Our Favorite Reader Tips on Hearing Aids

We're turning over today's issue to you, our reader...

Most days, we send you our research on topics like the four simple rules to stop losing money or how to control your allergies without drugs.

We know that not everyone has the time, ability, or desire to spend each day looking at economic data, evaluating medical studies, or reading financial reports. That's OK... That's why you have us.

But as we've said before, one of our other favorite resources of knowledge and experience is you – our reader.

Thanks to you, we have hundreds of thousands of experts at our fingertips... people who constantly send us their research (and challenge ours). Although we can't respond to each individual e-mail, we do read them all and respond to some questions each Friday.

Over the past two weeks, we've gotten lots of tips on ways to save on hearing tests and hearing aids. So today, we're sharing advice from our readers...

*** I served 44 years active/non-active in the U.S. Air Force. I do not have a service connected disability, but my service as a jet fighter crew chief (lots of noise) has contributed to my hearing loss. My first pair of hearing aids were purchased for about $3,000 and were purchased from a popular hearing aid supplier (forgot their name) in the early eighties. I retired from my real job in 1992, moved to Maryland, registered with the [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] for testing my ear problems. I was tested at an excellent vet center (Cambridge, Maryland) and paid $1,000 for my excellent aids. Within three or four years I found them failing. The Vets issued me a replacement pair at no cost because a local Vet organization donated to that particular Vet clinic, funds for the purchase of hearing aids only. A nice gift from their profit of their legal slot machines, and a minimum of 20% of profit had to be given to charity (Veterans for hearing aids) if located on site of Veterans club. State law. What a nice deal. I haven't paid a cent on any service or replacement of my aids.

The reason I'm advising you of my experience is: The Veterans Admin, throughout the country, is now currently offering free hearing aids to honorable discharged veterans' and free batteries at any VA hearing aid service facility.

Good luck. – F.M.

Doc's comment: Thank you for your service and your story. We had lots of readers send in this tip, so thanks to everyone who wrote in. The VA is a good resource for veterans – but remember, it can take a while to get things through the VA, so plan accordingly.

*** I spent my working years as a military pilot and then an airline pilot. I had three hearing checks per year and the free check at Costco was way beyond what I was used to and with better test equipment. The aids I bought for $1,800 are identical to the $6,000 set my physician buddy bought from the local purveyor. When I am shopping, I drop them off at the hearing center and 30 minutes later they are cleaned and fitted with all new wear parts. It would take a lot to get me interested in another source. – A.T.

Doc's comment: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, folks working in the airline industry are at a higher risk of experiencing hearing loss than nearly every other worker in the U.S. So I'm happy to know you've been able to get good care and treatment.

We've gotten several recommendations for Costco, which I hope readers won't ignore. Costco isn't just a place to buy bulk items on the cheap. It offers reliable and well-priced optical, pharmacy, and (as you mentioned) hearing services.

*** I echo the folks who mentioned Costco hearing aids as a cost-saver. Hearing impaired from birth, I've experienced aids since before they went digital (analog technology was awful by comparison). Then my first two pair of digital aids were obtained through an audiologist, and the price was staggering. I was a young professional in the workplace and I needed the best I could get. But by the time I needed a third pair (they only last about five years) Costco was in the business. I actually ended up returning my first Costco pair and going back to the audiologist, because the Costco "hearing technician" (not an audiologist) was simply not succeeding at tuning the aids and working out the kinks. Finally, on the fourth pair, I tried Costco again and this time the service was "good enough." And the savings this time were staggering.

What newbies need to know is that a full-blown audiologist does have more training and, in my experience, more skill in fine-tuning a hearing aid for each user's unique impairment. Considering that the most common complaints about hearing aids are things like "feedback" and "too much amplified background noise," one might decide it is worth it to work with an audiologist and pay the premium because the technology can severely cut back on those things given the right hands at the controls.

But in my experience, the technology itself has advanced enough that the Costco technicians are good enough to set you up with a pretty good experience.

My last comment is this: I'm highly skeptical of one-size-fits-all OTC aids. Ears are about as unique as fingerprints, and hearing loss equally so. At the very least I recommend a hearing test and evaluation before purchasing anything. – R.M.

Doc's comment: Longtime readers know I've been a fan of Costco for years (both as a shopper and as an investor), but you bring up an important point... While Costco is known for good deals and customer service, you won't always get the same experience at every store. Sometimes you'll find a technician with lots of knowledge and expertise. Sometimes you'll find someone with less.

If you're having serious hearing issues, or if it's your first time having your hearing tested because you're experiencing symptoms, consider spending the money to see a professional audiologist.

What tips do you want to share? How are you improving your health and wealth? Send your stories our way... [email protected].

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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
September 8, 2022