Go or Cancel - important medical appt. tomorrow
March 15, 2020 4:53 PM   Subscribe

I have needed new hearing aids for a while; old set out of commission for a while. I have an appt. at the Boston area Costco to get tested and get new ones. I'm mid-60s, have asthma and using an inhaler, otherwise healthy, and badly want to hear again, but, Social Distancing. I have been staying home since my area had reported cases. It's an important medical appt. Go / Cancel?

My hearing loss is moderate-to-severe in both ears. Not hearing is socially isolating. Poor hearing is associated with dementia. My brain is probably devoting tons of processing trying to hear that could be used for daydreaming and remembering the words to old tv theme songs.

It's extremely unlikely that I have been exposed. I think it's likely that Staying Home will be recommended for people who are over 60 with any health issues for a couple months, at least, so going now might make sense. There are now 164 coronavirus cases in Mass.
posted by Mom to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Mid 60's with respiratory issues? Don't go. It can wait a few weeks or even months.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 4:55 PM on March 15, 2020 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I definitely understand the impulse to go, and how isolating hearing loss can feel. I wouldn't go if I were in this situation. If you were my relative or friend, I would not want you to go, and would worry a lot if you did. If you think you can possibly last a few months without hearing aids without losing your mind, I would urge you to stay home and feed your brain with books and the internet and close-captioned media.

That said, you're not wrong that things will get worse before they get better, and you could end up without hearing aids for quite some time if you don't go. It's dangerous to go. But this isn't a frivolous reason to go out - It's a difficult decision only you can make for yourself.

If you decide to go, I would suggest taking pretty extreme precautions. I would not take a cab or public transit if at all possible. I would stand in the waiting room rather than sitting, and touch nothing. I would stay as far as possible from other people who might be waiting. And I would let the Costco technician know you are in a higher risk group due to your age and asthma, and request that they take very strict precautions in washing hands and sanitizing any equipment you might come in contact with. If at all possible to do this without being touched, I would try to do it.

Again, this is a hard decision and I understand why you would ask. It's not like "should I go to work" or "should I go to the bar." Mental health vs. physical health is never an easy choice. Whatever you choose to do, you do everything you can to stay safe.
posted by invincible summer at 5:10 PM on March 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'd go, so long as I was sure I could be avoid being caught in a mass of people at the door or something like that. However, given existing respiratory issues, I might feel differently.

Since this isn't a case of you possibly infecting others, but a risk to yourself instead, you get to decide whether the risk is worth the reward for you.
posted by wierdo at 5:13 PM on March 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: That's really tough and as someone with moderate to severe hearing loss and wears aids in both ears, I completely relate to the frustration. I've dealt with periods where my hearing aids weren't working and had a delay in repairs or replacement.

I do want to ask - is costco your only option? I would hate for you to go somewhere that invites such huge crowds of people. I'm assuming it's for financial reasons that you choose costco but maybe I'm wrong in that assumption. Can you go to a different audiologist which would provide you with more protection from large crowds? Most audiologists I've been to have small offices so exposure would be much less. In general, hearing tests are free no matter where you go. It's the aids themselves that cost money.
posted by acidnova at 5:13 PM on March 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Hell if I know, but we're all going to be having shit like this happen to us soon one way or another.

I have no idea what getting hearing aids involves, but is there any hope of calling the place before you go and asking if there's anything they can do to make it less bad for you?
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:20 PM on March 15, 2020

I shouldn't have put "should I go to work" in the same category as "should I go to the bar" - ugh. I only wish going to work or not were a decision everybody got to make. Some people don't get to choose, and for some people, going is actually pretty heroic.
posted by invincible summer at 5:28 PM on March 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I could pay a bit more and go to Sam's Club, so no real difference. Have never been to Costco; they have made hearing aids a lot more accessible through lobbying for sensible regulation change.

It also occurs to me that non-essential trips mean somebody else has to be at work, and be at risk.

I think a lot of my general Pandemic anxiety has attached itself to this.
posted by Mom at 5:41 PM on March 15, 2020

Best answer: I agree that this is about your own risk tolerance, not about social responsibility. If you were not in a high risk group--particularly having asthma--I would say that if I were you, I would go.

Months without hearing aids, especially at a time when most of your contact with people is likely to be on the phone, sounds like a genuine cause for concern for your emotional health. If you can avoid the worst crowds and sanitize yourself when you walk in, don't touch your face the whole time you're there, sanitize when you leave--maybe even wear gloves. Make sure anyone putting their face near yours is wearing a mask (that would be a dealbreaker for me).

For me, I think this is something I would consider worth the risk. But I say that as someone who doesn't have asthma, and I think that that brings the risk into a zone where it's really about your risk tolerance.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:46 PM on March 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I wonder what would come of it if you called tomorrow morning and explained your situation. Maybe they can help think of a third option for you.
posted by teremala at 5:48 PM on March 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

You could see if you could get an off-peak time. Very early, or very late.

Our supermarkets are now open for the first hour only for high-risk people. Maybe that something they'll consider implementing soon too.
posted by kjs4 at 6:01 PM on March 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a licensed audiologist and a hearing scientist that studies hearing aids. I am not your audiologist, and unfortunately you are in a tough situation.

A proper hearing aid fitting involves headphones or earphones, probe mics hanging from your ear and going inside your ear canal, and generally lots of stuff touching your face. A hearing aid fitting at Costco involves all of this in what is currently a highly trafficked area. Further, and to be brutally honest here, many employees at Costco hearing centers are hearing instrument specialists, which involves no advanced education in anything medically related, and thus I am always concerned about the degree to which they have expertise not only in audiology but in things like basic universal precautions (e.g. germ and other vector transmission in medical settings).

As you are a high risk individual, I could not in good conscious recommend that you attend this appointment.

That said, I also know how much not being able to hear properly is terrible in any time, let alone in our current situation. Do you still have a relationship with the audiologist that fit your prior hearing aids? Ideally you would get a new hearing test and all of that, but if you were my patient and contacted me that your hearing aids weren't working, and assuming I still had an audiogram for you on file, I would absolutely provide to you, through the mail or drop-off, a pair of loaner hearing aids programmed for your most recent audiogram that you could use until the end of the pandemic. And then we could worry about what to do going forward later. If you have a copy of your most recent audiogram, some practices may be willing to do this for you.

If that is not possible, my honest recommendation would be to try and make communication as easy as possible for yourself for the next few weeks until we know more of what this looks like. Try to have your conversations in quiet, ask for repetition when needed, try and get access to visual cues even if that means having your phone conversations with Face Time. Ask people to speak clearly and be assertive about why you need that.

they have made hearing aids a lot more accessible through lobbying for sensible regulation change.

For the record here, this is completely untrue. OTC hearing aids made available by regulation changes via the OTC Hearing Aid Act are not even on the market at this point, and will not be until at least next Fall. The hearing aids sold at Costco are more or less the same hearing aids you find at any audiology practice. Their hearing aids are cheaper because they are able to buy huge volumes and they mostly staff hearing instrument specialists, rather than doctors of audiology. An HIS requires a high school diploma or GED with a one-year apprenticeship. The doctorate of audiology is a 4-year doctoral agree. Some Costcos do have AuDs, and some HIS are exceptional clinicians. But on the whole, this is why the prices difference, rather than the recent regulatory changes, which have not affected the market at all at this point.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:27 PM on March 15, 2020 [25 favorites]

If you have the money, I've heard good things about these Bose "Hearphones," which you could order online.
posted by pinochiette at 6:52 PM on March 15, 2020

Response by poster: The Governor of Maine just announced, as part of declaring an Emergency, Postponing all non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments at hospitals and health care providers across the state until further notice and it feels like Canceling is the thing to do. I am very grateful for the care and concern expressed, thank you all very much. Gold star to Lutoslawski; I've read some of your comments and it's good of you.
posted by Mom at 7:43 PM on March 15, 2020

Along the lines of pinochiette's idea, if you have an Android smartphone and a set of earbuds (even better, a legit headset with a good microphone) Google has an app called "Sound Amplifier" on the Play Store. It has a few different modes, one of which is designed to suppress noise and pick out and amplify speech in particular. At worst, it sounds like the Walkman-sized box my granddad used for watching TV back in the 80s, but it does far better most of the time.

If you have the stuff sitting around, it shouldn't hurt to try and see if it helps make things clearer so you have something to help until you can get your new aids and at worst will give you something to do for a few minutes.
posted by wierdo at 8:33 PM on March 15, 2020

Best answer: This IS urgent for you, though. You can’t hear.

I would go and wear a mask, try not to touch too much, and apply hand sanitizer immediately after leaving the building. That’s basically the protocol followed by doctors and nurses in their 60s working in hospitals.
posted by amaire at 10:37 PM on March 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

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