Hear it Loud and Clear, A Journey into the Mechanics!
How Hearing Aids Rock Your World
Aging is a journey (says me, an almost 28-year-old)! So… I may not really understand how it feels to be an older adult or senior, but I do see many people in many different walks of life come through our doors at Hears to U, Hearing & Hearables. I appreciate listening and learning from everyone I meet and especially from an older population. Whether stories from years past, ailments from today, or dreams for the future there is always something to be learned from those who have lots of lived experience.
Being that I am in an audiology clinic everyday, the most common thing I hear about is… you guessed it, hearing issues! Hearing loss is a common side effect of aging for many people. Although hearing loss can occur at any age, the majority of hearing loss cases occur gradually over time, particularly as people age. Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, is a common condition that typically begins to manifest around the age of 60 or older, but recent research shows that it can begin as early as 40.
In the United States, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that approximately 30% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and the prevalence rises to about 50% in those aged 75 and older.
Although hearing loss can be a natural part of the aging process, it is still a difficult condition for many to manage. Some people might not think they need any help or that their life is not being affected by hearing loss, but in all reality, it is affecting their life and especially those that spend time with them. This is when hearing aids (hopefully) enter the picture!
Hearing aids have come a long way and made many technological advancements, especially in recent years. These small yet powerful devices have revolutionized the lives of millions, allowing them to reconnect and enjoy sounds they may have not heard in years. Although hearing aids have a lot to offer, it is still important to remember that they are aids. Yes, they do help you hear better, but they will never restore your hearing or cure hearing loss.
Understanding how hearing aids work will help wearers understand what their realistic expectations should be and how they can best utilize their hearing aids for different listening situations. To understand how hearing aids work, we first must understand the important components that make up a hearing aid:
The microphone is a fundamental component of a hearing aid. Its purpose is to capture and convert the surrounding sounds into electrical signals. The microphone ensures that the sounds you encounter are effectively collected and processed, laying the groundwork for the subsequent steps in the hearing aid’s operation.
Once the microphone captures the sounds, the amplifier steps in to enhance and boost the electrical signals. The amplifier’s primary function is to make the sounds audible and clear. It amplifies the weak signals to a level suitable for your hearing needs, ensuring that you can perceive sounds at comfortable volumes.
The digital signal processor is the technological powerhouse within a hearing aid. It processes and fine-tunes the amplified signals according to your unique hearing requirements. It employs sophisticated algorithms to distinguish between different frequencies and filter out background noise, ideally prioritizing the sounds you want to hear.
After the signals have been processed, the receiver, also known as the speaker, takes over. It converts the electrical signals back into acoustic sounds, delivering them directly into your ear canal. The receiver ensures that the sounds reach your ears accurately and with optimal clarity.
Hearing aids rely on a power source, usually a small traditional battery or rechargeable lithium-ion battery, to function effectively. Modern hearing aids utilize advanced energy-saving technologies to prolong battery life, ensuring extended usage without frequent replacements.
Hearing aids today offer an array of customizable features to suit individual preferences. Almost all models have a downloadable app to accompany the aids that allows for adjustments in volume, noise reduction, directional focus, and even connectivity to other devices such as smartphones or televisions.
Hearing aids these days include advanced technology and features to offer users customizable, high-quality hearing help. Although they will not restore hearing back to what it once was, it does allow users to experience many of the rich sounds of life that were once lost as well as communicate more effectively with those that they love.
For many years now I have been aware that many people do not want to pay for service. People will gladly pay for a product and especially a product that is deemed less expensive than other products in that same category. This post, however, is not about the product, it is about service.
First and foremost, we are changing our service plans to accommodate the warranty time of the hearing aid. We are offering retro upgrades if you have purchased in the last three years, and your hearing aid is still under manufacturer warranty. The details are spelled on service packages online and in the clinic.
My intention for this post/blog is to share why we are changing the service packages to help accommodate a problem.
Reading about fees for service, PPOs, and paying for people’s time is interesting. On one hand, fees for service in health care insurance have changed because some doctors were doing unnecessary testing to get a better payout. So now the insurance fees are based on a “whole body” approach to what is acceptable for this illness or condition so to speak. I can’t speak too much on this topic other than I want to mention it and let you know I am not referring to this insurance fee for service.
Thus we are not talking about insurance payments since I am sharing the common disturbance of private pay for service.
There are many services available for people to choose from. For most services, you have to pay out of pocket to receive them. One such service is when you need to fix something. You call the service person and either make an appointment or they come to you and charge you for a service call. Then there are parts and labor on top of the service call. Do we like spending money on repairs or services? No, but we know we have to pay as it wouldn’t be right to not pay. If we all didn’t pay, who would help us with what we need? I learned early on that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
What about a massage? If you want a massage, usually that is private pay. Perhaps you don’t get a massage because you don’t want to pay and that is fair. Many people do like massages and they have to pay for the service. Some insurance companies do not cover chiropractor care or even optometrist care.
If you need something and you receive the service, you pay. Audiology services, same thing. When you come see an audiologist it is private pay as health insurance doesn’t cover service as a benefit.
Since 2012, when I went into business for myself starting Chears Audiology, I had a “menu” type option and as I learned about the industry and people’s behaviors and what they wanted, I unbundled the product even more from the service. Do any of you remember my “menu” book at the front bar?
Anyway, I remember fondly a patient named Michael in 2015 ish. He and I had many a discussion on transparency and pricing. This was around the time that Time magazine revealed what doctors and hospitals were charging and when the insurance didn’t pay, people found out they were paying 10 dollars for an “aspirin”, or something so astronomical. Apparently, many people were filing for bankruptcy because of medical bills.
Around that same time when I was hanging with Michael, I went to the dentist and they gave me a fluoride treatment. Later on, I found out that the horrible stuff they spread on my teeth cost 85 dollars which was not covered by insurance. I now know to say no to that treatment as I didn’t like it and well.. I have to say one of my best features are my teeth and they are in good shape (despite the fact that I love candy).
Now that I know darn well that when I get something outside of what insurance covers there will be a cost. Going back to my audiology business, I know that since 2012 we have been discussing how Medicare does not cover hearing aids. And because Medicare does not cover hearing aids, many other insurances also do not cover hearing aids or the care that is associated with the hearing outcome.
I understand and know that there is no way people with moderate or greater hearing loss can get a hearing aid and expect the desired outcome without service. People think that just getting them put in their ears is all that is needed. Or is it?
I am here to tell you it isn’t! You don’t know the difference that we professionals understand. We went to school to think, analyze, treat, explain, counsel, and more to help people who need hearing and ear care services. There are so many aspects to fitting and counseling for better hearing. I can’t even count how many times I have seen someone who was fit by a retail “warehouse” device, or came in to see us for better hearing, as the retail “warehouse” device “never worked for them”. Some people do believe the retail warehouse device works for them, but how do they know? Have they consulted with a professional that will offer audiological services? I guess what I am saying here is I believe our services are worthwhile, most of the time. Ha
Over my years in private practice, I have offered a number of options for paying for service.
One method, for instance, is the bundled method. We have accounted for our service and don’t need to charge you as you come and go for help. This bundled method has some faults. First, it keeps the cost of hearing aids nice and high. While some of you choose our 5-year service package with full bundled costs, most of you do not.
Second, the bundled model lacks transparency, as you don’t really know what the cost is of the service you are getting from me, your audiologist. And the cost is so much higher than the cost at a retail warehouse.
Lastly, if you don’t need all the services, why should you pay for those bundled services? We do not see many of you very much as you are happily hearing.
Hence, many people like to itemize and pay as they go. It makes sense. I appreciate this method and myself like this method unless I can get buy 4 massages and get one free. haha
We also want to try (yes I said try) to have the most competitive pricing, therefore, we have unbundled the cost of our service from the product. This has worked pretty well over the years. We can’t really compete with a retail warehouse as I don’t buy as many hearing aids in one year as they buy in one day. And maybe it would take me 10 years to buy as many hearing aids as the retail warehouse orders and fits in one day! Think about it.
So we still can’t compete in price of the hearing aid and we still need to be paid for our time. A problem for sure when we want to compete. I fear it is only getting worse. For instance, more and more people wait months to go to a retail warehouse for a hearing aid. Instead one could come in within a week or two and see us. Understanding that they will get better service, and experience and not wait months to get help.
I just read a post in “Medium”, (a publication of shared spaces for stories written around a common theme or topic, usually by multiple authors) by a person who shares the same observation I am finding.
She shares in her publication that many, not all, people do not want to pay for her time, energy, expertise, service, and help and avoid paying by various tactics. She shares how she has lots of schooling and years of experience and is able to offer something that a novice can not do. She claims to be a professional. I too have lots of experience and years of schooling.
This post also points out that she likes to help people and feels badly asking for money. She wants to accommodate. This woman writes how when she was younger, she gave away her time more freely.
Now in her older age, she feels empowered to stand up for herself. Not to mention she has bills to pay like you. I completely relate. As an entrepreneur, a clinician, and a businesswoman, I often wonder what people would do if their employers didn’t pay them. How would they feel? Very disrespected. Right? Would they quit, scream, sue, demand, or picket? Well as a business owner, we can’t do any of that other than ask you, those who need our service to rightly pay your bill.
Coming back around to why I decided to write this post. For most of our patients, you are respectful of our time and service cost and stop at the front desk and ask how much you owe us. Some of you are even in a service package and still respect us and want to pay us for our time. We thank you for that. And we also thank those of you who send us deli sandwiches from a famous deli in NY, bring us chocolate, oranges, syrup, flowers, and other such yummies.
I am talking to the people who don’t stop and offer or I feel they are trying to find some tactic to get away from paying. People who stop by without an appointment, hurry and leave before asking if there is a charge. Are these people hoping to not pay or do they just not understand etiquette for small business? I hope it is the latter.
Recently Malia and I had a long conversation with one of “our people” patients about the issues we are facing charging service fees, for our time essentially.
Because more people are not respecting the idea of paying for service or are complaining about a fee for our time, with comments like, “My friends don’t get charged when they go to a retail “warehouse”… how are you going to compete”? Malia said, “We just can’t compete.” We can’t.
Many of you probably do not think twice about this topic and that is why I am pointing it out. I like when people are educated and then do the right thing respecting one’s time.
If you are out of your service plan or want our professional advice, please know that we do charge for this type of service. Customer service is different. I am talking about hearing health care services. I thank you for asking what you owe. Perhaps you won’t owe anything, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
To make life better for you, and easier for us, we have decided to extend to you, those who purchased a 2-year service plan to 3 years! Since the hearing aids are in warranty for 3 years, our service will also cover that time. The packages will go up in price to accommodate more time. Going forward, therefore, there will be a 3-year plan. After that, you know the drill.
For those of you who purchased the one-year plan, we are offering the opportunity to purchase the 3-year service package for ¼ of the price of the new 3-year plan.
The other package is the 45-day trial package. If you do this package, please be aware that there will be service fees every time you come in for service after this 45-day period. Our prices are posted on our website, at the front desk and you can always ask before you come in.
If you don’t want to pay us, then please don’t come in. It is that simple. We will miss you but we are here to help those who appreciate our time and efforts.
Thank you for listening and reading.
Most of these rechargeable hearing aids utilize lithium-ion batteries and once charged, usually last 16 hours or more. They are easy, convenient, and you don’t have to throw away a battery every couple of days!
As this rechargeable technology has advanced, we are also seeing manufacturers such as Signia, Rexton, Oticon, Phonak, Resound and Starkey brands come out with portable chargers that charge your hearing aids on the go, without needing to be plugged into a power source, as well as super-fast charging options. One of the options is using the new C cord.
1. There is not a universal charger
The first and maybe most important thing to note is that each hearing aid manufacturer has their own chargers, and for the most part each new line of hearing aids from that manufacturer has its own corresponding charger.
2. Your Charger can go bad on a Trip
We sell a lot of chargers to people who are traveling, have a charger on the fritz, or maybe just want a backup. The most important thing to know when ordering a charger is the make and model of your hearing aids. We have received many returns from those who think a charger will work with their style of aid, but once they receive it to realize it is not compatible! Save yourself some time and money by making sure you know what you need
3. New chargers for newer technology in the same brand
There are so many examples of a hearing aid brand like Phonak putting out a new hearing aid and then changing up the charger. Another brand that does this is Signia and Rexton which also carry now multiple different lines of hearing aids. The Phonak Hearing Aid Audeo Lumity has different models and two of the models use different chargers. How confusing is that? If we get confused, I can only imagine you do too.
When it comes to having a charger on the fritz there are a couple of things to check before you panic.
The most common issue with all these chargers is usually not the actual charger at all, but the cord. If you find yourself with a charger that is not charging, try switching out the cord first. Most chargers use either a USB-C or Micro-USB cord and hopefully you have an extra one lying around your house as they are pretty typical cords for other kinds of devices as well.
If after all this your charger is still not working, then your charger is probably on the fritz. The good news is that most manufacturers warranty their chargers for 1 to 3 years. So, if yours is fairly new, it’s worth reaching out to where you got your charger from to check the warranty and hopefully have it sent in for repair.
If you are looking for a more convenient option, you can always purchase a new charger or a backup charger from us! We are happy to help you figure out what you need and let you know what options work with your particular hearing aids.
If you forgot your charger when you travel, we are happy to help you find the charger you need. Some companies don’t want their products sold online but it doesn’t hurt to call around or call us as we might be able to help you.
In our clinic in Hopkins Minnesota, Hears to U, Hearing & Hearables, we have received many phone calls, emails, walk-ins, and fly-ins (you get the point) questioning a peculiar sound coming from their hearing aids. The chirping sound wasn’t there in the beginning. Why is this happening now?
These are some examples of the questions we receive from our patients –“Why are my hearing aids chirping?” “I have a sound coming out of my hearing aids that everyone can hear” “My hearing aids are malfunctioning with these music tones” My hearing aids are making noise, what should I do?”, “My friend told me my hearing aids were screeching and I was so embarrassed!” Recently one of our patients came in saying, “Help make the chirp-o-mania stop!”
Can you relate? Have you gone to your audiologist asking these types of questions? Well, we are here to help you online, giving you some guidance.
What is this feedback that audiologists talk about when you report some random ringing or chirping from your hearing aids? Have ever held a microphone too close to the speaker and it makes this horribly loud screech only to have the entire room groan and cover their ears because of the disturbingly loud, high-pitched screeching you’ve created, then you’ve experienced “feedback”? It seems to happen most when a band is setting up and testing on stage and somehow the speakers and the mic get a little carried away with feedback.
Luckily, when it comes to hearing aids the speaker is not nearly as powerful so if feedback happens to occur, usually only you and the people close to you can hear it. And sometimes if the hearing aid wearer has a high-frequency hearing loss, they might not be able to hear it at all. In our clinic in Minnesota, we have many patients who report that their significant other can hear it and can we fix it so the others won’t be annoyed?
Although feedback is a common occurrence with hearing aid wearers, it is also a sign that something is not quite right. Ideally, your hearing aid should fit snugly in your ear canal so that all the sound is being directed to your eardrum, and not escaping out of your ear. When or if the sound escapes out of your ear it will get picked up by the hearing aid microphone which then causes the escaping amplified sound to be re-amplified, and now you have a feedback loop and your hearing aid is “yelling”, “chirping”, “buzzing”, “screeching”, and/or “singing” at you. However, you want to describe it, it is not pleasant for you or those around you.
So now that you know what feedback is, the question becomes “Why is it happening and what can you do about it?”. Feedback can be caused by a few different things, and to make it stop you first have to figure out why it is happening in the first place.
Some common factors that cause hearing aid feedback are:
It should not be a cause for concern and instead, a cause for you to check in and figure out what is creating your feedback. You can always reach out to us with questions, or make an appointment to see your hearing healthcare professional and have them help you diagnose the cause and find a solution. If there is a will, there is a way to get the “chirp-o-mania” under control! We thank Mark for inspiring us to write this blog for you. We hope this shed some light on your hearing aid chirps.
It is important for you to know that our online consignment products available for purchase have all been checked and tested by a professional. All products work to the best of their abilities. If you have questions on how well a product will work for what you want it to do, please feel free to reach out via the contact form and we will gladly answer questions.
We clean all products and then sterilize them in our little sterilization oven. We connect all the hearing aids we receive to the software system and program them to accmodate a mild to moderate hearing loss. The receivers are also used but are deep cleaned and in working order.
Please know that the little tips or domes at the end of the receivers or tubing are new. We will also send you a free assortment of tips/domes that go with the hearing aid receiver or tubing.
Although the consignment products are non-refundable, you are welcome to see if we can sell them again for you. We do charge for this service. You are welcome to read the post on selling in our consignment store.
Used products not only help the environment by recycling products that still work, but are also a great option for those who don’t want to spend more money than what they have or what they need. We worker bees at Hears Hearing & Hearables personally like to buy used products, like used clothes from a consignment store, and used cars, which are so much more affordable. These consignment stores or used lots are plentiful and trustworthy. We also have reasonable expectations when we buy used and we hope you do too.
Our in-person clinic in Hopkins, Minnesota, Hears to U, Hearing & Hearables, has added an online store so we can support those near and far. The online store helps support our brick and mortar, but even more important, we notice it supports those people around the United States that do not have a clinic nearby or a clinic that offers choices of products. For that reason, our online store is very accessible.
Hears to U, Hearing & Hearables added an online store to help with affordable products. It is our mission to try to give people the best prices for the product they want. We agree that hearing aids in particular and those products with it are expensive. Yes, they are less expensive if you go to a warehouse as the warehouse business can buy products in bulk with a partnership with one brand.
In any case, our consignment store is combining the accessible and affordable mission. Many of our clients in our brick-and-mortar clinic have turned in their used hearing aids for other people to enjoy. Some of our clients want to sell them so as to earn a bit of credit in our store. It is all good, in either case we are happy to be able to present you with some excellent options.
Remember, if you have questions about a product we are here to help. We prefer a contact form for questions over a phone call. We are busy in the clinic helping others and emails are less obtrusive.
We also recommend that if you buy a used hearing aid from our consignment store to take it to a professional hearing care provider to adjust to your specifications. If you are in Minnesota we are happy to help. We can also help you find the closest great professional near where you live.
Hears to U, Audiology, Hearing & Hearables, a hearing healthcare provider, is pleased to announce that they are now accepting Health Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) payments through their online platform, making it easier for their clients to access high-quality audiology services and products without the burden of out-of-pocket expenses.
This move aligns with the need for greater accessibility and affordability in the healthcare sector and emphasizes the importance of addressing hearing healthcare as an integral part of overall wellness. Moreover, it is a testament to the company’s commitment to outstanding customer service, client support, and quality products.
FSA and HSA payments are convenient, tax-advantaged ways to pay for medical expenses.
FSA is a benefit program that allows employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for eligible medical expenses. It typically has a use-it-or-lose-it provision, meaning the funds must be spent within a year, or they will be forfeited. This makes FSA an excellent option for people who have predictable healthcare expenses.
HSA, on the other hand, is a type of savings account that individuals can set up if they have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). HSA allows them to contribute pre-tax money to their savings accounts that can be used for qualifying medical expenses. Unlike FSA, unused HSA funds are carried over to the following year, so it’s great for people who want to save for future medical expenses.
While both FSA and HSA have their differences, they share the goal of making healthcare services more affordable for individuals and families. They cover many healthcare expenses, such as copays, deductibles, prescriptions, and over-the-counter products including those related to audiology and hearing healthcare products. Such products include Hearing aids, OTC Hearing aids, ear wax removal kits, hearing protection, and other products to help with your ears or hearing needs.
By moving this capability to their online platform, they are taking another step to make audiology services and products more accessible and convenient for their clients and customers. In addition, these payment methods also encourage patients to take an active role in their hearing healthcare decisions by offering flexibility and control over how they allocate their funds.
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