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Invisible Hearing Aids - Part Three

In my last post on the subject of the ‘Invisible Hearing Aid’ I talked about some of the drivers behind the desire to have an invisible hearing aid in the first place. They are mostly a reflection of one concern; that we don’t want people to know we have diminished hearing. But why is it important for this to be a secret? Because society mistakenly believes some or all of the following in relation to diminished hearing:

  • It labels you as ‘deaf’
  • It labels you as ‘old’

Interestingly these two areas are somewhat perpetuated by the very labels themselves. Let’s look at each one in turn.

In the absence of a more common term, ‘deaf’ is often mis-used to describe someone with diminished hearing instead of ‘hard of hearing’ or ‘hearing impaired’. Bizarrely, deaf (implying someone with no –hearing) would suggest that a hearing aid would be of little or no benefit. Interestingly, we do not usually refer to someone who uses glasses or contact lenses as ‘blind’ as they can still see but may need some help for close-up or distance vision. The same applies to hearing aids – they do not fully replace our ability to hear, rather, they augment the residual hearing we have. It is clearly a convenience of language and precedent that causes us to use the term ‘deaf’ even though there can be little doubt as to the inaccuracy of doing so.

The reason that we associate diminished hearing with age is very clear – as we grow older, our hearing deteriorates in the same way as our eyesight does (actually the correlation between the need for reading glasses and diminished hearing is extremely high). BUT because we delay acknowledging and treating diminished hearing in fear of being labeled as ‘old’ we are ‘old’ before we are forced to acknowledge and treat it. Therefore the myth is perpetuated – hearing aids are only worn by ‘old’ people. This is further extenuated by the ever increasing desire to ‘stay young’ and the significant changes in society which sees us retiring later and living longer; shifting cultural perception of age. Of course, just because we are living longer and retiring later, this is not reflected in the ‘age’ of our hearing – it will diminish with age as it always has (and with the personal music systems generations this may be quicker than today). In short, if we were to seek advice and treatment earlier, this in itself would change the perception. Perhaps we ought to consider that by withdrawing from some social interactions, appearing to not understand a conversation, turning the TV up ‘just a little bit more’ and suggesting that ‘people seem to mumble more than they used to’ might be more responsible for labeling us as ‘old’ than an (almost!) invisible hearing aid ever would.

Further reading:

Invisible hearing aids - part one

Invisible hearing aids - part two

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