Friday, March 4, 2016 



Hear, Hear

Listening aids more of an issue for seniors than most people may think

Myrtle Macdonald, M. Sc., Chilliwack


oice 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 maintenance.

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.


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 use again.

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.

In summary:

1. Technicians should make visits and deliveries to the owners of hearing aids.

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.



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