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Nothing to see here: Why the end of hearing aid stigma is in sight

Phonak Naida V powerful, sleek and small hearing aids

Over 5% of the world’s population, which is 360 million people, have hearing loss, and it takes an average of 10 years for someone with hearing loss to seek help. Why?

Hearing aids have been proven to help communication and benefit one’s mental health, so why are so many people reluctant to take the first steps towards the solution?

Is it because they fear others will view them in a negative way? Is it because, in the media, hearing aids are so often associated with old age? 

What if the fear of that perception is based on a falsehood? What if most people don’t notice, let alone care if a stranger has a hearing aid?

Breaking the stigmas around hearing loss

If you had an ingrowing toenail and were limping or were in too much pain to walk, would you have a simple procedure to remove the nail and get you back to doing all the things you’d been missing out on? I’m guessing that you would. Would you care what others thought about your need for the op? Maybe, but it would pass – along with the discomfort of the ingrowing nail. People would soon forget about it and it would never be mentioned again.

Where friends and colleagues are concerned, your need for a hearing device will possibly be thought of in much the same way.

They’ll be disappointed that you’re currently missing out on things, and they’ll see you’re are visibly struggling. Yes, they may be mildly curious about your hearing device/s when you first get them, and may ask about them (as someone would ask after you with a bandaged toe or a plaster cast); but, on the whole, for them it will be something of fleeting interest and they may never mention again (to you or anyone else).

As for strangers – will they even notice?

And, if they do, will they care?

So, why all the fuss over hearing aids?

People believe that there is a stigma attached to hearing aids and hearing loss, but I wonder… is their perception based on an out-dated view of how visible modern hearing aids are and what they look like?

Let’s face it, many of the hearing aids on the market today are so discreet as to be almost invisible and devices, such as the Lyric which are invisible (in that they are fitted so far into the ear canal that there is nothing to be seen).

Read more: With Lyric sounds are ‘deeper, richer and more complete’

 

Perhaps people won’t notice or won’t react at all if you have hearing aids. (Like the first time I went to the supermarket with mine on show and NOTHING HAPPENED.)

“Trust me: strangers really do not care if you have hearing aids. As for family, friends and colleagues; they should be happy for you.”

Trust me: strangers really do not care if you have hearing aids. As for family, friends and colleagues; they should be happy for you. If anything, you’ll be making their lives easier!

Discreet hearing aids

These days, many famous people openly wear hearing aids.

Back in October 2014, news outlets clamoured to report that Prince Philip, ‘The Duke of Edinburgh has been spotted wearing hearing aids for the first time at the age of 93’.

One reporter noted: “It is not known how long the 93-year-old Duke has worn the discreet hearing aids for but they were photographed as he honoured recipients of the Victoria Cross and George Cross. They were visible only because of a thin wire next to each ear noticed as the royal chatted to the veterans and their families.”

Move along; nothing to see here

Hmmm… so, even high-profile figures such as royalty, who come under enormous scrutiny every day, may have been using hearing devices before anyone noticed.

So, perhaps there really is nothing to see. Maybe, if hearing devices are ‘in the eye of the beholder’ and the beholder doesn’t even notice you have them, then, perhaps that means you should care more about what hearing devices can do for you rather than what other people might (or might not) think, if indeed they notice them at all.

Read more: Why I decided to stop hiding my hearing aids

At the time Prince Philip’s devices were spotted, Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine was quoted as saying: “Over the years it has been apparent when he has been out with the Queen that he has not been fully au fait with things going on around him and she has had to tell him. I think his hearing has been impaired for some time so it is just a way of improving his quality of life.”

“I think his hearing has been impaired for some time so it is just a way of improving his quality of life.”

This just goes to show that often, your hearing loss is more noticeable than your hearing aid.

Changing times

It was great to see that beneath a recent photo of The Duke of Edinburgh doffing his hat to the crowd at his last solo public engagement, the caption did not mention his hearing aids even though they were visible.

 

Perhaps, people just aren’t as bothered about other peoples’ need to use hearing devices as the potential users think. 

Angie Aspinall on LinkedinAngie Aspinall on Twitter
Angie Aspinall

Phonak hEARo, Angie is a freelance journalist, copywriter, website designer and social media consultant. (www.aspinallink.co.uk) She lives in Scotland with her husband Richard, and their Westie, Tilly. Angie was diagnosed with Otosclerosis in her right ear at the age of 30. In 2011, she suffered sudden profound hearing loss in her left ear. She now uses a Phonak CROS II with a Phonak Audéo V hearing aid. You can follow Angie’s international discussion group #HearingLossHour on Twitter @hearinglosshour.


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