NFD have come up with a list of questions to ask your Audiologist. These questions will help you choose the best Audiologist to help you reach your hearing goals. Maree O’Sullivan, the Audiologist at Auckland Hearing has answered these questions to help give you more clarity about how we help people with their hearing at Auckland Hearing.
The National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) is a New Zealand organisation that promotes the rights, interests and welfare New Zealanders with hearing loss. They offer people support to communicate effectively, live positively and achieve to their potential. They collaborate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and with professionals like audiologists in the hearing sector to address issues affecting human rights and quality of life.
Recently NFD published a list of questions to ask your Audiologist, when you are choosing hearing aids. I thought they were great questions so here are my answers. I hope you find the information helpful.
Hearing aids are complex devices. It’s requires knowledge, experience and continual up-skilling and learning to choose the best devices for your individual situation. Here are some questions to ask when deciding which audiologist you want to work with and during the consultation.
Are you a member of the New Zealand Audiologicial Society (NZAS)?
Only NZAS members can access government funding including the Ministry of Health subsidy and ACC. Members are governed by a code of ethics and there is a complaints procedure if you need it.
Maree’s answer: I have been a member of the new Zealand Audiological society since 1993, first as a student, then a provisional member. I completed my clinical Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) in 1996 and have been a full member since then.
What experience do you have?
An audiologist uses skill and experience to get the best out of your hearing device. In larger practices experienced audiologists are available to mentor newer ones.
Maree’s answer: I did my Bachelor of Science and Master of Audiology degrees at the University of Auckland. I have been working as an Audiologist since April 1995. I have been lucky enough to work in 3 countries (Australia, the UK and New Zealand). Over that time I have worked in the many areas of Audiology including in hospitals, tertiary referral clinics (in depth diagnostics), and for 2 manufacturers. For 2 years I worked at the University of Auckland Audiology program working with student audiologists in the areas of diagnostic audiology, paediatrics and hearing aids. I have fitted hearing aids for clients in hospitals, small private clinics and large clinic chains. I started Auckland Hearing in 2014 with the goal of delivering a very client oriented experience.
How do you measure success with hearing devices?
It is important to be clear about what orients success with hearing aids and you and your audiologist must be clear on the same goals.
Maree’s answer: We have both objective and subjective goals for our hearing aid fittings.
Objectively – we measure how the hearing aids function in your ears using real ear measures. Each individual persons ear shape changes the way that hearing aids are amplified so we compare the way your hearing aids are amplifying to a standard target. The hearing aid output is modified to your individual hearing loss and ear acoustics.
Subjectively – before choosing which hearing aids to trial, we create a set of goals with you. This is so we get a very clear idea about what you would like to achieve by hearing better. For example: hearing your family at the dinner table, hearing the TV clearly and at a comfortable volume for others and hearing John (with the quiet voice) at work. After you have been wearing the hearing aids for a while and have adjusted to hearing sound again we check that we have achieved these goals you set for yourself. In summary – we will clarify your hearing goals at the beginning of the process and then check we have achieved them when you finalise. Some goals may not be a realistic expectation for certain hearing loss’s or circumstances and this will be discussed.
How regularly will you be in this location?
It is important to know if the Audiologist travels from another town. You may need several visits to get your hearing aids tuned properly, so the audiologist should be available long term.
Maree’s answer: Our clinic is located at 66 Michaels Ave in Ellerslie, Auckland. We love our nice quiet street, we have plenty of parking right out side and there are no stairs to climb (wheelchair friendly). We also have a lovely cafe next door where our clients often go for coffee before and after their appointments. At this stage we are open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with more days opening soon. I have the flexibility to see people outside the normal hours if needed.
What models do you recommend and why?
You want to be sure a device is recommended because it works best with your hearing, is robust and you will be able to manage it. Check that there is good back up service.
Maree’s Answer: As an independent hearing clinic I do not have preferred supplier agreements with any manufacturers. This is one of the many reasons I set up an independent clinic – so I can fit the hearing aids I believe are the best for each individual.
Hearing aids brands. In the last few months I fitted hearing aids from Oticon, Phonak, Signia (Siemens) and Widex, and I am open to fitting other suppliers if I believe they have a product that will suit a particular clients needs. I attend seminars and see reps from each manufacturer and keep up with new developments in the industry so I can give the most up to date advice. The model chosen within each brand will depend on the each individuals specific needs.
Needs assessment. The hearing aids I recommend for each individual will depend on many factors including their hearing loss, lifestyle and budget. At the needs assessment appointment we ask many questions about your hearing challenges, listening environments and what your goals are for hearing better. From there we will choose a hearing device that meets your needs and is within your budget.
Back up service: We want to be sure that the hearing aids are meeting your hearing needs. When choosing to get hearing aids from Auckland Hearing all your appointments are included for at least 6 months. Hearing aids usually have a 2 year warranty, some have a 3 year warranty and we work with manufactures that have a very good back up service if faults are found. We recommend you have a hearing review and hearing aid adjustment every 1 – 2 years to be sure the hearing aids continue to work as well as possible for you.
How old is the model you are offering me?
Government subsidies are available only once every 6 years, so it is important you get up to date aids, not older models that may be on discount.
Maree’s answer: At Auckland Hearing we fit the latest models available at each technology level.
How long can I trial the hearing aids for?
The brain needs time to adjust to new levels of sound. A trial can last 6 to 8 weeks and you should be clear you can get a refund during this period if you are not satisfied.
Maree’s answer: At Auckland Hearing you get a trial period of up to 8 weeks from the initial hearing aid fitting date. Over that time we will make sure you have adapted to the new sound and are managing the hearing aids well. If the hearing aids we choose initially are not quite right for you we can try others that will suit you better. The trial ends once you decide to finalise the hearing aids. At that point we will not make any further follow up appointments for you but you are welcome to come back for further appointments if needed. All of your appointments are included for 6 months.
How many appointments are needed and how long do they take?
You need to be sure the audiologist is allowing enough time for you to get used to the hearing aids properly.
Maree’s answer: The first time we see you we will do a hearing test and a needs assessment. We set aside 90 minutes for this appointment to give us plenty of time. We will program up some hearing aids to your hearing and let you have a listen. You can even go next door to the cafe for a coffee and listen through the hearing aids in a noisier environment if you want to. This is an important appointment as it is when we get to understand your listening needs and chose the best technology for you. We also make sure you understand the process of getting hearing aids and adjusting to the new sound.
Hearing aid fitting: During this appointment we set the hearing aids up for you and show you how to use and take care of them. This appointment takes an hour.
Follow up appointments: Follow up appointments are booked for half an hour. During these appointments we adjust the sound and make sure you are comfortable using the hearing aids. Follow up appointments are included for at least 6 months after the hearing aids are fitted. The number of appointments needed varies between people.
Maree’s answer: All appointments for at least the first 6 months are included in the fitting. Once you finalise the hearing aids we will let know know when the free appointments finish. We will get in contact at this time to see if you would like a final, included 6 months check appointment. After that hearing aid appointments are $45 and hearing tests and hearing aid adjustment appointments are $95.
What is included in the price?
Does the fee cover just the device? Does it include the fitting? Does it cover the trial period or other services? Some audiologists offer free care and support for extended periods, other offer discounts on certain models.
Maree’s answer: When you choose Auckland Hearing to fit your hearing aids we will make sure you are satisfied with how the hearing aids are meeting your (realistic) hearing needs. All of your fitting and follow up appointments are included in the cost of your hearing aids for at least 6 months.
If we are offered a special discount or added accessories from a manufacture we will pass these on to you. This will be explained as these specials come up.
What is the warranty period and what does it cover?
Most hearing aids have a warranty, but be clear what it includes, such as the cost of refitting a repaired hearing aid. Ask how long the aid will last and how to minimise any problems. Ask about back-up costs and non-refundable charges for items like ear moulds. Clarify the warranty for any other devices you may get at the same time.
Maree’s Answers: Most hearing aids have a 2 year manufacturer warranty, some have a 3 year warranty. We will get in contact with you just be fore your warranty expires and ask if you would like to come in for a hearing assessment and hearing aid adjustment ($95 for a one hour appointment). Often we will send the aids off at that point to have them serviced and checked over. Other devices like bluetooth accessories usually have a 1 year warranty manufacturer warranty.
When will I need to upgrade of replace the hearing aids?
Your hearing may only change a little over time, so you may not need to upgrade after a set period. If the hearing aids cannot be adjusted after a certain period, you need to budget for replacement.
Maree’s Answers: As long as you look after your hearing aids they should last at least 6 years. Most hearing aids now have very good IP ratings (resistant to dust and moisture). Two things that are not good for hearing aids are wax and moisture. It is important to keep them clear of wax and dry them regularly in the hot water cupboard or a dry aid kit. We will discuss cleaning and care with you at your hearing aid fitting appointment.
It is unusual to have a dramatic drop in hearing levels over the life of the hearing aid. The style of hearing aids you choose will have an effect on both reliability and how they can be adjusted for a change in hearing levels. These things will be considered and discussed at the needs assessment appointment.
Insurance cover: We will provide you with a letter to give to your insurance company at the time the hearing aids are fitted, so you can easily add them to your home and contents insurance. That way you are covered in case of loss or excessive damage not covered by warranty (ie accidentally swimming in your hearing aids).
What equipment will work with my hearing aids?
Modern hearing aids can often connect wirelessly with other devices such as cellphones and televisions. Get a clear idea what you can access and any extra costs.
Maree’s Answers: Most hearing aids can now be connected to other devices wirelessly, see the video above to see how they can work. Each manufacturer has their own devices made specifically for their hearing aids. They all connect to either Apple or android phones and most use apps to control them. Most manufacturers now have direct to iPhone technology where no other intermediate device is needed. To connect to Android they all need another wireless device. These are all options we will discuss in your needs assessment.
Rechargeable hearing aids are now more widely available and are another option to consider when choosing the right hearing aids for you.
Will I be locked into accessories made by the same manufacturer?
Check how widely compatible your hearing device is.
Maree’s Answers: Yes all manufacturers make devices that go with their own brand of hearing aids, they are not compatible with other devices. The direct to iPhone hearing aids do not need any other devices to connect to your iPhone.