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Wanted: Hearing Aid info


Clair

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We're starting from scratch here and I welcome all relevant contributions [:)].

Mr Clair needs a pair of hearing aids. According to the ORL we saw today, he has lost 50-60% of hearing in each ear.

The ORL sent us to his "business partner", the audio-prosthesis fitter, who gave us a quick intro without an appointment.

After some attempt at hard-sell, he eventually typed out a quote for three levels of PHONAK prostheses, with prices starting at 2000€ (2x DALIA model), then 26000€ (2x CASSIA Micro) and finally 3200€ (2x SOLANA model).

These are behind-the-ear (BTE) models with increasing choices of "programs/settings" according to the environment, from entry-level all-round hearing, then to automatic adjustment to noise level, then to "speech in noisy environment".

The guy pencilled in an appointment which I am reluctant to confirm, as I

found him seriously condescending, smarmy and pushy. He more or less dismissed or ignored my questions and carried on with his sale pitch... I would seriously prefer not to write him a cheque for any amount, let alone 3 grand!

So I am now on the scrounge for any type of info I can gather.

Can you tell me what brand, model, type, anything else, you use?

What problems did you come across you wished you had known about beforehand?

What sort of maintenance is involved?

Battery life? Cost?

I understand the refund from the Sécu is far from great, even with the extra cover caused by Mr Clair's loss of hearing being over 50% in both ears.

Our mutuelle (compulsory from Mr Clair's job) will cover a max of 280€ per year.

There are a couple of Mutualist hearing-aid specialist shops nearby, but I have no idea whether they deal with a specific mutuelle only, or any mutuelle... [8-)]

I have yet to call ours and I'll do that tomorrow morning to get more info from them and find out if they can point me towards a mutuelle-friendly fitting specialist.

Please pitch in with your own experience... [:)]

Thank you!

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Clair, I'm sorry to hear about Mr Clair's hearing loss. My wife suffered sudden total hearing loss ten years ago while we were still in the UK and it is very difficult to accept. Because of her particular condition she was fitted with a BAHA device. (Google it). Mr Clair won't need this, but the reason I relate is is to show our experience with hearing aids since we came here. The BAHA requires a small operation to fit a post into the skull bone behind the ear and together with the amplifier device costs around £5k in the UK. (It may be more now), but in any case it was done under the NHS and was free. The hearing aid itself costs £3k and lasts for about 3 years before requiring replacement, and the batteries last between a week and 10 days. EDIT: Batteries can be bought cheaply enough online, we use this company and they deliver by post very speedily: http://www.audilo.com/Piles-auditives-powerone/?gclid=CKer39HC9bACFUxlfAod2TbIPw Prices depend on the size of the battery required but it's best to buy in bulk (we usually buy 6 month's worth at a time) and they have a long shelf life.

When we came here we found that deafness is not one of the things that the otherwise good health service treats to any significant degree; certainly the supply of the hearing aids is pretty much up to the depth of the individual's pocket, and many people go untreated. We tried several hearing suppliers here and found them totally uninterested in helping; they only want to push their brands of conventional aids, and at unbelievably high prices. My wife gets an annual checkup by an ORL specialist at the local hospital and he is very good, but we have had to continue buying replacement aids and have found it cheaper to go back to UK for this. They can be ordered by phone, but as they are digital devices with certain "tuning" required we have found it best to go to UK to a private supplier, and Mrs Sid has a hearing test and the device is then fitted. So, for us, this £3k every 3 years (or £1k pa) is one of the additional costs of living here that we wouldn't have to bear in the UK.

Before we her operation we looked at buying conventional hearing aids in Denmark after reading this article (in 2001) : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1361437/If-you-need-the-latest-hearing-aid-go-Danish.html  At that time Ryanair were flying to Arhus but I don't know if that's the case now. The Danish company http://www.hca.dk/Products.aspx  supplies several of the well-known makes, Phonak, Widex, and Siemens.  Shortly after this however, my wife was selected for the BAHA treatment, which was relatively new at that time, so we didn't need to take the Danish route. Mrs Sid cannot wear "in the ear" devices as the earpiece blocks the ear canal and the resulting humid conditions cause problems. I know that several of the UK spectacle companies, including Specsavers and Boots now supply hearing aids at competitive prices; Bottom line... I'd advise you to look over there.

The BAHA has been a fantastic solution for Mrs Sid and we no longer worry about the cost as we're happy that she is able to hear relatively well. Also we received some information from her consultant here that means we may get some financial assistance next time she needs a replacement, so things are looking up.

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I can only deal with this from a UK perspective as I have only dealt with English audiologists. But I have a lot of relevant experience.

My own hearing loss became noticeable 30 years ago when I visited the doctor about tinnitus. He gave me the pleasant news that not only would the tinnitus (noises in head) probably be permanent but he was pretty sure I had a hearing loss. He referred me to ENT who confirmed this.

Since then my hearing has deteriorated and I have seen countless NHS and private audiologists. I have also spent thousands on hearing aids.

My own hearing loss is unusual in that, initially at least, the problem was mainly at the low frequency end of the spectrum. It was apparently caused by my having been given high doses of penicillin as a child to treat pleurisy - it has only fairly recently been discovered that, among other side effects, "toxic antibiotics" can damage the part of the brain that interprets speech. Most people with a traditional hearing loss lose the high frequencies first. NHS aids at the time (analogue of course) were designed for the majority and would not cope at all with my problem. So I turned to the private sector and encountered a succession of what I would describe mainly as charlatans or rip-off merchants. That is of course unfair to those in the private sector who are genuine professionals but I am afraid they seem to be few and far between. I have built up a nice collection of aids bought from dispensers, ranging in price from several hundred to a few thosuand pounds, all fairly useless.

Eventually, I went back to the NHS and, after persevering, I luckily ended up with a lady who not only knew what she was doing but was willing to push my case to get suitable aids through the NHS. As a result, I have a pair of Siemens receiver-in-canal aids with special ear moulds which would cost a few thousand privately but were free through the hospital. I will never have great hearing but they are the best I have tried in 30 years. There are apparently some still better aids for my problem - Widex Clear 440 Fusion - but she couldn't get these for me through the NHS so at present we continue to play with the settings on the Siemens aids.

I don't know if the above is of any help but I would stress the importance of finding a trustworthy consultant - whether private or otherwise. Before spending a lot of money, make sure they will give you a no-obligation trial period in practical situations. Consultants seem to enjoy asking if you can hear them OK with the new aids when you are sitting a couple of feet in front of them in a quiet room - the test is when you are out in the street or in a room full of people.

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Given the advice above I just offer the name of this Clinique not far from here which has an international reputation in case you feel the need for another opinion or consultation:

http://www.clinique-causse.com/

There is a conference there at the moment which gives a flavour of the level at which they work

http://www.clinique-causse.com/pages_cours/program_Jeudi.html

We are only a couple of hours down the A 75

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[quote]... I would stress the importance of finding a trustworthy consultant... [/quote]

This became abundantly clear during our impromptu meeting with the salesman/fitter yesterday.

Thank you both for your input.

I have vaguely considered a short UK visit, but I doubt it would be worth it, considering the necessary follow-up involved.

No help from the mutuelle yet. I have to call again on Monday.

Having googled around, it is clear there are many, many options and just as many price variations.

What has also become very clear is that the quote we were given yesterday was very, very high! A place in Paris offers the same for 1/3 less! So a trip to Paris might be worth considering!

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[quote user="sid"]The BAHA has been a fantastic solution for Mrs Sid and we no longer worry about the cost as we're happy that she is able to hear relatively well. Also we received some information from her consultant here that means we may get some financial assistance next time she needs a replacement, so things are looking up.[/quote]

Having read your post, I am sure you must be immensely relieved about the possible financial assistance. I had never looked into the costs of hearing aids and I am astounded by the high prices being bandied about!

I suspect a lot of practitioners in rural areas like ours get away with these because their customers have not yet woken up to the age of the internet! People all go to the same specialists and fitters, and on it goes...

I look at this website, for instance, and wonder where the person we saw yesterday fished his quote from!

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My OH has just been supplied with new hearing aids with which he is absolutely delighted. Unfortunately I can't recall the make or model and I won't be able to ask him before Wednesday. They were supplied by the NHS and the woman who fitted them told him that the improvements in the quality of hearing aids over the last two or three years has been immense.

I can ask him on Wednesday if that is not too late.

Hoddy
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My husband has had hearing problems since I met him due to work environment. Low frequency problems in one ear and high frequency problems in the other ear. Add to that tinnitus that started about 20 years ago. All the ORL's in France said that there was nothing they could do for him, even one he saw not too long before we left. I knew that if they could it would have been expensive, but what price........ hearing! For me, we would have made sure that we got enough money together for a hearing aid.

 

Since we have returned to the UK I suggested that he go back and see if they could do anything. I may as well have been talking to myself........... or he didn't hear??????[Www]  Still a bloke we know had had one fitted and said it had changed his life..... and my OH heard that. So off he went and now has Siemans hearing aids. Their frequency is adjusted by the person who fits them. The batteries work for about a week, but never ever go at the same time!!!  He is due to get some better ones at the end of this summer.

 

I will never understand why the french health services do not take hearing seriously with regards to proper reimbursements....... as if the CPAM etc did, then the mutualists would too. It is very serious, for the person involved, their families, friends and colleagues.

 

 

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[quote user="Hoddy"]My OH has just been supplied with new hearing aids with which he is

absolutely delighted. Unfortunately I can't recall the make or model and

I won't be able to ask him before Wednesday. They were supplied by the

NHS and the woman who fitted them told him that the improvements in the

quality of hearing aids over the last two or three years has been

immense.

I can ask him on Wednesday if that is not too late.

Hoddy[/quote]

That would be great, Hoddy. Thank you.

I have looked at the websites of some manufacturers like Siemens, Phonak and Widex. All offer a wide range from entry-level to top-of-the-range and it's a minefield trying to find similarities between models!

I have also looked at alternatives to Mr Smarmy and there are many within a 35km radius and plenty more if I extend the search as far as Brive.

I am confident one of the Mutualiste specialist shops will be of help when I get started with my search next week.

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Oh Clair, if we were starting from scratch here in France I'm sure we'd be really lost. This is definitely one area of treatment where the NHS excels, and considering the quality of other treatment we've had here (I've just had a cataract operation for example) I'm am very surprised.

We usually combine a trip to see the consultant in London with a visit to our family thereby making it more economically worthwhile.

Pierre made a very valid point earlier about being able to hear in crowded places; this is one of the biggest problems and it's starting affect me now so I'll probably be on the same route in a couple of years (or less! [:-))] ).

Good luck, but keep us posted please.

 

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I've never had my hearing tested, but I know that it isn't great especially where there are two or more competing sounds. It's particulary irritating when people think I haven't understood what they've said (in French) wheras I actually haven't heard them!
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[quote user="Pommier"]I've never had my hearing tested, but I know that it isn't great especially where there are two or more competing sounds. It's particularly irritating when people think I haven't understood what they've said (in French) wheras I actually haven't heard them![/quote]

Just for starters, you could try one of the online hearing tests, like this one for instance. There are many others...

I wrote a chq for 53€ yesterday, for an audiogramme (specialist's hearing test) and a prescription. Well worth the money, even though this will be mostly refunded via CAPM + Mutuelle.

Mr Clair's test could not be completed because part of it relies on recognising/understanding French words and reacting to them quickly, which cannot be done fast enough if your French isn't fluent.

Having said that, the ORL (specialist) we saw yesterday did speak basic English, as did his reception staff.

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I am surprised they didn't have a test in English, as a few years back I had to take one (for balance problems, but a hearing test all the same) and they automatically gave me one with English words.

In fact it didn't help in one way because they hadn't told me it would be in English, and for the first few I was bewildered because I genuinely didn't recognise what was being said, as I was listening for French, until the penny dropped [geek]

I just tell you this to show that the tests exist in several languages.

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[quote user="NormanH"]I am surprised they didn't have a test in English... the tests exist in several languages.[/quote]

It would have made little difference, in all honesty.

The hearing loss is pretty clear in most environments and almost equal in each ear, probably caused by genetics and advancing years...

Add some tinnitus and a lot of procrastination, and here we are! [:D]

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  • 2 weeks later...
Quick update on the hearing aid front:

We went to Cahors for an appointment and got 3 quotes ranging from 2155€ to 2915€, for a selection of Bernafon Chronos Nano Rite, with varying degrees of sophisticated technology...

Swiss-made with a 4-year guarantee, and Mr Clair said they were lighter and more comfortable than others he tried.

The shop offers a 2-3 weeks trial period and regular follow-ups (once a week, then once a month, then every 3 months, then every 6 months) during the lifetime of the hearing aids as part of the purchase.

They have a shop near us in Saint-Céré which should be manned from September, so we shouldn't have to drive to Cahors more than once or twice.

The good news is that there is a possibility Mr Clair could qualify for a disability grant from the Conseil Général. It seems that his degree of hearing difficulty, together with his relatively young age and full-time employment are factors which should play in our favour.

As things stand, the reimbursement from CPAM + Mutuelle will total around 640€ and the grant, if he qualifies, could cover a great deal of the shortfall.

The person we met today has given me some basic info to get this started. The downside is that we must wait for their decision before making a purchase.

Many thanks to all for the info you shared on this thread [:)]

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I do hope hubby gets on well with his hearing aids.

Ihad high frequency heaing loss diagnosed in the late 80's,unfortunately then hearing aids could not help me,by the time digital aids were available my hearing had deteriorated so much I was virtually deaf.

In 2007 I had a cochlear implant in my right ear and it changed my life,it was very hard trying to talk to my french neighbours by lipreading, now I can hear them and they correct my pronounciations...Im surprised they every understood me at all before.

One in Seven people have a hearing loss of some sort, often its an unseen disability.. very trying for the sufferer and their family.
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I agree with those sentiments, and I too hope Mr Clair gets on well with his aids. We took the view that it was a financial burden we just had to bear; you can't put a price on this sort of thing. Good luck.
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  • 1 month later...
A quick update on the grant front:

A week after sending the forms, I was asked to supply additional info (copy of income tax for 2011 and a medical from Mr Clair's GP, despite the specialist's letter stating Mr Clair's needs).

A week after sending that additional info, I received an acknowledgement and a promise of a reply within 4 months...

I'll let you know how this turns out...

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  • 3 weeks later...
We've just had a visit from an occupational therapist sent by the grant people. She needed to assess Mr Clair's disability level in order for him to be officially declared a disabled worker.

This will give access to another grant which will fund most of the hearing aids.

Once everything comes together (mutuelle + CPAM + 2 grants), we should have to pay around 300€ (out of 3000€), which is very good news.

The flip side of all this is the time factor.

With yet another file to complete and submit, we're looking at January 2013 before Mr Clair can be fitted, unless I can convince the shop (fitting specialist) to start the trial period now, with a view to issue a final invoice at the time when the grants come together.

Hey ho...

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Not the same point to make as you Clair, but I wear hearing aids supplied by the NHS. I am very grateful for them because I can pretty well hear everything on TV or when I'm in a small group situation with no background noise. However I find it very difficult when in a crowded restaurant for example, or a pub or even in a large group where several conversations are going on at one time because the background noise drowns out the voices near me.

I've been told that because I'm used to my quieter existence (without the aids), everything just seems louder, and that if I continue to wear them all the time, my brain will tune out the extraneous noise allowing me to concentrate on what I'm meant to be hearing. Trouble is that my brain is very slow at doing this, and I find I can't ignore the TV when it is on and I'm not watching but OH is, so to get some relief I take out the hearing aids. And has anyone noticed how loud the sound on ads are?

I would be very interested Clair in knowing how  Mr Clair gets on with his, (when he gets them, which I hope won't be as long as you fear). If the privately bought ones give more flexibility, I might consider investing in them, rather than sticking with the NHS ones.

And yes, deafness is the unseen disability. People must think I'm just stupid when I smile at something they say, or worse, ask them something they've just told me. I certainly haven't lost all my hearing, but I realise that I stop trying to listen when I'm not hearing very well, then I subsequently find that I've agreed to something I didn't know about, eg babysitting my grandchildren one evening.

Sorry for going on, but another trial: wearing my hearing aids causes a build up of ear wax, and I have to have a syringing fairly regularly. In fact up to last week I really couldn't hear much at all even with the aids in.

It's probably not like this for everyone, and I really should train myself to wear my aids the way you do glasses. Soon.....

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[quote user="Frecossais"]... I find it very difficult when in a crowded restaurant for example, or a pub or even in a large group where several conversations are going on at one time because the background noise drowns out the voices near me.

... If the privately bought ones give more flexibility, I might consider investing in them, rather than sticking with the NHS ones.[/quote]

I have done a fair bit of research over the last few weeks and I can tell you that there are varying levels of technology, which result in sophisticated degrees of sound filtering.

All the digital hearing aids I've read about can be tuned to various situations (face-to-face, crowd, music, telephone...); some of the better ones have a 'learning' mode which enables them to self-tune automatically.

I don't know which models are offered by the NHS, or even if there is a choice. The ones Mr Clair is getting are these (click on the icons to see the various benefits).

I don't know how they compare with what the NHS offers.

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That's interesting Clair. It seems things have moved on in the last few years since I had a look myself. But the NHS then moved over to digital aids so I went for those instead. Mine have only one adjustment and that's for listening to one speaker on stage, eg in a theatre, cinema, conference hall with a loop system.

I also get my batteries free, and I'd guess NHS aids have different-sized batteries from others, but I will investigate further. In the meantime I'd be interested in hearing how Mr C gets on with his and whether they live up to their promise.

Thank you for your reply.

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