Hearing Aids are for very old people
Probably the biggest driver of the stigma around hearing aids is that hearing loss (“bad enough to require aids”) is an old age condition. Hearing aids are perceived (by both nonusers and some unhappy users) to belong in the same category as false teeth and decreased mental facilities.
Whilst these perceptions of hearing loss may be old fashioned and largely outdated they remain, because, in essence, they are based on a truth. The older people get, the less well they tend to hear and that, combined with comprehension issues, make hearing loss a negative association with (very) old-age. Almost all the people we spoke to have experienced the old fashioned hearing aids of yesteryear through their parents / grandparents (or the peers of their parents - people in their 80’s and 90’s). Almost all of these experiences have been frustrating. In addition to not being able to hear, these are people who tend to be more frail and need more help.And as a result, hearing aids tend to be associated with the sort of frailty and dependency that comes with very old age.
As a result, many people who do have hearing aids (especially people who are happy with their hearing aids), spontaneously provide a reason as to why they needed aids (“their ears played up on a flight,” “ear infection”, “industrial deafness”). Subconsciously, they are providing rational reasons that counteract this perception that hearing aids are for old (and dependent) people.
It is key to address this mis-conception that hearing loss is only an “old age condition”. Providing people with other reasons for hearing loss, may help drive the acceptability of acknowledging hearing loss. As pointed out above, where people have been exposed to peers who are positive advocates for hearing aids, that is, they are people in the same age cohort as them, with aids that are not noticeable and function well, it helps them re-evaluate their own perceptions.
Author: Tanya Wilson
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