I marvel at the changes seen in the cosmetic design of hearing aids in the last twenty years. Hearing aids are now “cooler” in design, with fancy Bluetooth and wireless capabilities. They are more appealing than ever before–but the stigma remains. Sergi Kochkin rated fifty-three influencing improvements that could potentially persuade highly reluctant users to seek amplification for their hearing loss within the next two years:
Historically, the MarkeTrak survey has focused on obstacles to hearing purchase. We thought it would be of interest to present the hearing-impaired consumer with a number of improvements in four key areas: financial, hearing aid listening utility, product enhancements, and psycho-social changes.
The top influencing factor (for 2 out of 5 people) in the psycho-social category, ranking 15th overall, is convincing the potential consumer that the hearing aid is invisible, or nearly invisible. This strong desire for invisible hearing aids can only be from the negative stigma that society has placed on hearing aids.
In 2011, when I helped to launch the Lyric Extended Wear (invisible) Hearing Aids in Australia, I received a lot of negative comments from the audiological community, because they felt that I was not promoting empowerment of hearing loss by supporting a device that was invisible. But I think that as audiologists and hearing care providers, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and force hearing aids on the public when they are not ready for the technology.
In Australia, one in eight individuals has a hearing loss, and an overwhelming 80% of this number choose to go without amplification! There is a reason for this that goes beyond an economical barrier, even though the research shows it is an important factor. The negative stigma surrounding hearing aids is still very strong and painful for the majority of reluctant users to bear.
The most difficult and frustrating part as a hearing healthcare provider is to convince them to take the first step for better hearing. I have seen Lyric successfully take the most highly reluctant users “across the threshold” to commence their hearing journey.
I feel there are many reasons for this, one being that they are not really ready to accept that they have a hearing loss. So when they are fitted with a tiny hearing aid that is invisible but must be removed each night this reminds them of their hearing loss. As the Lyric stays in place 24/7, they are not reminded of it daily, plus they have the opportunity to hear what they are missing while continuing their journey that will lead to acceptance.
This morning, I fitted a thirty-five year old female who admitted that she would have never considered hearing aids until she heard about Lyric. I could not believe that she had been compensating so long with a moderate to severe hearing loss. Part of the reason that she refused visible hearing aids was due to being teased at school when forced to wear the regular hearing aids. You would think that she would have been motivated to want to hear better no matter what, in order to not only communicate with more ease, but especially to keep her job. (She honestly admitted that she would rather lose her job if it meant wearing a visible hearing aid.) Lyric helped this client to start her hearing journey, which she would have otherwise delayed.