September 26, 2017 Product Review

Product Review: MDHearingAid

By Jeffrey Allen

In 2015, I wrote an article about dealing with hearing loss. In that article, I talked about the fact that many older people suffer from undiagnosed (and sometimes diagnosed but ignored) hearing deficits. It’s one of a number of health conditions that sometimes creeps up on us as we age. The bottom line is that a substantial number of individuals in their late 40s and older suffer from some hearing impairment. While some of us have done something about it, most have not. For reasons I still don’t understand, our vanity allows us to get all kinds of things corrected–ranging from heartbeat to cholesterol, to blood pressure, to vision deficits – but gets in the way when it comes to hearing deficits.

I can think of no good reason why the correction of hearing deficits has proven the unwanted stepchild of medical treatments. But I know many individuals in their 50s and later with serious enough impairments that friends and family notice the issue and comment on it who eschew getting hearing aids. I thought it might be the price (and while that still may prove a factor for some, it is not the only reason).  Many of the people I refer to would have no problem affording hearing aids, even the very expensive kind. For many others, their health insurance will subsidize the purchase; but still, they reject the concept. Perhaps the loss of visual acuity does not make them feel that they are “old,” but the loss of hearing does?

At any rate, because hearing plays such an important role in our personal and our professional lives, I take the position that if you have a hearing deficit you should take remedial measures, just as you would if you had problems with your eyes, your heart, your blood sugar, etc. For those who prefer to let their ego prevent them from hearing well, there is nothing more for me to say. This review is directed at everyone else. This review speaks to those of you who think that they cannot afford hearing aids (some of which can cost $2,000 to $3,000 or more).

First, I want to distinguish between a hearing aid, which is a medical device, and a hearing amplifier, not a medical device. Hearing amplifiers generally have fewer features, less adjustability and far lower costs than hearing aids. For some people with a relatively low-level hearing loss, an amplification device might correct the problem. If cost is an issue, you might give that a try; or, you might just try out a far less expensive real live-hearing aid. If you are interested in the latter, take a look at the MDHearingAid Air. The Air is relatively expensive until you look at hearing aid prices in general. When hearing aids cost $1,000 or more for each ear, a $399 price point per ear begins to look pretty good. While it is more expensive than some sound amplification devices, in truth, it is also less expensive than some of the high-end hearing amplification devices.

I have a moderate hearing loss myself (around 20 percent in one ear and a bit less in the other). I can get by without hearing aids, but I have problems understanding some conversation and I have to ask people to repeat themselves from time to time when I don’t wear them. As I still practice, that is a bit of an issue at depositions or in court; as a result, I have worn hearing aids for the last six or seven years. I have tried several different brands and models and written reviews about some of them, as well as hearing amplification devices.  I find the hearing aids make a substantial difference not only professionally, but when I interact socially with friends and family. The bottom line is that I wear them at work all the time and at home a lot of the time and when I go out to socialize almost all the time. When I take them out and when I put them in, I immediately perceive the difference in what I hear. It is noticeable and pronounced.

I do not want to mislead you. I will not tell you that the MDHearingAid Air has all the features of a $2,500 hearing aid. Neither will I tell you that I think that it is the best hearing aid on the market. What I will tell you is this: The MDHearingAid Air works. It works competently and I consider it a fair value for the price you pay. You can pay considerably more for top-end hearing aids that may not prove any more satisfactory. The only way to know is to try and compare as everyone has different needs and reactions. The Air is a basic hearing aid that you can easily set up and put to work without the assistance of a professional audiologist. It has some adjustments and settings you can manually select, without connecting them to a computer program to reprogram the device, as has to be done with many, if not most, expensive hearing aids. I have worked with several different models of expensive hearing aids. I will tell you that I liked the MDHearingAid Air better than only one of them. I preferred the expensive hearing aids to the MDHearingAid in most cases. The reasons I preferred them had to do with the fine tuning that an audiologist can do to make them sound exactly as I want them to sound. That said, the MDHearingAid devices worked for me and worked well. If I was concerned about paying for hearing aids, I would choose the MDHearingAid over not having hearing aids at all 11 times out of ten. If cost were no object, I would probably opt for a more expensive and feature-rich version. In writing this review, however, I got a pair of the MDHearingAid Air devices, set them up in about five minutes and used them for several weeks; after a relatively brief adjustment period, I did not constantly notice the difference between the pair I normally wore that was similar in design to the MDHearingAid Air. The only time I heard a significant difference was when I bounced back and forth between the two models.

In terms of the fit, the design of the MDHearingAid Air, like many of the more expensive devices has customizable features for comfort. The basic hearing unit is one-size-fits-all and slides behind your ear. An almost invisible plastic tube carries the sound to your ear. You have several sizes and shapes of receiver tips to choose among and set up on your device to ensure comfort. Once you pick the tip you like, you put it in place and try it out. If it proves less comfortable than you thought, you choose another tip and try again. FYI, that is exactly the same process I went through with my audiologist in fitting the expensive pair to my ears. MD has a fair selection of receiver tips and I suspect that most people will find one that fits comfortably in their ear.

With the MDHearingAid, the larger tan piece fits snugly behind your ear, where with most hairstyles it becomes more or less invisible. The plastic tube you see running from that to the receiver tip is the same plastic tubing barely visible over the top part of the ear. The receiver tip stays inside the ear, helping hold the device in place, and directing the sound waves to your inner ear for processing. As it does not fully block the inner ear, you get some natural sound broadening the scope of the sound as it blends with the sound you can otherwise pick up unassisted. It does not replace the sound entirely, as some do that fit fully inside the ear canal, sealing out outside sound and replacing it with the amplified sound.

Jeffrey Allen

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California, where he has practiced since 1973. He is active in the ABA, the California State Bar Association, and the Alameda County Bar Association. He is a co-author of the ABA book Technology Tips for Seniors.