Hearing Aids

Parent Q&A

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  • My husband wants a new set of hearing aids; he's finding his behind-the-ears increasingly frustrating: hard to clean, hard to adjust. I think he needs something simpler. A cousin uses Phonak, which goes in the ear, where volume is easily adjusted. Any other ideas? He has United Health Care & Medicare, and is a Costco member. A supplier in Berkeley or Albany would also be good.

    A friend of mine uses the Phonak brand and is happy with them. I use the Opticon one  due to my ear shape and like them.

    Whether Costco is a good place to get hearing aids may depend on the nature of one's hearing loss.

    Most people who have age-related (or Tower of Sound rock concert related) hearing loss seem to lose their high frequencies.

    In my case, genetic otosclerosis, I started losing low frequencies while attending UCB as an undergrad.

    I use Phonak hearing aids that sit within my ears. They stay in well, even while horseback riding, though COVID masks, plus earrings, plus glasses presents a challenge.

    Start with an audiogram to see what type of hearing aids are needed.  The two ears may be different.

    If Costco can provide satisfactory devices, great. A new law allows for some hearing aids to be sold over the counter.

    If he can't get what he needs from Costco, I have been using Hearing Science of Walnut Creek on Ygnacio Valley Road for years. They can do the audiogram, too. My Phonak hearing aids have been trouble-free for many years. If you lose one within the warranty period (5 years?) they will replace for a nominal cost.

    The Phonak brand makes a number of different styles.  My behind-the-ear hearing aids are Phonak, and I find them quite simple ot use once they were adjusted properly.  I recommend visiting the Center for Better Hearing at El Cerrito Plaza.  I found them very professional and helpful in selecting my new hearing aids.  I was able to try a sample pair for as long as I needed to make up my mind, and when my actual set arrived I had a couple of months, I think, during which I could return them for free if they didn't work our for me.  They took my insurance (though I still had a substantial co-pay).  I know a lot of people who have been happy with the hearing aids and service at Costco, too.

    Wherever he goes, he should not feel pressure to buy the "top of the line" if that's not what he needs/wants to pay for, and he should bring them back to be adjusted as often as necessary to get them just right (and whenever they need to be readjusted; this should all be included in the price).

    I use and like Joanne at the Center for Better Hearing in El Cerrito Plaza. I think that in-ear or outside ear depends on the type of hearing loss. They'll be able to advise.

    Similar situation, we also have UHC Hearing (https://www.uhchearing.com/) so we are trying 3 as that is how the insurance works, starting with Starkey from East Bay Hearing services, had a great experience there! https://www.eastbayhearingservices.com/

  • Hearing Aids from Kaiser?

    (5 replies)

    My hearing aids are over 10 years old and I noticed that one seems to have stopped working so I'm looking to find a new, more up-to-date pair but don't know where to go. When I got my first pair, I ended up getting an audiology appointment at one place and the devices at another, and the whole process seemed very confusing as the aids came with a warranty but the vendor changed ownership multiple times. I also had to try different styles before finding one that was not painful. It's not clear to me whether different providers carry different models--at the time it seemed challenging to know the full range of options/prices/service so as to be able to make an informed decision.

    I now have Kaiser health insurance and would appreciate hearing about whether that is a good option. I would love to hear about the experiences of others, both good and bad, and all advice and suggestions would be welcome.

    Thank you.

    I had a great experience at the Kaiser hearing aid center. I saw Dr. fornero and found her empathetic and a good listener. She worked closely with me to help me find the right hearing aid and helped adjust it after I got it. The front desk woman made an extremely rude comment to me one day that left me reeling though: I got my appointment wrong for the day I was supposed to pick up my hearing aid and the front desk woman made a really rude comment about how I could enjoy one more weekend of silence (or something like that) since I wasn't scheduled to pick it up till next week. I was appalled, and even said out loud to her "that wasn't funny. Not even a little bit". I had been having a really hard time with losing my hearing and that comment stung. 

    Well...since no hearing aid costs are covered by any type of insurance- it really does not matter where you get 'em; they even sell them at Costco. However, I suggest that you start the process with your Kaiser PCP and get a referral for an audiological eval and then an apptmt with an Audiologist there. This will help you more than anything. My son has moderate-severe deafness in both ears so we have been using aids for many years, and we are Kaiser insured. The thing is, there are so so so many kinds of aids right now, that you could waste your money on the wrong kind for you and be stuck with it. My son's aids cost $1,000 each. We did not want to make a mistake. I find the Kaiser Audiologists to be great, and very honest. They are not trying to sell or upsell aids. If the Costco aid would have been right for us, our Audiologist would have told us to buy it. It is also great to have them to clean and adjust the aid on a yearly basis, and for my son, since his ear is still growing, he needs new molds for the ear canal part every so often. Good luck to you! The hearing aid is rapidly changing with all of the digital advances and the Audiologists will really help you to sort out all of the options based upon your specific hearing needs.

    From my experience with knowing children who got hearing aids through Kaiser (which could be totally different than adults), it's extremely unlikely and maybe impossible to have a plan that covers the cost of the hearing aids. However, you could get aids through them and their audiologists will fit and program them. You probably want to call the audiology department directly and ask about their selection and member services to see what your plan covers

    Hi Anon,

    Don't have specific advice for or against Kaiser. I would check out Costco (not Cosco) for price. They are probably limited in styles but I hear they have good pricing.


    Let us know what you wind up doing.

    My experience with Kaiser Hearing Center in Oakland has been very good. I don't know if I have a particularly good Kaiser plan, but I've never had to pay for any visits or services there, and only had to pay $50 of the $1050 for my hearing aid. They took a mold of my ear to make the actual hearing aid, and then shaved off bits where it was bugging me, to really make it a comfortable fit. I feel welcomed to come in whenever something is wrong with my hearing aid, or I need more wax filters, or for annual hearing tests. Of all the Kaiser departments I have interacted with, this one has been the easiest and most pleasant to deal with.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


High end hearing aid vs. next step down

Aug 2014

I am 58 years old and according to a hearing test I have high frequency hearing loss. Audiologist recommends a hearing aid. The choice is between the high end model vs the next step down. The audiologist recommends the high end one. The difference in price is about 2K. Any suggestions as to how to make this choice. Anon

As someone who has worn hearing aids for 25 years, while my ears went through various phases of otosclerosis and surgery, I'd say it is a no-brainer to get the expensive kind of hearing aid. The cheap ones (a) don't work well, well at allowing you to hear human speech; (b) feed back horribly; and (C) go thru batteries very rapidly. The expensive programmable ones are able to filter out background noise so that you can actually hear the signal that you want to hear. Amelia

Hello, and sorry for the late reply about hearing aids. I am 44 and have had HAs for about a year. It's shameful how little information is available to help people comparison shop for HAs!

I chose a high end model ($5,000 for both) with which I am very happy. I have the Phonak Audeo Q90. I like it because I can adjust the volume by pushing a button on the right ear, and I can control the pre-built algorithms on the left ear (I have a mute, a ''loud places'' setting, a ''focus right in front of me'' setting etc.). I am confident that the hearing aids make me able to hear/undersatnd a lot of words in conversations that I otherwise wouldn't.

You should have the opportunity to try both models. Your audiologist *must* allow you to try a hearing aid for at least 30 days and return them with no cost to you -- this is a state law. If your audiologist is pushing one or the other model, you might want to consider going to a different audiologist.

Also, be sure to find out what's included in the cost. Will you be paying a fee every time you come in for an adjustment? How many adjustments are included? I got a lot of them, and the visits were covered...

Someday soon we'll have a good online review site for hearing aids. Till then, let's help each other by sharing as much info as possible.

Best of luck to you, mild hearing loss too

I think I need hearing aids - suggestions?

July 2014

Over the past 18 months I have noticed a change in my hearing. I find that I need to be closer to the yoga teacher to hear the gentle suggestions before asana, I have a hard time understanding the person on the otherside of the glass ''box'' at the movie theatre or bank, and today I missed huge parts of the sermon at church - it just sounded too muddy. So, can anyone recommend where to go to get my hearing tested and to discuss my options for hearing aids? I have a PPO. Also, my understanding is that hearing aids eat batteries - some need to be changed every day????
More Like My Mother Every Day

Your first step is to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor. (e.g. Bernard Drury at Summit). Your issue may be as simple as ear wax.

Then the doctor will refer you to an audiologist. You will need the audiogram in order to know in what frequencies there is any hearing loss. If hearing aids are prescribed, the audiogram will tell the audiologist how to program them.

As someone who has worn hearing aids for 20+ years (otosclerosis), I would advise that you get the expensive ones - like $3k each. It is SO worth it for your quality of life. The good ones have a replacement guarantee if you lose the instruments (keep them zipped in your purse in a case with your business card or contact info0. And I have found that the good quality ones do not eat batteries.

Besides, at Hearing Science of Walnut Creek on Ygancio Valley Blvd, they gave me a year's supply of batteries when I bought the device. Amelia

I've gone through three different audiology centers and three generations of hearing aids. I recommend the Center for Better Hearing in El Cerrito Plaza-- Greg Free and his colleagues are knowledgeable, and want to work with you to get an assessment and hearing aids that work for that particular individual.

Two further points--hearing disability is really limiting, and generally doesn't get better-- I commend you for looking into it. The technology is not great--I tried out five manufacturers' products before I settled on my current pair--but they are still a lot better than nothing.

The other point is you have to have the time and commitment to work with the audiologist--only you can report on how well an aid is working in the setting(s) you are in, and what kind of adjustments you want/need. eh what???

What's a good place to buy hearing aids?

Feb 2014

Anyone know a good hearing aid place? I've used Costco, but the fit is poor and I haven't been able to get them to work with me on it. I've gone to a couple other places but was turned off by the high pressure sales tactics. Really, these guys can be so cheesy! The last place I tried, after an hour of pressure, I said I'd think about it and she practically drop-kicked me out the door.

I have been very happy with Greg at the Center for Better Hearing in El Cerrito Plaza. He worked with me for almost a year trying out five different brands before I finally decided. In addition to finding an audiologist you can work with, it is really important to spend the time working with the audiologist to adjust aids for your hearing loss profile and the sound environments you will be in. The technology is far from perfect--but really necessary.
staying in the conversation...

Fashionable hearing aids?

Feb 2008

My husband has finally conceded that he needs hearing aids, and is willing to get them, but doesn't want the old-style, fleshy silly-putty type. He's looking for a source for something more current. Does anyone have recommendations? Thanks for your help. Tired of repeating myself

I've worn hearing aids in both ears for 35 years and it's only recently that some fashionable models have come out. I saw a really cool ad that showed aids that looked similar to a Bluetooth headset from Whispher Hearing Center in San Rafael:(http://www.whisperhearing.com/sizesandstyles.htm) - I don't see them on the page, but I would call and ask. Also, there is a company for kids called EarWear (http://www.earwearinc.com/earwear_design.html) that I wish existed when I was young. I may still get these just for the heck of it! Bananas anyone? In any case, the so-called ugly - behind the ear - digital ones have served me very well. Can't complain... Melissa