Posted on Thursday, 7th August 2014 by

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I discovered four years ago that my hearing loss was significant enough to warrant wearing hearing aids. I purchased my first set, a Starkey model,  from the audiology department that is located in the same office as my Otolaryngologist . An otolaryngologists diagnoses and manages diseases of the ears, nose, and throat.

They did improve my hearing and for the first time in years I could hear rain on the roof and locust in the summer but I still had difficulty hearing TV programs, movies, and discerning speech. It got to the point where I couldn’t watch movies or TV series because I missed most of the dialog and it was frustrating to say the least.  I also would find it difficult hearing conversations and was constantly asking family and friends to repeat what they said.

I scheduled several follow-up meetings with my doctor to have my ears checked plus visited the audiology department for assistance. They recommended bring in the aids for recurrent cleanings and I asked them several times to readjust the aids which didn’t resolve the problem.

I wrote about my hearing problem initially and received a helpful reply from Dr. Cynthia Compton-Conley who suggested many ways to improve my hearing including activating closed caption through our cable company. This year Cynthia joined with us to host our Hearing Loss Help Forum and she is helping many find relief.  Her article tilted How To Manage Your Own Hearing Health Care is required reading for anyone who is experiencing hearing problems.

One of my hearing aids recently failed and I had to pay $250 to have it reconditioned. Several months later the other aid began to act up so I decided to search for hearing aids that would better serve my needs.  I  have Blue Cross and Blue Shield basic family FEHB insurance and they now cover up to $2,500 for hearing aids every three years.  They do not have preferred providers for hearing aid purchases so you can use whichever vendor suits you best.

After visiting my doctor and the audiologist that I purchased my first hearings aids from I decided to explore other options and followed Doctor Compton-Conley’s advise.  She recommended a number of tests for my condition.

I first visited Costco to discuss their options and also set up an appointment with a provider that promised savings of over 50% on name brand models.  When I went in for the hearing test from the discount seller there wasn’t a sound proof booth. They used a standard head set and the room was very noisy, I could hear traffic outside and others talking in an adjacent office. I should have walked out immediately when I discovered they didn’t have a sound proof booth, they charged $75 for the hearing test. They only offered two models ranging in price from $2,900 to $4,000 for the pair! Nothing like they promised.

I ended up at Costco. They offered many name brands including Rexton, Resound, Phonak, and Benafon. Not only was the hearing test FREE but it was one of the most comprehensive hearing tests I ever took and I’ve taken many over the years, especially early on in the military. The test was over an hour long and they use the most advanced technology including open headsets that go direct into each ear. They were able to do all of the tests recommended by Dr. Compton-Conley and they explained everything in great detail.

I purchased their Kirkland Signature 5.0 brand (made by Resound ) for $1899 including a remote, 25 batteries, carry case, and more. It comes with an extensive warranty even loss protection. If you lose the hearing aids they will replace them one time and you get unlimited service and follow-up visits at no additional cost. When the hearing aids arrived Jean Hanson, their local hearing aid dispenser, spent over an hour fitting them making sure they properly worked to my satisfaction and she really took her time with the “Real Ear” test that is necessary to ensure a proper fit and level adjustments.

I also purchased their TV streamer that pairs direct to your wireless capable hearing aids. This was not covered by my  insurance however the cost was well worth it. The new hearing aids far exceeded my expectations and I was able to hear conversations clearly and even understand the dialog on most TV programs. My wife noticed immediate improvement and I no longer had to run into the room next door to ask Mary what she had just said.  My hearing improved tremendously. I don’t know if it was the hearing aid brand change or that Costco’s hearing center specialist properly fitted my hearing aids. It is probably a combination of both plus newer technology for the new models.  Overall I have to say that Costco’s hearing center personnel are professional, explain the pros and cons of various models, and base their recommendation on the severity of your hearing impairment rather than on simply what you want to pay for your aids.  Their prices beat all of the competition and I contacted at least four providers before deciding to buy from Costco’s hearing center.

The TV streamer is unbelievable. For the first time in many years I can hear about every word no matter from what venue; TV shows, movies, cable, and DVDs. The streamer hooks direct to the optical audio source on your TV and you simply pair your hearing aids to the TV streamer one time and your done. It took me 5 minutes to hook it up and pair my hearing aids to the device. You also have the option to connect it to either an analog or headphone mini-jack if that is what your TV has available. Now my wife is asking me what they said especially when the show has foreign actors or they have heavy accents.

I was also impressed with the Blue Cross Blue Shield funding and reimbursement process.  At first I was apprehensive about buying from Costco because they don’t submit your claim to your insurance company. You have to pay in advance and submit a claim form.  I submitted the claim on July 9th and received the check for the full amount on August 2nd, several days before picking up my new hearing aids.

If you have Blue Cross Blue Shield you can download their claim from direct from their  web site at www.fepblue.org.  Click on “Benefits + Services” from the top menu bar and then click on “Form Library” in the left column on this page.  Select the “Claim Form” on this page, it is a PDF file that you can fill in for most parts on your computer before printing it out. Several of the fields have to be entered by pen including the enrollment code and identification number.  After completing the form send it to the office in your state.  You will find the address for your state located in the right column on the “Form Library” page.

You have to include the following codes, that Costco provides, on your claim form. I included them under item six of their claim form below the providers name:

  • CPT Procedure Code
  • Diagnosis Code
  • NPI
  • Product Code

I also attached the following documentation:

  • The Costco itemized bill
  • My doctor’s confirmation of my need for hearing aids
  • A copy of the Costco hearing test

Overall you can’t beat our FEHB program and Blue Cross Blue Shield covers up to $2,500 for hearing aids. Many providers cover much less. This is one reason why I switched back to Blue Cross Blue Shield last open season.

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