So I’ve finally gone and done it. After years of putting off, I’ve taken the first step towards buying my first hearing aid.
I’ve often wondered whether it would be worth the financial outlay and when I’ve asked NHS audiologists, I’ve been assured that NHS hearing aids are no different to those bought privately. But then again, when I’ve asked independent audiologists the same question, they’ve always said that privately bought aids are much better. I’ve therefore never quite known who to believe and in the end, have decided that I just need to try them out for myself and reach my own conclusions.
After doing a lot of reading and talking to people over the past few weeks, I’d drawn up a shortlist of two hearing aids I wanted to try and I then took the plunge and contacted an independent hearing aid dispenser.
The initial consultation took place in my own home, and I have to admit I was concerned about being on the receiving end of a hard sell. However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. The audiologist was very professional, patient in answering my questions (and I did ask a lot of them) and I felt gave me good advice on which model would be best for me.
The test itself was a little different to what I was used to, taking place in my living room rather than in a sound booth. However, on reflection, I thought it was as good a place as any, being quiet and relatively uninterrupted. The equipment and test itself was much the same as usual, a pair of headphones and lots of beeping tones that I had a raise my finger to, rather than press a button from within a booth.
Having spent years with BTE hearing aids, I was keen to try a hearing aid that was either in the ear, or in the canal, but I also wanted hearing aids with a tele coil, which ruled out anything that might be completely invisible. My criteria wasn’t based on any kind of need for the aid to be hidden, but simply a weariness about something obtrusively flapping around behind my ear whenever I took my spectacles on and off and also getting in the way when I wore hats or tried to use a phone.
As it turned out, I was advised to try an aid that had a receiver in the ear. This meant that my canal wasn’t completely occluded and I could still receive some natural sound in my right ear which has only a mild loss.
Anyway, to cut a longer story short, today I took delivery of a pair of Phonak Audeo V90 hearing aids. After another hour of fine tuning to ensure the balance felt right between both ears, some testing, lots of questions from me, downloading a smartphone app and receiving instructions on daily maintenance, my audiologist left me for the next two weeks to test the aids out and make notes for his return on my observations.
As a starting point and in no particular order I’ve already found that:
- The sound quality is very good. Whilst I have difficulty finding the vocabulary to describe my hearing exactly, I think I would describe it as quite ‘bright’.
- My voice at first sounded very odd and with all new hearing aids, will take a bit of getting used to.
- I found the receiver quite difficult to place in my ear canal and it will take quite a bit of practice to get the angle just right. It feels very clumsy at the moment.
- The receiver also feels a little tickly in my canal and having had it in situ for several hours, I wouldn’t describe it as uncomfortable, but I certainly know it’s there and it will take a little getting used to.
- There seem to be at least half a dozen alerting sounds and I’m not sure I will remember what they all represent.
- As the body of the hearing aid is still behind my ear, I continue to suffer from ‘rustling’ sounds as I put my spectacles on and off and having to manoeuvre the arms of my specs around it.
- I’ve also got the use of a Phonak ComPilot and whilst I don’t like it dangling around my neck, the sound quality is much better than the previous two bluetooth neck loops I’ve had, and phone calls and music streaming is very clear. (I also like the fact it announces the name of the person telephoning you).
- Its easy to connect the ComPilot to my smartphone and there is a phonak app that can be used to adjust the settings and volume on the aids.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting short updates on twitter and Facebook before doing a fuller blog post on my conclusions. If you’ve any views yourself on these aids, I’d be keen to hear them and if you’ve any queries about them, let me know and I will try my best to answer them.
Wish me luck!