Let’s face facts. No one wants to wear hearing aids. They cost you a good chunk of change, being fit with them requires a hearing evaluation, you have to go through a transition period as your brain adapts to the new quality of sound delivered to the hearing mechanism nature provided you when you came into this world – but it doesn’t stop there.
People don’t want to wear hearing aids because there’s a stigma attached to these “quality-of-life” devices that, frankly, doesn’t make sense. You can’t read the newsprint anymore, you go see an eye doctor and get fitted with reading glasses. No one gives it a thought. You wear out your hip bone, have a titanium replacement installed and no one thinks anything about it. Ahh, but hearing aids, well they’re a little different.
Studies reveal that hearing aids are perceived by the public as a sign of age, of “brokenness” and contribute to a significant boost in the “feeb factor.” Sad this public perception continues to exist despite the advances we’ve seen not only in digital technology but also in the design of hearing aids. Today’s hearing aids are sleek and modern, not big, beige and boring like yesteryears.
Hearing Aids Do NOT Make You Look Old
It’s a myth. In fact, a person with hearing loss who chooses not to wear hearing aids actually appears older than if he or she chose to treat their hearing loss by wearing hearing aids.
Example. A senior manager is speaking to his sales force in a large conference room. Important business meeting. Now, the senior manager knows he has hearing loss but, over time he’s adapted to that loss of fidelity. He’s done so by using a special telephone with a power amp built in so he can hear, as well as positioning himself at business lunches so he can see all the faces of the speakers to pick up visual clues.
Now at the important business meeting, because that manager has untreated hearing loss, he has to strain to hear, he picks up echoes of sound waves that bounce off the plaster walls and the mumbler at the end of the long conference table is all but unhearable.
So how does that senior manager look to his peers and colleagues? He looks good, he’s in good physical shape, dresses well, has all the outward trappings of a team player – but half of what his sales team says is lost. There’s cross talk, missed and mixed messages, and a whole lot of “What’d you say?” going on.
In fact, because this business leader DOESN’T wear a pair of hearing aids, he actually looks older and less effective as a leader. The fact is when you choose NOT to wear hearing aids, you’re going to appear older, forgetful and, ummm, less effective, even though you’re the go-to guy or gal. Those working under you view you as old, plain and simple.
So what can you do to stay in the game longer – the boardroom, on the factory floor, at the movies (What’d he say?) and at home where your hearing loss has a negative impact on all your family members, neighbors, friends and co-workers? Have your hearing tested and purchase hearing aids.
Even so, how many of us resist making that appointment with a hearing professional because, accepting that you need hearing aids is accepting that time is creeping up on you and you can’t do the things you could 10 or 20 years ago.
Bottom line: you look older, you act older, you appear more broken each time you cup your ear and say “What’d you say?” You know that’s got to be frustrating to others who have to repeat what they say until you can actually hear the words and process them in your still lightening-fast brain.
Today’s Digital Hearing Aids: The Picture of Discretion
Oticon's Dual Think Pink
Part of the problem stems from the misconceptions that many of us carry around about what hearing aids look like, what they sound like and how many headaches they cause. And indeed they are misconceptions and indeed many of us have them – especially you young whippersnappers who view age with distrust or, worse, disdain.
Today’s digital hearing aids are low-profile, discrete and they don’t make you look like grandpa. In fact, many people can use completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids that are 100% invisible to the rest of the world. Only YOU know the hearing aids are in place, but you and that room full of sales people ALL enjoy the benefits because the boss, the director, the owner, CEO, CIO, CTO or CFO can field questions and interpret feedback – even from the mumbler at the end of the conference table.
Other types of low profile hearing aids include receiver in canal hearing aids (RICs) and open-fit behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids. These two styles represent the latest trend in hearing aids as consumers do not only love the look of these styles but love the natural sound quality of them as well.
Open fit BTEs are mini BTE hearing aids are designed to hide behind the outer ear, and have ultra-thin tubing to discreetly route sound into the ear. The thin tubing connects to a soft dome that sits inside the ear canal but doesn’t occlude it. By not occluding or blocking the ear canal, the result is a natural, open feeling as airflow and sound enter the ear naturally around the dome, while amplified sound enters through the dome. This is known as “open fitting” and is recommended for mild to moderate high frequency losses.
These rest in the ear cup with the speaker sitting just outside the ear canal – the narrow tube that runs from the outer ear to the middle ear where you find the ear drum, aka tympanic membrane.
RIC hearing aids are also are mini BTEs that sit nestled behind the outer ear and have thin tubing leading into the ear canal, except with the RIC styles, the speaker of the hearing aid is incorporated in the ear tip within the ear canal, instead of in the main body of the hearing aid that sits behind the ear. RIC hearing aids also allow for a natural open fit and are ideal for mild to severe hearing losses.
The third type of hearing aid is called the BTE, or behind-the-ear hearing aid. First introduced in the 1960s, BTEs have become smaller, lighter and more packed with features than your new car.
Gone are the days of big, clunky and chunky BTE devices. These lightweight hearing aids deliver wearing comfort (they weigh practically nothing) and hearing so, again, your ears hear what they can and get a boost as needed – all handled through digital technology that takes the hassles out of adjusting volume levels while the business meeting screeches to a halt and the discomfort in the room is almost palpable as attendees look away as you search for the manual override switch. Forget all that.
What is the latest in hearing aid technology?
- Automatic volume and program changes based on how the hearing aids “read” the environment you are presently in.
- Wireless connectivity so you can stream all your favorite audio devices, including your cell phone, directly to your hearing aids so you stay connected.
- Directional microphones allowing your hearing aids to reduce unwanted background noise that surrounds you.
The list can go on and on. And because these hearing aids are tuned by a hearing aid professional, the settings can be adjusted after you have overcome the transition period.
So, who looks older, sounds older, acts older, appears broken and carries a more obvious “feeb” rating? The person who has to keep asking people to repeat their point? The manager who can’t hear on the noisy factory floor or the seminar attendee who gets there early to claim a seat right in front of the podium speakers?
And who looks younger, instills confidence, acts as a mentor or advisor and maintains the respect of those he or she leads? Well, it’s the man or woman who wears a pair of hearing aids to stay in the game.
Buying Hearing Aids - Where Do I Start?
Step 1: recognize that you, indeed, have lost some hearing. It may be specific frequencies or it may be across the entire spectrum of sound. (How much Jefferson Airplane did you listen to back in the day when Grace Slick had that unforgettable voice?)
Step 2: Make an appointment with a hearing professional for a top-down hearing evaluation to determine the type, extent and severity of your hearing loss.
Step 3: With an audiogram – a graph that plots just where you have hearing loss and how severe that loss is, talk to your hearing professional about your concerns and perceptions. Sure, you know you aren’t broken but in today’s world of business and commerce, if you look old, you’re at a disadvantage.
Step 4: Choose the type of hearing aid that best addresses your hearing needs. For example, if you discover that you have moderate to severe hearing loss, chances are you’ll want a BTE rather than a CIC. Why? The larger casing can include a bigger sound amplifier to address your more extensive hearing loss.
Step 5: Become your own hearing advocate. Your hearing professional knows how to identify hearing loss. And she knows all about the latest in hearing loss solutions. But she doesn’t know you. And as your own advocate, you can veto any suggested solution offered by the hearing professional that just doesn’t feel right.
Get this: many hearing aid manufacturers have developed hearing aids that come in fun colors – violet, red, hot pink – you pick it. Or perhaps you will opt to match your skin or hair color, or choose a nice shiny titanium finish so you really look high-tech.
You Look And Sound Older Without Hearing Aids
|Don't age yourself, treat your hearing loss|
This is the most important take-away. Toss out your own misconceptions about today’s high-tech, automated, digital ear computers. Those perceptions are SOOO last millennium.
Nope, you look younger, act younger and you get the attention and respect you deserve as the authority you are within the company when you can hear the questions clearly (no more “Huh?”) and do your job without looking broken because you aren’t.
And, guaranteed, your family and friends will appreciate your opinions and thoughts more when you remain a part of the dinner table conversation and contribute without your loved ones screeching in your direction to be heard over the dinner table din.
You want to look younger, feel younger, act younger and be perceived as an asset at work, at home and out in the community? Then stop fooling yourself. Admit you have hearing loss and do something about it.
New data suggests roughly 34.5 million Americans admit to experiencing some degree of hearing loss so you are far from alone. However, only 25% of those who would benefit from a pair of hearing aids actually use them.
Why? The stigma associated with hearing aids. Well, you can look bad, old, feeble and useless or you can be right in the middle of the latest debate over a power lunch with the C-level execs.
It’s your call. All you have to do is make it. There’s a hearing professional nearby and if you need a referral, call you family doctor or visit Healthy Hearing’s Find a Professional section.
What, you’re still here? C’mon, pick up the phone and make that call. You aren’t ready to throw in the towel, those years of experience are an asset to your company and you still have a lot to give.
Stay in the game longer. Be a player and look better doing it with the range of hearing loss solutions available to you – from completely invisible to flash behind the ear.
Isn’t it time to make life better? Isn’t it time to hear the way you did back during the “Summer of Love,” (1967 for those who don’t remember)? Isn’t it time you removed the stigma associated with hearing loss by proving your value to the world.
All you need is a pair of hearing aids that suit your hearing needs and your personal preferences and tastes. Look younger. Get yourself a pair of hearing aids and stop driving those around you crazy by asking “what?”
The solution to your hearing loss is a simple phone call away and guaranteed, you’ll wonder why you waited so long. So will the sales staff you manage.
Go get ‘em, tiger!