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The Representation of Hearing Aids

I’m in the process of getting new hearing aids. My current aids are about nine years old, which is pretty OMG ancient as far as hearing aids go. Seeing as I’m comfortable with my hearing loss, I wanted to get some colors and have been hemming and hawing over what to choose.

Originally I chose black, nice and sleek. But black against black hair…it would be hidden. I don’t want to hide my hearing aids. Quite the opposite. I want them visible so people understand why I don’t always respond (or respond appropriately) to spoken words.

I went to the website to check out the colors. As I clicked around I noticed something: all the human models were a good twenty years older than me and considered senior citizens. Every. Single. One.*

(For the record, they were white, affluent looking, so ageism is clearly not the only problem here.)

Now, I understand most people with hearing loss are older and suffer from late onset loss. I get that, truly I do. But I’ve worn hearing aids since I was six years old, I’m getting close to three decades with the devices. And considering most last about five years on average (hence my current ancient ones), I’ve had quite a few in my time, and will continue to have quite a few.

So let’s throw me into the equation: I’m looking up hearing aids, checking out the cool colors they finally, finally, have, and struggling to find my color of choice since they don’t have purple (side note: we need purple!). And then I check out the models, the people that are supposed to represent me: fail.

What about me back when I was six? Because this has always been my problem: my supposed role models were elders. Not younger people with hearing loss. In fact, the representation of hearing loss is so vastly focused on the elderly, us youngins get very little notice. And by the time I am old enough to fit the demographic I still won’t be part of the demographic due to my lifelong hearing loss and use of hearing aids.

Back to the representation on a popular hearing aid manufacturers site. I would fully expect many of the pictures to be of older models. This is the main demographic and where the money is coming from. I get it, make it look sexy for the person who would much rather say “what” and blame others for not talking loud enough. But what’s the harm in having a picture or two of someone younger? Be it a kid or a young adult? What’s the harm in showing a bright blue hearing aid on someone young, smiling, proud to wear aids?

Because it’s not out there. I’ll gladly take a picture of my blue hearing aid once I get it, but I’m not a model. We need to change how we view hearing loss in general and take the stigma out of it. So another little girl like me is able to be proud of her hearing aids. So another young adult dealing with loss doesn’t feel alienated and older than s/he should be.

Bottom line: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HEARING LOSS. Sure, it poses some communication issues, but it can be worked around. The more positive information that is out there, the more we can help comfort those stepping into our world.

It’s not about a microscopic aid for an older person who doesn’t want to admit to hearing loss. It’s about needing all different kinds of aids and being comfortable with them. My blue hearing aid heading my way? That is the largest and most powerful option, because that is what my ear needs. My other ear could wear those tiny hearing aids. I don’t want it. I’m comfortable with bigger sizes. Size isn’t an issue, getting the sound I need is.

And, having a little fun with it while I’m at it. I’ve always joked I need hearing aids with red flashing lights, because no one expects a young female to have a hearing loss. One day, that will change, but my history will not.

Take a look at my bio picture. That’s me. I may have taken off my glasses for the shoot, but both hearing aids are in my ears. And if I liked my hair up that day, I would have shown them off for all to see.

*Note: I went back after I wrote this and did a more thorough exploration of the pictures on the site. There is a kids section, with one child with a hearing aid. There is also a model younger than the two I mention, but still representing an older demographic. The only picture of any sort of color was a link to someplace else. The fact that I had to search for other kinds of representation is a red flag, the diversity should be front and center for all to see.

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2 thoughts on “The Representation of Hearing Aids

  1. Hi Laura – We recently read your blog and found it very interesting. We appreciate all feedback and understand your point about using older adults to market our products. While it is true that older people represent the majority of our customers, we also sell many hearing aids to younger people. At Widex, we believe that people with hearing loss can do anything. That’s why the campaign for our newest hearing aid features much younger models than in previous campaigns and focuses on active lifestyles. Check out this preview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Atf6zZK0K_U

    We love reading your story and are looking forward to your new book. Please contact us if you have any further suggestions.

    And as for that purple hearing aid . . . we’re working on it!

    Cheers,

    Stephanie at Widex

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and listening to my concerns. I love that video and how it shows hearing loss can be just an is, not something to slow a person down. I look forward to seeing purple as a color selection soon!

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