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The Stigma of Hearing Aids: How times have changed

Hearing aids are for the old, the infirm, the stupid or the “broken.” At least that’s what many uninformed people believe. And there are plenty of studies to back up these mistaken beliefs.

Many of these misconceptions come from people’s lack of understanding of just how far hearing aid technology has come since the old timey days when hearing aids weighed a pound and hung around your neck. And not only were these mechanical dinosaurs cumbersome, they didn’t work so well. Flashes of feedback, constant volume adjustments, stares from strangers – no wonder getting fitted for a pair of hearing aids ranked up their with having a root canal.No one wants to do it.

But they have to do it. They have to give in and accept the inevitable. In the case of hearing aids, however, you – the consumer – are about to discover some very pleasant surprises.

Hearing aids ain’t what they used to be, that’s a fact.

Mini Ear Computers

Digital technology and wireless technology have equipped hearing aid manufacturers to stuff more features into smaller, more discrete hearing aids. Gone are the days of the gigantic unit, carried in the shirt pocket and connected to the ear with a collection of tangled wires. That is so 1956.

Today, using digital circuitry and digital signal processing, hearing aid manufacturers create highly-sophisticated hearing computers – intuitive machines that adapt to the listening preferences of the user automatically.

Sound in your environment becomes too loud? The volume adjusts automatically. Too soft? A little boost from the low-profile, invisible hearing aid.

How about directional microphones that allow you to hear your dinner companion over the clatter of a noisy bistro behind you? Even today’s entry-level hearing aids deliver convenience to simplify the listening process.

Put them in each morning, take them out when you hit the sheets. Throughout the day, today’s modern ear computers bring automated convenience to the listening experience.

Hearing Aids: Style and Comfort

There are lots of options when it comes to types of hearing aids – a size and style to fit different types of hearing loss, style preference and of course budget:

All the buzz are the new lightweight, open-fit behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids that rest nestled behind the ear transmitting sound into the ear canal with a thin (and barely noticeable) plastic tubing.

Open fit BTE hearing aids offer hearing loss solutions to those seeking a cosmetically appealing device as well as a natural feel to the hearing aid fit and sound quality.

Unitron Passport hearing aids
Passport Series by Unitron, from CIC to open-fit mini BTEs

Another type of hearing aid is called a RIC (receiver in canal). Once again, discrete, low profile or a splash of color – it’s your choice. With these devices, the hearing aid’s receiver sits deep within the ear canal while the unit rests behind the ear. This configuration allows for slightly higher amounts of amplification that other open-fit hearing aids while still providing a natural feeling fit..

The third category of hearing aids is custom, in-the-ear devices. Ranging from a completely in the canal (CIC) fit to that of a full shell hearing aid. All custom style hearing aids are molded to your ear’s shape.

Each style/type of hearing aid has its pros and cons. The style chosen is very individualized and the following should be considered when selecting the most appropriate style for you with your hearing professional:

  • Cosmetic concerns
  • Amount of hearing loss
  • Dexterity concerns
  • Ear wax production
  • Budget – however price is not heavily influenced by style

Hearing Aids and the New Millennium

First, there’s this gigantic, demographic bubble moving closer and closer to hearing aid range – the Baby Boomers. So, expect to see a lot more people visiting hearing professionals in the next 5-10 years or so.

Also, the hearing aid industry is highly competitive. Nearly one in ten Americans experience hearing loss (NIDCD). That number jumps to one in three for the over 65-year-old crowd so you can see that (1) a lot of folks will be buying hearing aids in the next few years and (2) hearing aid manufacturers will be competing with more features, cooler designs and lower costs – just like any other electronic device.

Hearing aids stigma
Hearing aids improve quality of life and relationships...bye bye stigma

Today, only 2% of people who’d benefit from a pair of hearing aids actually wear them. Part of that is the stigma thing, which will change as soon as we routinely see Baby Boomers employing this “quality of life” technology.

Think about it. There’s no stigma attached to wearing glasses – at least not since 4th grade. People wear glasses, often as a fashion accessory and we’ve become so used to them. The stigma of being a “four-eyes” disappears until we don’t even think about it.

Same with hearing aids. Bright, colorful, design savvy ear computers remove the stigma and tell the world that “Yep, I may wear hearing aids but I don’t care what you think. I am living my life to the fullest and am proud of it.”

Today, you can purchase the look you want, the features that are important to you and your lifestyle, and the type of hearing aid that best suits your preferences – from low-cost to high-tech, you choose.

So what are you waiting for? Contact a hearing professional today and start to enjoy life the way you used to. Living in a muffled world isn’t as much fun or enriching.

Make that call today. Life is way too short to hold back just because you are worried what people think (and how will you know since you can’t hear!)

Hear life again. And that changes everything. No stigma.

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