Gordon Wilson has a big job ahead of him. As the Vice-President of Marketing for Oticon, one of the largest hearing aid companies in the world, hes faced with the daunting task of convincing baby boomers that hearing aids can, indeed, be cool.
Hearing aids? Cool? Well, thats the direction were headed.
Hearing Aids Are Anything But Cool
Oticon recently did some market testing to get a better feel for how hearing aids were perceived by both users and non-users. The words used to describe these devices and the people who use them included: ugly, broken, old, helpless, handicapped and other less- than-flattering terms. Lets face it, being told by an audiologist that you need a hearing aid is as much fun as hearing from your dentist that you need a root canal. Oh, goodie.
No one wants to hear that. First, its an admission that we really are getting older. One in six baby boomers are estimated to have some hearing loss. Its part of the aging process. Its also the result of listening to your Iron Butterfly LP (remember vinyl) at ear splitting volume for hours on end. As the baby boomer generation moves into its Golden Years, were going to see an ever-increasing number of hearing aid users, (too many rock concerts).
Too much Jimi, Joplin and Jefferson Airplane played at 120dB on the old 8-track. No wonder boomers have hearing problems. They invented head banging and now, theyre experiencing hearing loss at an alarming rate. Just like mom said, Turn that noise down before you go deaf! Who listened?
Hearing Aids Go High Tech
When Gordon Wilson speaks about hearing devices his voice becomes animated. You know he believes what he says and what he says is very interesting especially if youre reaching that age when a hearing aid becomes necessary.
The old technology, says Oticons Marketing VP, amplified everything across the full spectrum of sound, from low bass to the highest frequencies. In many cases, the cure was worse than the problem and people simply wouldnt use hearing devices.
Understandable. They didnt work very well, they were ugly and they were for grandpa, not for young, vibrant people in the prime of life. No wonder Oticons Marketing VP has such a big job ahead of him. He has to change the worlds perception of hearing devices no small task, you must admit.
Thankfully, todays hearing aids are much more technologically sophisticated than those designed even a few years ago. In fact, todays hearing aids are more like tiny computers that fit behind the ear, or even in the ear canal itself, making them almost invisible if thats the way you want to go.
Modern hearing devices, using digital technology, can be tuned to amplify sounds that fall within a specific frequency range. So, if you have difficulty hearing the upper ranges of sound but dont have a problem hearing the thundering bass line, the modern hearing aid can be tuned to boost those upper frequencies while leaving the lower frequencies in their natural state. In other words, each hearing aid can be tuned to the specific needs of the user, improving sound and hearing quality significantly.
Another advance in technology is called smart directionality according to Wilson. This is especially important in loud, crowded spaces like a restaurant or social gathering where sound comes from all directions. In the past, hearing aids were more like sound amplifiers, increasing the volume of all sound. Todays digitally high-tech hearing aids adjust themselves so youre able to focus on the speaker sitting across the table from you while the device filters out a conversation three tables away.
"Todays hearing devices employ artificial intelligence (AI) to determine room conditions, sound sources, volume and other aspects of effective hearing, according to Wilson. Modern devices make thousands of tiny adjustments within the sound environment every second. Indeed, hearing aids have gone high tech, improving their effectiveness and the quality of life for users. Today, its all digital, baby. After all, would boomers ever settle for anything less?
Hearing Aids Make a Fashion Statement?
They do now. No more clunky hardware dangling from the ear. No more wires, cords, lug nuts and bolts to keep the thing in place. Today, Oticon and other hearing aid manufacturers have turned these devices into fashion statements.
Oticons Delta model, which looks more like a high-tech aircraft wing than something Gramps would stick in his ear, comes in a wide range of colors, from Cabernet Red to Midnight Blue to Sunset Orange, making this comfortable, behind the ear model a real fashion accessory with over a dozen colors from which to choose. Many of todays hearing aid users dont hide the hardware any more. They show it off. Its tiny, convenient and it fits almost anyone. You can even choose the color that best fits your outfit or mood.
In addition to coming in a range a cool colors and patterns, the Delta packs a lot of circuitry into that small wedge, making the device not only attractive but comfortable to wear.
Something for Everyone
Oticons Gordon Wilson is quick to point out that the Delta isnt just for baby boomers looking for a little flash behind the ear. Many of our customers are in their 70s and 80s and they love the color selection. In fact, we designed the Delta to appeal to every age, from young children to great grand-parents.
And according to the Oticon spokesperson, more colors and designs are in the production pipeline. When asked if these devices would be available with racing stripes and flame decals, Wilson chuckled. Theyre already in the works.
The days of the clunky, flesh-toned hearing aid are long gone. These devices are no longer seen as ugly, or an indication of a handicap. Not any more.
People, regardless of age, are choosing to show off their sleek, new hearing devices and wearing them with pride. No more self-consciousness. Todays consumers wear hearing aids as badges of honor.
And besides, they really do look cool.
For more information on the Oticon Delta visit OticonUSA.com