Hearing loss and the need for hearing aids is something that many of us associate with old age (see age related hearing loss). But what do we mean by old age? It is interesting to note that we also associate the need for reading glasses with getting older but do we see them in the same light? In reality, the development of mild to moderate high frequency hearing loss affects almost exactly the same group of people that develop the need for reading glasses; it is simply a factor of growing older.
If one were asked to describe our experiences of hearing aid wearers, most would picture someone in their 70's or 80's or older and usually someone who has particularly noticeable hearing loss. Some of course would picture a child or young adult they know as, clearly, hearing loss is not solely an age related issue; thankfully, however, these cases are in the minority.
If we were asked to describe our experiences of reading glasses wearers, most would picture someone in their 50's or 60's perhaps - not the same age as hearing aid wearers. Why is that the case?
Mostly, this is because it is true - if a need for reading glasses is established it is normally something that is pretty quickly acted upon and whilst still perceived as a 'sign of ageing' it does not carry the same degree of ageing as a hearing aid might. This ageing label is self-fulfilling in a sense, 'I won't get hearing help because it will 'age' me more than glasses do' - therefore those that do eventually obtain some help are older and re-enforce the stereotype.
It is something I have raised before but one does wonder whether by missing out on conversation, replying inappropriately to a misheard question or withdrawing from social situations is more 'age' labelling than the issue of addressing it in the first instance.
In any event, the need for hearing aids as opposed to the process of obtaining one is as common as the need for reading glasses and affects broadly the same group of people. Yet the number of people seeking hearing aid help in comparison to visual help is tiny - driven almost entirely by the undesirable 'ageing' label they seem to attract.
So, when I am asked whether we have hearing aids for the elderly, of course my answer is yes, although I often back this up by saying that we also offer hearing aids for those that need them and most of them are not what one would typically define as 'elderly'.