can run from a 500 up. I've worn them since I was 25 and mine cost 3000.00 so you want to make sure you tell the audiologist the limit you have on paying. Most insurances don't cover hearing aids but they do cover people on Medicaid. There are many types of aids and most push for the most expensive so be cautious. I would start her with just one and see if that's all she needs and also to see if she'll adapt to it. Some people don't like them after they've paid and they stop using them. I love my aids, without them I'm almost totally deaf. Good luck

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:21PM
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I have a hearing loss in the upper range, but it's not perfect at the lower range either ;-) I also have Tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and have a very difficult time discerning F's and S's and well, a host of other "alikes" even though I'm very good at reading lips, like your Mom.

I'm 51 (at least for the next 14 hours), and the first time I BOUGHT hearing aids was probably 16 yrs ago ($3000). I insisted on purchasing the kind that would be totally hidden inside my ear, even though the audiologist recommended the over the ear model because my loss was so great.

Needless to say, I suppose, she was right. They didn't help and I ended up not using them, much.

Fast-forward several years and, at the insistence of all my family, friends and co-workers, I finally went to another audiologist and bought the "next to top of the line" ($5000) over-the-ear model that looked like a blue tooth device, instead of a honkin' huge, beige, medical device hanging on my ear they wanted me to buy a hundred years ago! LOL!

Anyway, I've had these for 7 years (I think they are warranted for 5) and they're still going strong. My Audiologist offers extended insurance policies (after the 5) for this brand and I opted in, and today, I feel like that was the best $$$ I've ever spent - it covers loss too!

That being said, you really won't be able to talk your Mom into it if she doesn't think there is a problem - I was there. But maybe if you told her my story, it might help, sorry to say though, probably not. One really needs to recognize and admit how much they're missing out on.

With me, it was mostly my career! So it took $$$$$$ to make me realize it! Well, that and technology's always getting better. Seriously, my Audiologist has not recommended I get new ones, going on now 7 yrs! So, I figure I made a pretty good investment ;-)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 12:18AM
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If the new health care law doesn't somehow get struck down after November, the price for aides may decrease. It is my understanding that insurance will become involved and cause the pricing method to change.

Currently you pay up front for all the adjustments and batteries for the life of the aids as well as the price of the aids (bundling.) Insurance is going to require "unbundling" so you will only be charged for what you actually use, at the time it is used.

Probably more than you wanted to know!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 2:35AM
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I wish someone would make a device that hearing impaired people could carry around and use only when needed - a high tech version of the ear trumpets that were used in the 1800s. Maybe something like a lollipop on a long stick that could be held against the ear.

Folkvictorian, your mother and my MIL may be twins. I'll warn you of one thing: when there is both dementia and hearing loss, it's sometimes difficult to know which is the problem at any given moment - whether she is not hearing or not understanding.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 12:56PM
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Thank you, everyone! I appreciate your taking the time to fill me in on this! I'm going to try talking to mom again in a gentle way to suggest she see an audiologist. Part of the problem may be that she helped her mother get hearing aids many years ago and I don't think they worked out very well -- a combination of a slick salesman and grandma's inability to maintain the batteries, etc. on her own. This was before the tiny button replacement batteries were so easily available at Walmart and Target and drug stores. Anyway, I'm going to work on this and I sincerely thank you folks -- you are the greatest!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 1:29PM
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Folk, I think your mom has yet another sister - my mother.
She is almost 92 and her hearing loss is severe.
However, I think it is like cataracts, it comes so slowly that it is just something that she got used to.

I finally got her to admit she needed some help. She told me she probably just had wax in her ears and would need to just have it cleaned out!

Her Medicare supplement - I think it is Medicare Complete covers aids with a deductible.

I don't know if procedures vary state-to state-- but here in Ohio we needed to:

1 - See an ENT who looked in her ears for 2 seconds, but we needed him to write a script referring to an audiologist.

2 - We saw the audiologist who did the tests and recommended the aid she thought would be best.

3 - I faxed the report to the hearing aid company -- THEN was called by another Ohio audiologist who asked me questions and he then signed off on it. (yet another layer getting paid).

4 - I was called last night by the hearing aid company and they will be here in a week or two.

5 - She then needs to go back to the audiologist as the audiologist is making custom ear molds to fit into her ears to attach the aids as her hearing loss is so severe.

I do not know if she will wear these or not. She thinks she can hear just fine and we don't speak loudly enough. She hears the TV just fine (and so do the neighbors).
She needs to pay her co-pays to the audiologist and the co-pay for the aids, but they are otherwise covered. I am assuming these are not super high quality, but if they help her some, it would be a blessing. She also has 70 days from the time she receives them to return them for a refund of her co-pays. She would lose what she paid to the doc and the audiologist, but the aids are returnable.

I would check to see if her Medicare covers anything - and also if you need to see an MD before seeing the audiologist. It took me a long time to figure all of this out. HTH

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 2:08PM
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That being said, you really won't be able to talk your Mom into it if she doesn't think there is a problem - I was there. But maybe if you told her my story, it might help, sorry to say though, probably not. One really needs to recognize and admit how much they're missing out on.

That's so very true. One also needs to recognize - and understand - what they're forcing their friends and family to endure if they are unwilling to wear hearing aids. My own mom struggled with this with my grandmother. At one point, they were incapable of communicating by phone. Mom would get so aggravated and frustrated, and then feel guilty for having those feelings about her own mother. But when a person has to continually repeat themselves, and the one with the hearing loss won't take necessary steps to correct the problem, it's difficult not to feel some level of resentment. I'm not saying Folkvictorian's mother will be so extreme - simply sharing what happened in my family and stating the reason why I share the sentiment that the person needs to want to be helped, before they truly will be.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 2:46PM
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I do think the problem is that, at least in my mother's case, she does not think she has a problem. I think most people who can't hear well honestly don't believe there is a problem. And after she saw the audiologist, was convinced she was diagnosing her incorrectly in that she while she thinks she might have a slight problem, it is only in one ear. We went through the same thing with her with cataracts. She thought she could see fine. Then when she finally did decide to have it done, one eye was botched because it hemorrhaged when it was taken out. She then spent two months without a lens - and that eye is still not working correctly. But not believing she had a problem, there was little we could do.
I think the saddest thing for my mother is when she is with other people. I took her and my aunt and uncle to visit a cousin this weekend. Because of all of the stimulus, she was virtually left out of conversation - then would blurt something out that had nothing to do with what was being discussed -- but she couldn't hear the discussion. What convinced my mother to finally go and be evaluated was the ability to return if she didn't like them. I am glad she is at least giving a try - don't know what the ultimate outcome will be.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 3:00PM
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My mom turns 95 today and is in great health, except for her hearing. She refuses to get hearing aids. That means whenever we visit we have to shout over the tv and say everything three times before she hears us. She figures it's our problem, not hers and she is kind of right.

Honestly, we can have conversations about her when she is right in the room and she never hears. I know how much she is missing and how much better her life would be with them. I wish she'd give in and try them. Finances are not an issue.

Good luck with your mom,Folk.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 3:28PM
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There are very low cost hearing aids that have high ratings for the person who wanted one for occasions. I know two people with mild to moderate loss who wear these. I have otoscerosis and have severe so I can't use them.

Here is a link that might be useful: hearing aid site

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 7:05PM
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My Dad, who is now 75, tried around 6 different models/brands over a couple of years untill he found a pair that worked for him. So don't give up if the first pair isn't a good match.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 8:03PM
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I haven't read all the replies yet, but I thought I would chime in with my experience.

I recently had a hearing exam because I was afraid that I would need hearing aids. I first went to my G.P., who got a bunch of wax out of both my ears. She referred me to a ear, nose and throat specialist who got out the last bit of wax out of one of my ears and then had the specialist check my hearing. It turns out that most of my problem was wax. I have some slight hearing loss in both ears, but not enough and not the kind that would warrant hearing aids.

The hearing test was painless and easy and I will go back for another one next year. I had been so stressed out about it but it really wasn't a big deal.

I don't know much about hearing aids but my father wears them and I know that they have come a long way in the last few years. One of the most important things is to look for a pair that aren't prone to needing a lot of repairs. My dad used to have a pair that needed to be sent back to the factory frequently, and that was a huge hassle and left him unable to hear well in the interim.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 11:55PM
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Thank you one and all! Mom will be here this weekend and I'll try to talk to her then. We're having a birthday party and it'll be a good time to see how much she is able to hear with people all around her. I just KNEW I could ask the question on this forum and get lots of great replies!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 2:50PM
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Google " testimg, testimg, can you hear me better mow" from WSJ.
Article on new Cherio sized , cheap hearing aids that do not require
audio,testimg, etc. Looks interesting. Sorry no link:>(

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 12:42AM
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I have worn hearing aids for 36 years and have never had really expensive aids. While talking to my DD on the phone this morning I thought of your post about your mother. I have to constantly ask that they repeat what they just said because I cannot understand. For many of these years I wore only one aid, then number of years ago a new audiologist suggested I wear 2. I was amazed at the difference that made in my ability to hear better. Recently had to have one aid sent to the factory for repair and now the other one is not working and I am having a difficult time understanding. Had a hearing test done recently and both audiologist and doctor told me I would be a candidate for a cochlear implant. That scares me because my sister has had an implant and she had a hard time learning to use it. I would have thought you would automatically be able to hear but not so. Without a hearing aid I hear almost nothing. Hope you can talk your mother into trying, if she finds the right fit (audiologist and aids) she will be surprised at the difference. Changing these tiny batteries may be a problem for really elderly people.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 10:45AM
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Just a couple more things to add after helping my own mom get hearing aids. See if you can get into a local hospital's audiology dept. but check first to see if it's nonprofit. May or may not need MD referral (sorry, I don't remember). Ours is nonprofit and the service was outstanding, no trumped up charges, no nickel & diming every little thing, sophisticated testing equipment and they were so good to my mom.

Be sure to purchase separate insurance under your mom's homeowners policy. It's very inexpensive & helps. We found a couple times either my mom set her aid on a surface where it got knocked to the floor or she dozed off in her chair & the one came loose, I'm thinking it fell out when she stood up. Dogs are attracted to them, as the audiologist emphasized & we learned. Both times I found the dog had picked up & carried the hearing aid off (one time outside, didn't even know he had it in his mouth). One just needed the ear mold replaced (audiologist did that for free since they were so new) and the other was chewed up beyond repair so insurance covered it.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:30AM
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