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Hearing Aids: Making You Look Old? Think Again!

What is it with aging?

People fight it. Our culture associates aging with weakness, being “broken”, senility and a bunch of other drawbacks. Hate to tell you this, but we all get old – if we’re lucky. It’s the natural order – the way things are supposed to be, yet ageism is alive and well. And when you experience it – in the workplace or out in the community – you’ll do everything you can to look younger so you still fit in.

That’s why so-called anti-aging creams sell for $50 an ounce, men die their hair (60 year old faces with jet-black, 20-year hair, oh yeah, that looks natural) – we fight looking old every step of the way.

Recognizing hearing loss is often one of the first signs of acknowledging that you aren’t as young as you once were. Vision loss, loss of mobility, aches in joints you didn’t even know you had – all part of nature’s little joke. And something we all go through.

Survey Says Perception of Hearing Aids Still Equals Old

Hearing Loss Prevalence
Over 34 million Americans have hearing loss

Hear the World, a global initiative by leading hearing aid manufacturer Phonak, recently compiled a survey on perceptions of others on aging and hearing loss, and the results might surprise you.

The survey polled 4.5 thousand people between the ages of 14 and 65, and wearing a hearing aid is still considered the most obvious, and therefore the most odious sign, of advancing years. Despite advances not only in hearing aid technology but also hearing aid design, hearing aids are still associated with age more than other accessories such as glasses and wheelchairs.

The survey demonstrated that fear of admitting to hearing loss was among the top three reasons people who have hearing loss have chosen not to seek the proven treatment of hearing aids.

The most recent data suggests nearly 34.25 million Americans experience some degree of hearing loss (2009, Better Hearing Institute) – and it isn’t always about age. Hearing professionals are seeing patients in their 20s and 30s who’ve experienced hearing loss thanks to MP3players, ear buds and the general level of noise that surrounds us morning, noon and night.

In the UK and the United States, only 25% of those who would benefit from hearing aid technology actually employ these life-enhancing devices.

So what it is about hearing aids that persons continue to choose silence over hearing the rich sounds of life? Why is it that hearing aids scream old age, even if they are now winning design awards left and right for their innovative appearances and technology.

More findings from the Hear the World survey:

  • World wide, 700 million people have some degree of hearing loss. I SAID 700 MILLION OF US HAVE HEARING LOSS! Sorry for shouting at you. Just trying to pierce the void. 
  • Hearing aids are associated with old age more than eyewear, wheelchairs, crutches and canes. 
  • Hearing aid technology has made incredible strides in just the past 10 years with the introduction of digital technology – the same technology used in computers, stoves, microwaves, the iPhone and the Mars rovers that are still sending back data the last time I checked – after four years. Digital tech has changed life as we know it on Earth AND Mars. 
  • In the US 88% of the survey respondents said they’d wear a hearing aid if necessary, yet only 25% actually follow through, by seeing a hearing professional and using hearing aids. We may talk a good game, but there’s no follow through.

“Hearing loss and the solutions available to treat it have long been misunderstood, and the survey findings point to exactly that,” said Dr. Craig Kasper, Hear the World spokesperson and chief audiology officer of Audio Help Associates of Manhattan. “Hearing aids have come a long way and it is important to the well being of those with hearing loss that these misperceptions be addressed. In fact, recent technology advances have made it possible for those who need a hearing aid to wear their devices with ease and confidence.”

What You Don’t Know (or Hear) Can Hurt You

Today, hearing aids come in a variety of styles, shapes and configurations but they all have something in common – they ain't your grandpa’s hearing aid, you know that big clunky thing with a tangle of wires hooked into something the size of a loaf of bread.

Nope, today, hearing aids are smaller, more powerful, more automated and deliver a lot of features in tiny sleek casings.

Hearing Aid Technology Marches On

Quick step, double time.

The first hearing aids were nothing more than big ol’ funky trumpets that had all the appeal of a root canal. Introduced in the 1700s, these devices weren’t very effective, they weren’t portable and, yeah, they made you look, feel and act old.

In the 1920s, technological advances made smaller hearing aids possible. You could carry one in a purse or pocket, but you still had that tangle of wires to connect your ear to the hearing amplifier in your pocket. Pretty unattractive, but a big improvement over the trumpet shaped hearing devices from the 1700s.

In the 1940s, hearing aids were small enough to fit in a short pocket. Okay, we’re making progress, but these devices still didn’t offer the discrete profile people wanted so you still LOOKED old. Oh, and a lot of these analog devices screeched, hummed and yowled every time you talked on the rotary dial land line. (Anyone remember those? Show of hands?)

The 60s rolled around and the first behind-the-ear hearing aids became available. Okay, things are getting better, but the world still saw those hearing aids and wrongly assumed that you were broken, old and out of touch.

Hearing Aids in the New Millennium

Phonak Audeo Hearing Aids
Phonak Audeo Mini portrays high-tech and connected, not old

The Hear the World survey identifies numerous misconceptions about hearing aids – everything from their size to their functionality. We’ve come a long way in just a few years thanks to the introduction of digital circuitry, wireless connectivity and changing attitudes about hearing aid use.

Today, if you experience hearing loss, you can opt for a completely in the canal device that slips into the ear canal and is completely invisible. These low profile devices appeal to those of us who want to keep our hearing loss secret. Fair enough, given the misconceptions identified by the Phonak report.

Then there are open-fit behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids and R-I-Cs – receiver in the canal hearing aids. Yep they’re not completely invisible but they don’t have flashing lights that make you stand out in the crowd. Both provide a more natural listening experience employing open ear technology.

Most hearing aid manufacturers recognize the stigma associated with hearing aid wear and have done all kinds of technology stuff to hide the hearing aids completely or make ‘em shine like you just don’t care what the world thinks. Yep, you have earned every wrinkle and you take pride that you’re still playing the game.

Easy On the Ears

What’s more, today’s hearing aids deliver a full slate of convenience features that simplify hearing aid use. Check out these goodies:

Today’s hearing aids are lightweight, increasing wearing comfort – even during those 18-hour days at the office. You won’t be fidgeting to get the right fit.

With digital, you hear the full range of sound from the high notes to the thunderous bass. Hearing aids today adapt automatically to a variety of listening environments. YOU don’t adapt to your hearing aids, they adapt to you. Heck, some of these smart machines even learn your personal preferences so the longer you wear them, the more “you” they become. Very sweet and cool.

Manual overrides are simple using discreet, wireless volume controls tucked in your suit pocket so you don’t draw attention to yourself. Some even enable you to increase or decrease sound levels simply by swiping the casing thanks to touch technology.

Even entry-level hearing aids come with automated squelch tech that reduces feedback so you don’t have to unplug to answer the phone. Feedback is a thing of the past.

Wireless connectivity is also available on better, albeit higher-priced models, so you can stay connected to your cell phone directly through your hearing aids. You’ll never miss a customer call even when you’re out of the office.

Let’s Cut to the Chase

There are loads of misconceptions associated with hearing aids. They’re uncomfortable. (Wrong) They’re conspicuous. (Wrong, again) They make you look old (Nope). They’re big and clunky (No way, not anymore.)

You get the idea. As technological advances have been integrated into today’s high-tech hearing aids, they’re smaller, they’re more comfortable, they deliver a better quality sound and they’re deep in features.

So, if you’ve noticed that the volume on the car radio is slowly increasing, visit a hearing professional for a hearing evaluation to see what’s going on in there.

And be prepared for a pleasant surprise. Hearing aids improve life’s quality – and make you look good as they do. Call today. You’ll like what you hear.

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