My Bad Experience With Oticon Epoq Hearing Aids.

These are my new hearing aids: Oticon Epoq.

I’ve had them since February 2010. They have problems.

They are replacing my old aids, which I’ve had for ten years.

This is my story.

In the summer of 2009, I approached the people who work for the Department of Human Services (DHS) and put in a request for assistance in purchasing new hearing aids. My current ones were about ten years old, starting to break often, and outdated. Plus, new hearing aids cost several thousand dollars, which I just didn’t have. The counselor at DHS that I spoke with determined that good hearing aids were indeed vital to my intended career and the state could assist me in purchasing them. After filling out paperwork and applications for the next few months, all systems were go for picking out new hearing aids in January of this year with an audiologist I’d never worked with before (she was recommended by DHS).

The audiologist picked out the Oticon Epoq hearing aids for me. According to her, they were top-of-the-line power hearing aids with capabilities that exceeded what my recent ones could do. Plus they looked cool and sleek – not as bulky or obvious as my old ones. The major difference between these and my old ones is that the receiver is in the ear instead of behind the ear. Also, no earmolds were needed on the new ones (money-saver!) as it would just be a small part in the ear with a protective dome.

The only thing I didn’t like about these was that the audiologist told me she picked them out because they are compatible with FM systems (which I don’t like, don’t use, and don’t have any desire to try in the future). She also kept pushing that I buy the Streamer accessory which allows hands-free bluetooth connections to cell phones, iPods, televisions, etc. I don’t want the Streamer and I don’t need it. I am starting to think that might be the only reason she picked these… so the company can try to make money off me (no, I have not bought one).

By the beginning of February, I was fitted with these brand new hearing aids and ready to go! Then the sound started to cut out on a frequent basis.

The following descriptions of my problem are taken from e-mails I sent to the audiologist:

February 20th.

Yesterday, during my last hour at work, the sound in my left hearing aid suddenly cut out. I turned it on and off, jiggled it a bit, pushed the earbit in more, etc. and had the sound continually come back and disappear again quickly. Also, while there was sound, it was masked with a high pitch ‘television static’ noise that was extremely irritating. Needless to say, I was frustrated. After about an hour, the hearing aid returned to normal.

Later on, at my second job, the sound in the right hearing aid kept cutting out! It was exactly as the left one was doing earlier, minus the static noise. A few minutes later, my left hearing aid lost sound for a bit, too. I was NOT happy as it made it extremely difficult to hear/understand directions at work.

Both hearing aids are working fine today so far. I have not changed the filter because they are doing fine today. I find it hard to believe it would be a problem with the filter anyway since they were just replaced a couple days ago. Any idea what this problem might be? I have a feeling it will happen again.

She responded and said that perhaps it was a major problem caused by a small thing that could easily be fixed. Then after speaking with the hearing aid manufacturer, she found that the batteries being used might be the problem. Apparently not every battery of the size I needed (312) may fit perfectly in the battery compartment and there may be some contact issues. She suggested I stick with using just a certain brand (RayOVac with mercury – NOT the mercury-free batteries).   Other possibilities may be that the filter (protective covering over receiver) may be clogged and need to be changed.

We scheduled another appointment. Batteries were swapped around.

March 1

For the most part, my hearing aids were much better with the new battery. The sound cut out a few times but it was only for a couple seconds and came back quickly – not as bad as it was before! However, yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, the static noise resumed in my right aid and eventually the sound cut out as it had done before. Soon later, the left hearing aid was accompanied with a static noise as well (the sound never went out, though). This morning I changed the filter in the right hearing aid thinking that might be the problem. It didn’t fix it. The sound just never really came back so I haven’t worn the right one today.  The left one has been static almost most of the day (it is doing it as I type this e-mail) with sound going out very often (it doesn’t seem to be coming back right now).

The good thing about these aids is that I’m used to the way things sound.

The bad thing about these aids is that I’m really sick of having these problems.

I’m thinking I may just have to get a different hearing aid or a replacement.

These are new and should not be having problems at all.

We scheduled another appointment. This time, receivers were replaced and the filters were cleaned.

March 18

Both hearing aids have been working really well ever since I got the replacements and I’m really happy with them! HOWEVER. Last night, my left one was giving me problems. I noticed the problems happened after I changed the battery (I changed it yesterday during the day).  Therefore, when my right battery died today, I changed it with a different brand from the one in the left hearing aid. YET, my right one is giving me problems right now. The problems involve static and sound cutting out. My left one has been OK today, though. Sighs. I am frustrated again. I had really thought all was well…. perhaps this is what happened last time as well… they went bad after I changed the battery?

I don’t remember what her response was but it was something about the batteries. At this point, I’m thinking, ‘Enough with the batteries! There’s something wrong with these hearing aids and I don’t like them anymore! How do I trust there won’t be another problem after it’s fixed?”

March 25

Thank you for clarifying more with the batteries. I don’t know if the battery is the issue now, that’s why I tried both PowerOne and RayOVac in my hearing aids. My right hearing aid has not worked since Tuesday night. I have changed the battery three times, the filter, and the soft thing over the reciever. Nothing. When I pressed the buttons, though, it did still communicate to my left hearing aid. The left one has been fine. I am beginning to think these aren’t the hearing aids for me. I don’t know what I am doing wrong.

By this point, the audiologist was just as frustrated as I was because she didn’t understand why no one else with these hearing aids were having problems but I was having all of them! Since we did everything we could on our own to try and remedy the problem, she suggested dropping them off and sending them in for repair. So I did.

April 23

For the most part, these hearing aids have been working a lot better than the previous ones. There are still a few short periods of time when the sound cuts out or quiets down and I’ve been able to fix that by changing the filter/earpiece/battery. Putting it in the Zephyr also helps. However, it’s still really annoying when it seems fine for a few days and then cuts out during the course of a few hours and then works fine again for another few days. I don’t know. I’m happy with them but when the sound cuts out, it really annoys me. Yet, I’ve been able to find a solution.

Until yesterday.

I ran out of the RayOVacs a week or so ago and could only find Walgreens brand hearing aids to replace them. Had a few problems (as I expected) but they’ve been working pretty well. It seemed to be just specific batteries that gave me problems. However, a lot of batteries were killed in the process and the pack ran out fast. Yesterday, the left hearing aid battery died so I ran out to buy some more. They were the mercury-free RayOVac ones since it’s the only one the store had. I put one in and the battery pretty much ‘died’ right away (the hearing aid made the jingle tone of the hearing aid dying and it shut off). I went back to a different store and exchanged it for the mercury ones… thinking that would fix it since those are the ones you recommend (RayOVac, as well). I put the new battery in and the hearing aid killed it right away.  I kept turning it on and off…. normally having it killed within a few minutes or right away. Thinking it was probably a bad battery, I put another battery from the same pack in… it died quickly (made the jingle dying tone).

I don’t know… I don’t want to change the hearing aid because of the hassle behind picking new ones, trying them out, etc. but now I’m convinced that I want a different hearing aid – different brand. I can’t trust that these issues won’t keep happening, even if I get the left one ‘fixed. Can I come in soon to talk about this?

For two days after I sent the most recent e-mail, the left hearing aid worked fine without me doing anything to it. Go figure. Of course, they stopped working again so I am planning to drop them off at the hearing aid place early next week. At this point, I just want to leave them because I don’t want to deal with it anymore. I don’t have time. It’s a half hour drive to the place from where I live/work and I spend another hour there, plus a half hour drive back. Since these visits have been countless (and were only supposed to be two visits total!) with the driving back and forth, dropping off, picking up, fixing, etc. it’s just really been wasting my time (and hers, too), plus taking away from homework and other important things I need to do. Plus, I’m probably going to have to start paying for the services since she can’t keep working ‘for free.’

So…. it will be fixed one more time.

But I just have a gut feeling that I’m going to keep having problems….

I’m not sure whether my frustration should be with the audiologist or the hearing aid itself.