Friday, March 4, 2016
Listening aids more of an
issue for seniors than most people may think
Macdonald, M. Sc., Chilliwack
contributor Myrtle MacDonald tackles the issue of malfunctioning hearing
aids in a letter to Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, Opposition Critic
for for Social Development. She has graciously shared that with readers. She
says that this is a huge problem and estimates that half the hearing aids
bought are either not in use because they are not functioning, or causing
much frustration because they are malfunctioning.
Ms Mungall I am writing to you because this is
a problem facing thousands of people. Hopefully you can forward this concern
to faithful people who can bring about important changes.
Right now I have a big concern about costly hearing aids and lack of
For the insurance and guarantee to run out in 3 years, is disposable
electronics at its worst.
There are many varieties and makes. The batteries are different sizes and
the picks with a white button have been changed in design, so that they
don’t look like they are the original ones, and they are used in a different
way. The right name for these parts changes and is hard to remember, so on
the phone it is not possible to discuss what has gone wrong, and understand
any advice given.
I AM WRITING IN SOME DETAIL SO THAT YOU WILL UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS A
COMPLEX SITUATION IN WHICH THERE IS NEGLECT, LACK OF CONTINUITY OF CARE and
waste of thousands of excellent hearing aids because the owners give up on
My disabled 90-year-old sister is supposed to take her hearing aids out at
night and open the battery window. One morning she put the battery in wrong
and jammed it. After she phoned me I advised her to go to the hearing aid
office to find out what was wrong. She did by taxi and I met her there.
When the hearing aid is not working it is impossible for my sister, or me
even with good hearing, to understand explanations. My disabled brother and
sister both live in Assisted Living, she for 11 years and he since December
2015. Both have hearing aids from a company in Southgate.
Most of the staff at Assisted Living, even the LPN, don’t understand the
parts, the maintenance, or even how to put the hearing aid into the ear. A
few staff do help my sister fairly well, when they are on duty. They are
kind people who on their own have learned by helping a relative.
Two years ago my sister was sure she had wax in her ear so she went by taxi
to see our GP. I met her there, going by walker. The Locum doctor saw the
wax but refused to irrigate her ear. She did not even know where to send us
to get it done. I said without a car, how could we afford to go there
anyway, and asked who to phone. Then she gave in and washed it anyway and
the wax came out. She said “Next time put oil in it overnight.....any oil.”
Several months later my sister had wax in her ears again, but the Assisted
Living staff refused to put oil in her ears without a prescription. I phoned
the doctor’s office and asked for a prescription and it was FAXed to them,
but still the staff would not do it. I couldn’t walk that far and I was
nearly out of taxi saver tickets, so I asked my brother to put some flax oil
that he had, into her ears. He didn’t want to. They had no eye dropper so I
said use a teaspoon, but he refused. Without using oil, my sister went to
the doctor. I met her there and our own doctor irrigated her ear and removed
a lot of wax. Then the doctor tried and could not figure out how to put the
hearing aid back into her ear! My sister couldn’t show her which side was up
and which down. We finally figured it out and got it in and it worked.
Since then twice that hearing aid has stopped working. The hearing aid
people refuse to make house calls, so my sister went to see them by taxi.
They kept it and sent it away to head office for repairs. They added that
the three year guarantee was about to run out. The cost was $3999 for two
hearing aids, three years before. After 10 days it was back and working
again and at no cost, but they phoned me to ask my sister to go to the
office to pick it up. We give my phone number instead of hers because she
rarely answers her phone. The receptionist does not give messages and is
rarely live on the phone. I asked the hearing aid technicians to do all
teaching to my sister, not to me because we live far apart.
Now again that same hearing aid won’t work. A house call was refused. I said
to my sister, “Maybe the batteries are old ones. You should go to her
brother and borrow some of his.” She discovered his are thinner and don’t
fit, although supplied by the same company. Externally, his hearing aids
seem to be the same model. My sister had 4 days without care over the
weekend, and then by taxi went to the office. It has been sent to the head
office again. I said please deliver it to her when it is returned, and they
refused. There were three receptionists/technicians in the office and they
said they were very busy, but I saw no other clients. My sister rarely
answers her phone so they will notify me when it is returned, so I at 94 am
still the connecting link, and without a car.
Meanwhile I have become aware that many old folk, maybe most, are not using
their hearing aids because they won’t work, are noisy or fall out. I asked
for a technician to go to the Assisted Living to teach the staff. One came
and did a pep talk to the residents on why hearing aids are good. No help
was asked for by staff, or offered, to get malfunctioning hearing aids into
The whole thing is an impossible racket. Three or four different companies
put half page ads in the newspapers but no home visits are made and prices
are ridiculously high, up to $6000 recently a friend told me. Lions Club
help by donating old style used hearing aids, but no help with maintenance.
My brother has had troubles with his too, falling out, etc. One broke
because of a fall and had to be replaced.
1. Technicians should make visits and deliveries to the owners of hearing
2. The high cost and short guarantee seem very wrong and perhaps a scam.
3. Subsidies may be advisable.
4. Assisted Living LPN s should be made responsible for maintenance of
several brands of hearing aids.
Kindly help correct these problems and let me know your views.
The Valley Voice
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