Folks, I have shot firearms almost my whole life. My dad would hold the .22 rifle up and let me pull the trigger when I was too little. Over the years I progressed to bigger and bigger firearms of course. My buddies and I would give each other a hard time about ringing ears after shooting. I didn’t even know about hearing protection until I got a Desert Eagle .44 Magnum and the dealer said I better get some good ear muffs. After going shooting, I was sold. Fast forward about 30 years and I always wear hearing protection and make anyone shooting with me do the same. Now you may wonder why I feel so strongly about this plus my support of making suppressors as easy to purchase as any firearm.
Plain and simple, let me tell you that my hearing is shot. I can’t hear my wife half the time – all joking aside. I can watch people talk in a noisy room and not hear a thing they say. I need to ask folks to repeat stuff – it’s very, very frustrating.
I have seen several hearing doctors over the years and they all point the finger to my years and years of shooting as the culprit. It’s known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The sudden pressure of a firearm round going off can do a world of hurt to your ears. I’m not going to go into details in this post but if you want to read more about the damage shooting can do to unprotected ears, click here, here, or here.
So now we are at the heart of this blog post -the current doctor identified my hearing loss in both ears, the right more than the left and in the upper frequencies. I needed hearing aids — he told me that surgery would not help me. Now please note I did have a professional exam by an ear-nose-throat specialist. Hearing loss can happen for many reasons including impacted wax in the ear canal, viruses, etc. It pays to know what you are dealing with and what your options are.
After the exam, I had a follow up appointment and talked to a lady in the doctor’s office about the hearing aid models they carried and they started around $1,500. She was recommending a pair to me for $5,000. Holy crap!!! The good news, she said, was that if I lost one, they would charge me $100 to replace the unit. Wow…
All the models she showed me had pros and cons but what struck me was that the technology was totally unimpressive for the price. Why can I get a quality Plantronics Voyager ear bud for my phone that supports Bluetooth for $59 from Amazon??? Their hearing aids required a giant clunky box to be worn around your neck just to do Bluetooth. Seriously, my stinkometer started going off the more I thought about the pricing. Needless to say, we didn’t buy anything and returned home after scheduling a follow up visit to decide on whether to buy the $3,300 or $5,000 models. By the way, I needed a pair so I’d assume single units would be half what they quoted me. It was a fortune regardless.
I was at home thinking about this problem and it dawned on me that a doctor’s office was likely to be higher than a kite and that the power of market demand must mean there are others offering lower cost solutions so I did a quick search on Amazon and jackpot. There are tons and tons of hearing aid / hearing amplification products on Amazon and the prices start under $100.
I did my research and opted for the Britzgo BHA-1222 because it used rechargeable batteries and got good reviews plus the cost was very low. It seemed like there wasn’t an exact match for what I wanted – more frequency modes to try which sounds best, digital noise cancelling, adjustable tube for behind the ear and rechargeable. The last part – rechargeable – matters to me because I have a hard time with small parts due to my tremor.
The BHA-1222 is not perfect but it fit my criteria for good enough — Interestingly it is listed on Amazon.com in multiple places and the reviewer scores vary a great deal. In the end, I had a very simple theory – my hearing was shot and just about anything would be an improvement so pick something good enough and learn.
Each hearing aid arrived in its own case with its own charger, ear pieces, etc. The below only shows one white package but I really got two sets of everything.
The hearing aids are not ear specific out of the box. In other words, there is only one model you order regardless of ear. You can twist the flexible tubes around to fit your ear.
The top silver button switches from high-frequency boost to low-frequency boost. The middle rocker is for volume and I have mine as low as it will go. The bottom is a stiff on-off switch.
I paid $129.50 for a pair and it shipped direct from Britzgo. It arrived maybe 2-3 days later – I was pleased with that. The instructions say to charge them for 7 hours so I did that.
I then selected the ear cone that fit my ear best and had to fiddle with getting the thing on right. I’m getting better at sliding the unit behind my ear and the little probe into my ear.
After a month of using them, I have some observations:
- Cost effective – I’ve learned quite a bit so far and feel like I’m getting pretty good value.
- They do have good battery life – I haven’t run out yet and charge them each night. What is cool is that the charging cable has a USB cable on one end so that gives you a lot of flexibility for charging in the field, on trips, etc.
- Boosts the volume all I need – I am at the minimum setting right now. I’d say my hearing loss is right on the border hence some sounds seeming loud to me.
- I can hear sounds I haven’t heard in a long time at low and even normal volumes. It’s pretty cool actually and hard to describe.
- Despite noise cancellation claims – it still boosts either some or all of the other sounds besides what you want. It can be distracting but I can deal with it.
- I wish I could lower the volume further. Even at its lowest setting, some sounds are too loud.
- I am using the smallest ear cone and it fits but the right hearing aid has a tendency to fall off. I’m still working on the fit.
- If someone drags a chair across tile or concrete the sound will make me jump! My wife gets quite a kick out of that.
- We went and saw the new Star Wars movie and while it did a remarkable job at some points early on, I had to take them out as the high-volume sounds like explosions were clipped and I am betting that was intentional to protect the wearer (me) from further hearing damage. This is actually a pro come to think of it 🙂
- I wish the tubes from the amplifier units to the ear cones were adjustable – I think that might be one reason why the right hearing aid falls out but I can mange for now.
So, it’s a bit mixed but all in all I am good for now. At this price, I can afford to start and learn. If I find something better, I can change. If I lose something or ruin one, I am not going to panic!
For example, I may consider something from Otofonix or the Banglijian BLJ-109 at some point in the future.
I wanted to write this up and share about shopping for hearing aids on Amazon as I have had many people tell me that they can’t afford hearing aids even though they want them – well, at least you have options now. I’d still recommend starting with a doctor first to make sure you know if you are a candidate for hearing aids and how much loss you need to compensate for.
In terms of the listings on Amazon – read the features and the reviews. I always pay careful attention to what people write and not just the score. There are a ton of vendors with a ton of models so be careful – I see some get lousy scores and I would flat out avoid anything less than four stars but it does depend on the price and how much you want to gamble. My preference is to see at least 30 reviews but you will notice many of the hearing aids have fewer reviews so the more reviews the better in general. No reviews at all would be too risky for me.
By the way, I did buy a small semi-rigid case to go in my pocket and hold both hearing aids. I am very happy with it.
I hope this helps you or someone you care about who needs help finding an affordable hearing aid.
To help you start digging here are a number of affordable models on Amazon that have a four star rating currently and are backed up by Amazon’s excellent customer service:
The following are the same model as what I am currently using – the Britzgo BHA-1222: