My iPhone didn’t have quite enough volume. Meanwhile, Hollywood was going a bit loud on the special effects and music, making it hard to pick out the dialogue. And with a nod to Jerry Seinfeld, what is with all of these soft talkers?

About 20 years ago, I had a hearing test that showed some high frequency hearing loss. But I mean, come on, the beeps were so soft I could barely hear them. What could that test show? Another test, several years later, included a section on repeating spoken words. I did well until the technician covered her mouth with a sheet of paper and re-ran the test. I had no idea how much I relied on lip reading to understand speech.

Like most people with hearing loss I waited a good 7 years to get help. Actually that is the average, I likely waited more like 12 years. Why do people wait so long? Two reasons: vanity and the high cost of hearing loss solutions. But with a bit of digging, I found a hearing loss solution for free. If you suffer from the issue, blast out the family with the TV, or ask people to repeat themselves constantly, read on.

Start with a hearing test from a doctor

I began with a referral from my GP. Good to start with a doctor in case there are any other underlying causes of the hearing loss. After a comprehensive test with lots of very quiet (or absent) beeps, I got the results. Normal age-related hearing loss that arrived about 10 years early. Likely too many construction jobs in my youth before hearing protection was in vogue.

I left with an audiogram that showed good hearing at low frequencies, good for male voices, drum beats and doorbells. The high frequencies were the issue and they impacted the sounds of birds singing, water splashing and leaves rustling. Vowels are spoken in low frequencies, but consonants are high, which is why I can hear someone say “cat” very clearly. Unless it was “bat”. Or could it have been “that”?

The search for a hearing loss solution

I began at a well-known chain and was pleased to see that the aids were on a buy one, get 50% off on the other discount. The tiny machines were slick as can be. Barely visible and once in place, my hearing was nearly bionic. Incredible. So was the price at $6,500. Including the discount. The technician helpfully noted that the price included 3 years worth of batteries. Hmm. The battery savings could be a big deal. But these units were awesome and even connected right into my iPhone. I could take calls directly in my brain. Amazing. Could this be my hearing loss solution? Not so fast.

On to the next provider. Lots of gear plugged into my ears and more whispering beeps. Same results – significant high frequency loss. And significant high cost at about $6.500 for the pair. They recommended a different brand, but didn’t have a live set to try out.

I like to use Consumerreports.org to research major purchases (more on that here) and they showed that Costco was highly rated as a provider, so I made the pilgrimage. Yet more ear testing with a very similar result. The tech popped in a set of their house-brand Kirkland Signature 8’s. Yes, there is something a bit weird about buying hearing aids that share a brand name with courderoy pants, frozen broccoli, tool chests and Tilapia loins, but hey, they sounded great. Incredibly they were also Made for iPhone and even included a Lindsay Wagner type app (google it) that lets you check battery life, change the microphone focus and even use your phone as a remote mic. Very slick. Until I found the catch. No free batteries. What? How much for the batteries? $11.50 for 6 months of batteries, or $23 for the year! That first retailer that “included free batteries” wasn’t looking that great.

So what is the hearing loss solution for free?

Turns out that the Costco Kirkland Signature 8 Hearing Aids are only $1,900 for the pair. No tax. As in 1/3 the cost of the other quotes. Here in Ontario, there is a government grant of $1,000 for aids and I had enough benefit coverage to pick up the other $900. So the only real cost was the gas to get to Costco. I had a couple of fitting issues but they gave me an appointment one day later and got everything fixed. And yes, they are all licensed audiologists, just like the other retailers.

They have worked great for the first couple of weeks. I can understand speech in  TV shows and the waves in Lake Ontario have a “swish” sound now as well as a “whoosh”. Leaves rustling are loud enough to scare me. No more lip reading and I can understand people on the first try. Great to reconnect to the world. And no one knows they are there. Except my Cashflow Cookbook readers!

I saved enough to get a spare pair or two or just about make a whole TFSA contribution. Will they keep working this well? I will do another blog post in a couple of months with an update.

If you have hearing loss, don’t wait, get your ears checked. And there is a reason that Costco Hearing Centres are opening faster than Costco outlets overall.

Do you have hearing loss? What have you found with hearing loss solutions?

Photo credit Ken Chan from Unsplash

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