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Do small hearing aids risk making hearing loss an invisible subject?

small hearing aids

A large part of the stigma of hearing loss is centered around the wearing of hearing aids. Therefore, with the constant advances in hearing aid technology and electronic miniaturization, the visible element is fast becoming a thing of the past.

This is a good thing, right? Well, yes, and no. Let me explain.

The modern digital hearing aid is an amazing device and is often difficult to see. This gives confidence to the wearer and allows them to interact with hearing people on seemingly equal terms.

The only thing wrong with this way of thinking is that both, the hearing person and the hearing loss sufferer can be at a disadvantage during their interaction.

When we go about our daily lives, we depend on visual signs to keep us informed of changes in our environment. These can be large, such as signposts, traffic lights and maps, or much smaller subtle, clues. If there isn’t a sign that a person is deaf or hard of hearing, it can be a disadvantage to both communicators.

All things are not always equal

There is a general assumption with the majority of the hearing population – and yes, this includes the majority of those in the medical and allied professions – that goes something like this: a person suffering from hearing loss requires a hearing aid in order to once more become a member of the hearing community.

Anyone who wears a hearing aid will have first-hand knowledge that this assumption falls far short of the mark. Once a person has hearing loss, they become to a certain degree, deaf.

Hearing aids do not restore hearing, but instead, enhance the hearing of those who wear them. They do not restore or replace that loss.

But, isn’t less more?

Well, in this case, yes, and no. If someone is aware that a person they’re speaking to has a hearing loss, it can be useful. Yes, there is that tendency to shout and over-emphasize words and meanings more than a little, but at least they are aware.

Some deaf/hard of hearing people choose to wear a “badge of honor” stating their condition, as they find it can help. Still, others much prefer to go unnoticed, where possible.

Read more: Jewelry line aims to inspire confidence for those with hearing loss

To an extent, the smaller the hearing aid becomes, the less control remains in the hands of the wearer, as to whether they choose to be open about their hearing loss or not.

“The smaller the hearing aid becomes, the less control remains in the hands of the wearer, as to whether they choose to be open about their hearing loss or not.”

When we look back a mere 40 years or so, we see hearing aid technology that was not only primitive in the extreme but also very unattractive. Back then, people tended to have a far less enlightened view of those with hearing loss, and as the years have gone by, so understanding has replaced prejudice in most areas.

Read more: 3 Hearing Challenges Solved with Titanium Hearing Aids

How can hearing loss stay visible?

It would be nothing short of foolish to wish for the past, but in order to truly benefit from all the future can offer us in the realms of hearing aid tech, there might just be a very real need for proactive hearing aid wearers in order to remain on the hearing radar.

Surely finding a happy medium has to be able to offer a win, win for all those who struggle with both hearing loss and the stigma all too often associated with it.

The answer could be as simple as having a choice. Being able to wear an aid so small that it goes unnoticed can help avoid prejudice and bias with the choice of telling those that need to know about the hearing loss. Making this choice puts power in the hands of the hearing aid wearer and how visible they choose to have their hearing loss.

“Making this choice puts power in the hands of the hearing aid wearer and how visible they choose to have their hearing loss.”

Badges are one perfect method of offering one solution to this. As mentioned earlier these can be worn to show others any needs or differences in normal interaction and conversation the wearer might require.

A great tip is to wear a badge underneath a coat or shirt collar. This can then be simply turned in order to show another that there is a need to face them, when speaking, for lip reading, or simply that the other person has a hearing loss issue.

This is a discreet way of being in total control of who knows about your hearing loss and stops unnecessary bias, whether in a workplace situation or a social one.

Technology is not going to recede into the past, and now is the time to make certain that as a person with hearing loss and a hearing aid wearer, that the wearer and not the device is in total charge.

Read more: How to feel more confident with your hearing loss

How do you let people know about your hearing loss? Let us know in the comments.

Author Details
Phonak hEARo, Phil is an actor, writer and journalist who writes in the deaf WellBeing and Lifestyle areas. He lives on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast with his wife Raine and their three children. Phil was diagnosed in 2016 and has moderate to severe Sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and constant tinnitus. He uses Phonak silver Nathos Auto M hearing aids. Member DANC (Disabled Artists Networking Community)