Expectations of Hearing Aids

I am a licensed hearing aid dispenser in the state of California, in practice for 15 years.

I read some of these reviews and I see a lot of misunderstanding about what hearing aids can and can't do.

The brand you choose has far less impact on your satisfaction than the ability of the dispenser or dispensing audiologist to (1) explain what you should expect (especially first time users) and (2) adjust them in such a way that sounds are both audible and comfortable.

It needs to be said that improvement for speech (which everybody wants) sometimes results in improvement for other sounds which the user may not desire. But that is the way individuals with good hearing experience sound; if you need improvement in the high frequencies (a very common need!), you're going to hear your footsteps...water running...paper rattling...and a host of other perhaps less-than-necessary improvements.

You should be counseled to expect this, and to re-train your brain to accept and filter things you wish to ignore. This is EXACTLY how people with good hearing function; the new hearing aid user just needs some time and practice to find a way to do the same.

Look for hearing aids with directional mics if you spend a lot of time in noisy situations; that way, you can reduce sounds behind your head and focus on what's in front of you (e.g., in restaurants and at parties). It is not, however, realistic to expect you will never hear noise with "advanced" or "the best" hearing aids.

DO NOT BUY HYPE. There just isn't one best hearing aid in the world. There are several major manufacturers and there is very little in the hearing aid world (in terms of signal processing) that is proprietary.

Manufacturers and their representatives do not want you to know this, but there it is.

Therefore, let your dispenser lead you to the hearing aid(s) with which he or she has the most experience; that way, he or she can optimize what the programming software can do for you.

You will have a choice of less expensive and more expensive; simply put, the more expensive aids have more programming options, which generally leads to a better sound quality for the user.

BUT NOTHING WILL EVER BE LIKE YOUR "ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT"; that's why they're called "aids," not "cures."

THE BEST ADVICE I CAN GIVE YOU: don't wait until you're 85 or 90 years old to try hearing aids for the first time. Address your hearing loss at a younger age for the best results.

The longer you live in a quiet world, the harder it is to adapt to sounds you haven't been hearing. You may believe that your hearing loss is "minor," or "no problem for me"; but even mild hearing losses affect one's ability to participate fully in the world.

If you are avoiding situations because you know you don't hear well in that particular environment, you need to stop telling yourself you're perfectly fine. Hard-of-hearing people who live alone are especially susceptible to this particular delusion.

Comments for Expectations of Hearing Aids

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Oct 10, 2017
Excellent Advice! NEW
by: Great Grandma

I got my first hearing aids at age 25, now 73. With each new aid (averaged 7-8 years each) there were sounds I couldn't identify. My daughter was wonderful at helping me adjust; she must have tired of "What is that noise?" It will be MUCH easier (for you) to have someone nearby who can identify the sounds you are just now hearing. Once you know what the sound is, you quickly learn to dismiss it. My loss is now 95-110db and I thank God there are good aids out there.

I still work full time as an office manager, and do have some problems, especially in noisy environments. Do let people you work with know you have a hearing loss so when they say something to you and you don’t respond, you are not ignoring them. They’ll be very helpful in identifying new sounds that are driving you nuts – until you know what it is. You’ll be embarrassed at first, but you will find others are very considerate once they know of your situation.

I still work full time as an office manager, and do have some problems, especially in noisy environments. Solution: stay out of bars and restaurants with large, open seating. Small intimate venue is much better.

Sep 03, 2016
Costco KS 6 Hearing aids
by: Buddy S.

I have learned a lot in my research as a new HA user.

I have medium loss in both ears at 75.
I did rather extensive online research, and kept reading that there is no 'one best brand' for everyone. It is truly subjective.

I went to two different Costco stores and tried each of their brands offering Bluetooth technology.

Prices were $1800, or $2600. But in order to compare all that I could, I also want to a regular retail store selling the major brands at $7000/pr.

I found the high end brand for $7000 had the same sound quality as KS 6. The Audiologist told me that I would just need to get used to certain 'new' sounds, and that I would...in time.
She was right, I have adjusted to my aids very nicely.

But if I need to adjust to these new sounds, I'd rather adjust with a $1800 pair rather than spend $7000.

The KS 6 from Costco have been fantastic. Plus, you can return within 6 mos. if you do not agree. But they have worked very, very well for me. Definitely worth your time & money to check these out.

Aug 31, 2016
Great "sound" advice
by: Bigbear

Thank you for concise and true info...

I advised my audiology expert that I need to pass "my cricket test"...be able to hear crickets & birds again and also have an aid that would help me communicate with with friends and family....and enjoy dining out in popular restaurants/

First bought OTICON and very happy...3 -4 years down the road they grew "tired". and new models are viciously expensive. Retired the Oticons and bought top line Kirkland at Costco. Very happy with product...and especially the continuing, caring service for 3 + years.

Aug 08, 2016
by: Anonymous

"SOUND ADVISE" and well stated, I'm finding this is true from my own experience, the audiologist told me repeatedly I will need to retrain my brain to correctly process the "new" sounds, and over time I've found this to work out.

Jul 21, 2016
Tried them all and still looking and testing
by: Anonymous - Yvon

I am looking for the best possible solution for my hearing loss. My first hearing aid was really good for the time (about 20 years ago). As time passed my hearing has gotten worse. I went to visit ENT's and
Audiologist of various levels of competence (most were well educated within a product line).

My experience is somewhat unique. I have now gone through a number of Hearing Aids and I have a Cochlear Implant (Hybdrid L24) in my right ear.

This Implant and associated procedures have been a nightmare for me. The Implant cut across the back of the ear is still bothering me after almost 2 years. The Cochlear Hearing device is like an Hearing AID BTE type that sits on the ear and is heavy. This is a nuisance and is a major issue for me because I wear glasses and is is in the way of the frame.

Cochlear is in the business of total hearing loss solution not partial loss. They sell a product that is not compatible with Hearing Aids. To say the least is that was my worst decision.

Other ENT's have said to me "Why did you agree to have this done" it was the wrong solution for you. Severe hearing loss in one ear not deafness.

These issues are more complicated and you need advice from impartial ENT and Audiologist. My story is long and I would like to give piece of advice which is get an advocate to work with you to find the best solution and buyer beware.

And finally I am researching what the solution for me may be using the latest technology that can address both ears with different hearing loss. I am very happy with the service at COSTCO especially now that they give 180 days of trial.
I say try them out you can always return them if you are not satisfied.

Feb 21, 2016
Done with all the bells and whistles.
by: Carol

Got my first hearing aides in my early 40s. 61 now, on my 4th pair. I've had many different settings and find them all pretty useless except the setting I 'invented' with audiologist for the courtroom (I am a lawyer).
The biggest problem I have is when the space is amplified with a system that is turned higher than normal hearing calls for. Think: movie theater, church, Broadway show. I have not had any success with t-coil, music settings, etc. and I am extremely wary of the new Blue Tooth systems;my car's BT is about 60% reliable and to me, that's not worth the expenditure. Please, just give me an on/off switch and, maybe a good volume control, and let my well-trained brain take care of the rest.

Feb 10, 2016
Bad experience with Costco hearing aids
by: Anonymous

Thanks for this very clear article. I purchased Costco hearing aids in 2008 at the age of 60. I was having difficulty hearing clients, asking them to repeat, pulling my chair closer, etc.

The audiologist advised me to gradually increase the hours I wore the aids and assured me I would adjust to them. However, I had rather severe discomfort in my inner ear after I wore them for the first time. It felt like the ear was actually in pain from over stimulation and too much sound, sort of trembling and vibrating. This pain kept me awake at night.

It was "dose dependent" -- the more I wore them, far from getting used to them, the more severe the discomfort and sleep deprivation. I went back to the audiologist and got the same advice --just wear them, you will get used to them. Obviously I could not function with sleep deprivation, and I gave up trying.

Now 8 years later my hearing loss is more severe. I have retired, but I still need to deal with the problem. My financial resources are limited so I would prefer to purchase from Costco, but I need someone who takes my discomfort and sleep deprivation seriously and can help me find a solution. I would appreciate any advice you can offer. Many many thanks.

Feb 06, 2016
Excellent Advice
by: Sean Corcoran

I have hearing loss from being exposed to machinery too long over the past years. This post very clearly sums up my experience when I first received my hearing aids. Fortunately my Costco Audiologist had prepared me for the change. It only took me a day, if that, to adjust to hearing so much I had missed before.

As the post states nothing can replace the "original" equipment, but with help from an Audiologist hearing aids are a great improvement.

Oct 29, 2015
Seek hearing help and be patient!
by: Mike

I, too, feel this is a very good post. At now almost 63 I have needed hearing help for years and just put it off. Was never really vanity, more procrastination. What a game changer! I did become discouraged early on with my aids but then a friend kicked me in the rear with encouragement and the knowledge that it had taken months for him to adjust to his.

Now I would not be without them and encourage my friends, many with complaints of hearing loss, to seek the help that they need and get over the stigma.

Oct 17, 2015
Thanks for the Insight!
by: Jerry

Wow! Most helpful advice I have had in years! I was feeling bad that I had to "resort" to aids at age 61, but I am now even more happy that I did! I have had peaks and valleys, but realize that if I didn't, things would get much worse. My mother-in-law is wasting in a nursing home because she can no longer engage, her hearing is so bad. Aids for her now would be extremely hard to adapt to and I doubt her brain could re-learn what she hadn't heard for so many years! Again, thanks for corroborating all of this and making me a more patient and realistic HA user.

Aug 09, 2014
by: Anonymous

The best and most direct article I've read on hearing aids in years.

Jul 06, 2014
Thank you
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for this explanation. I have a mild congenital hearing loss that was never aided as a child and now in the adult world at the age of 50 I believe I may have missed a lot. I tried amplification many years ago and it was a frightening experience. I think it is time to try again.

Jun 08, 2014
Expectations....Perfectly stated
by: Anonymous

Expectations seems perfectly stated. No hearing aid could ever handle noisy situations. The brain will tune out all the noise in noisy situations with normal hearing.

The tinnitus I experience which is a high frequency buzz is about 65 db and covers up all normal sounds and voices which would drive most people crazy, I've learned to tune it out except in very quiet situations I become aware of it and it is really loud and very annoying.

Your brain learns to tune out irrelevant sounds like noisy restaurants with normal hearing but that ability is lost with hearing loss. Hearing aids can't discriminate and that is why they don't work in noisy environments.

May 25, 2014
by: Anonymous

I agree with being able to make personal adjustments as the user! It does not take an engineering degree to find a comfortable hearing level for oneself! Do it?

Apr 10, 2013
Your comments reflect my experience about hearing aids
by: Michael

I bought a single hearing aid several years ago for my left ear that has a moderate loss in the 3000Hz range. This was making it difficult for me to understand speech in noisy environments. The end result was I wore the aid only occasionally.

In the summer of 2012, approaching my 80th birthday, I decided to try again - this time I went to Costco and bought a pair of the Resound Forzas. I also accepted advice and started wearing them more regularly - except when I am in my office where things are very quiet.

My Costco audiologist has been very patient with me as I have visited her several times for adjustments to the amplification curves. Having an engineering background, it would be nice if I could experiment with these myself.

When first putting the aids on, the intensity of the higher frequency noise is startling - I typically turn the volume down several notches from the default point (which is at Level 8 - there are eight down-steps and four up-steps from that point). Pretty quickly I become accustomed to hearing my footsteps slapping on the floor, crackling of the newspaper, clattering of pots, pans and china, etc. but after a while I tend to forget that I have the aids on - once I stepped into the shower while wearing them but fortunately remembered before they became soaked and they continued to work fine.

My main complaint, which I understand is common among hearing aid users, is that the aids do not help me pick out the speech of those with whom I am talking in a noisy environment (like a restaurant). Two of the three program settings available are supposed to focus the sound somewhat toward the front (in about a 120° degree arc) but this doesn't seem to help.

A recent article in the Economist magazine described some hearing research that is directed toward amplifying the upper-range harmonics of speech, reaching as high as 20,000Hz. This would make ordinary speech more intelligible. According to the article (go to www.Economist.com and do a search for "Hearing aids") the ability to amplify these frequencies is available in most newer hearing aids - a calibration program called CAM2 (search google for CAM2 hearing test) describes this. Subject to regulatory approval the inventor is not releasing many details.

So I will make do and wait for the technology to improve - hopefully faster than my hearing declines as the years pass.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Costco Hearing Aids Reviews.