My prize for the most infuriating newspaper ad about deafness is the one for Hidden Hearing Ltd – “Pensioners stampede for new hearing aid”. Really? I don’t think so. How to patronise retired people in one easy lesson? Possibly. Company has no copy writers over the age of thirty? Quite likely. Or perhaps it’s just me and I lack a sense of humour.
The point of the advert is to promote one of the tiny, in-the-ear-canal hearing aids that are totally invisible when worn. They literally fit right down inside your ear, with nothing at all showing in or on the visible bits. Sadly, they are only suitable for people with the milder levels of hearing loss or I’d have put my name down. But the debate about the pros and cons of “invisible” hearing aids crops up quite often in the online deaf/hearing loss community, with a lot of people arguing that “invisible” equates to “something to be ashamed of”. Why should we be ashamed of our hearing loss, they say?
I can see both sides.
As someone who needed glasses from the age of ten and made a mad dash for contact lenses as soon as I could get them, at nineteen (“teenagers stampede for contact lenses”?) I identify completely with the vanity aspects of one’s choice of medical aids. It’s very possible to “pass” as hearing when your hearing loss is mild and, to me, there is no difference between embracing that and embracing contact lenses. I could see and I could hear and I was vain enough to care that what I did to achieve that was pretty well hidden. All power to the people with mild hearing loss, I say. Go and get something invisible if you want – I would too in your shoes.
But there are two big differences between spectacles and hearing aids. One – spectacles are positively trendy these days. High Street shops compete to sell you fashionable frames at knock down prices. Two – there is no stigma attached to wearing them. And that’s the rub, in respect of hearing loss, because there is still a stigma attached to being deaf. Hearing loss Facebook groups constantly see new members shocked and horrified to be told they need hearing aids, to an extent that would certainly not apply if they’d just been told they were short sighted.
The problem is, of course, that when hearing aid manufacturers say “not many people want to get hearing aids” and “nobody can see your hearing aid when it’s in” it does nothing to reduce that stigma. It makes hearing loss sound like some shameful thing, to be stuffed in a closet and not talked about. That is what so many in the deaf community object to, and they have a point. How do we end the stigma of hearing loss if we’re all desperately trying to hide it?
What do you think? Are you a “hider” or do you flaunt your hearing aids (or implant) proudly? Me, I’ve been a hider and now I’m a flaunter, so I’m sitting on the fence on this one.
19 thoughts on “Are you a hider or a flaunter?”
Hello Vera, I totally agree with you. I think the adverts for ‘hidden hearing’ aids are totally misleading. There must be a lot of disappointed people after their consultation who are told that in the ear aids are not suitable for them.
I also wear ‘trendy’ glasses as well as hearing aids and would love to be able to wear in the ear aids. I find wearing glasses and behind the ear hearing aids quite inconvenient as due to my hearing loss I have to have tubes with ear moulds rather than the open fit type, and then there is the problem if the hearing aid get knocked out of the ear.
Yep, there’s just too many things going on around the ear for comfort and fitting the hearing aid tubing perfectly (so your HA doesn’t fall off when you shake your head) is not as easy as it looks. One audiologist, when she was struggling to get the tubing perfectly aligned, said the problem was that I had “unusually shaped ears”, but they look pretty normal to me!
I lost all my hearing at 34, and then got some back and have been left severely deaf. I’ve never tried to hide my aids – how can strangers communicate with me if they can’t see that I’m deaf?
Incidentally Hidden Hearing are a fabulous company, even if their advertising is a bit…unusual! They wouldn’t attract me with that advert.
Hello Joy. I’m sure, as you say, that Hidden Hearing produce very good hearing aids!
Hi Vera! You are absolutely right on the button with this article. When I first had to have hearing aids back in 1990 I recoiled in horror when the consultant placed a NHS behind-the-ear hearing aid on his desk to show me what the future looked like! Fortunately another member of the audiology team knew of a way for me to obtain private in-the-ear aids through the hospital at a reasonable cost and I was only too pleased to say “Yes please!” It wasn’t just for reasons of vanity but for self-confidence and the need to retain a certain self-image and esteem. Eventually, my hearing deteriorated to the level where in-the-ear aids were no longer powerful enough and I had to surrender to the behind-the-ear type, which I still wear today. I keep my hair in a “bob” style which covers ears both back and front – except on a windy day! I have never been a “flaunter”; I used to be a “hider”; but these days I’m more of a “don’t really care – er”.
On the subject of Specsavers, I always smile – giggle, even – at their TV adverts concerning poor eye-sight. Yet I cringe at the ones about loss of hearing. Still a long way to go …….
Hello Liz. I think part of the problem is that, even with private hearing aids, they still look very “medical”. There’s no attempt to make them look trendy. Another issue perhaps is that people often have problems with their eyesight from childhood. There’s no stigma of sight loss being an “old age” thing, when there so often is with hearing loss. (Of course, plenty of people have hearing problems from childhood, but not in the same numbers). Of course, why should “old age” be a stigma anyway………….but it is. Take care, and thanks for commenting. Vera.
I have very short hair so I can’t hide my aids. Saying that I don’t think that I’d want to.
My aids (NHS BTEs with moulds) hopefully give everyone a bit of a clue to the fact that I’m hard of hearing.
On the subject of stigma. It might help to get rid of any stigma if more and more people didn’t hide their aids.
Hi Ian. I think I’d forgotten that male hair styles at the moment don’t give men so much of an option! I think you are right about stigma, but I think more people (women?) might be prepared to be more upfront if hearing aids were a little jollier/trendier/modern looking. I’m sure there’s a way, if there was a will. All the best. Vera.
TV adverts for some hearing aid providers don’t help the stigma associated with hearing aids. Both Age UK and Boots in recent times have had TV ads focusing on so called “invisible” hearing aids thereby implying no-one should be seen to be wearing hearing aids.
The most important point for anyone considering hearing aids is to get aids that actually help them to hear, not the size of the devices.
Good point Ian.
I went through a gradual process over 20 odd years from downright horror on initially learning I’d have to wear aids (definitely something for “old” people), making sure whenever I went to the hairdresser he left my hair long enough to hide them and doing my utmost to avoid admitting I had a hearing loss all the way through to the polar opposite today.
I’m deaf and I need people to know so that I don’t add to the communication hurdles I have to daily overcome. My hair is short, I tell everyone on introduction I’m deaf and if that doesn’t give the game away there’s always Hearing Dog Elmo to push the message home!
Yes, there is still a stigma attached (why is it people instinctively sympathise with the blind but are embarrassed for the deaf, or worse) but I won’t allow that to become my problem. Instead I try to put them at their ease by educating, usually through humour.
But I’m not so much of a flaunter to go to the fantastic efforts of pimping my aids with bling that I see, and applaud, many of the younger aid wearers doing on social media. All power to them! As ever, horses for courses.
Hi. I suspect there’s a link, for many of us, between the degree of hearing loss and attitudes towards hearing aids. When I had quite a mild loss I was happy to be a hider. When things got worse it was more a case of “bugger this……I’m deaf and I need people to know it”………
I grew my hair when I needed to move from in the ear aids to more powerful behind the ear ones. In those days I was definitely a hider. These days I’m just glad if they help me to hear so I’m less bothered, however I do wish I’d had a choice and not the sticking plaster pink I’ve been given! I’m not ashamed of my hearing loss, I’m awaiting a hearing dog and that’s a very bit “I’m deaf” statement. I just wish heating aids could be both effective and a bit prettier.
Take a look on Hearing Loss UK Facebook page to see how people pimp their aids with small stick-on decals, usually for finger nails. Also there are colour choices in aids these days, mine are silver, though it does vary depending on NHS area and manufacturer for instance. Some people ask for children’s hearing aids as they often offer a wider colour range. Though obviously they tend to be smaller so that’s another factor to be considered.
Perhaps this is a career opportunity ha ha! I volunteer for hearing dogs, maybe we should have a “come and bling up your hearing aid” stall at the next event!
Hello Heather. We need hearing aids to break into “spectacles mode.” I remember the NHS frames they used to give people in the old days, before frames became so cheap (relatively speaking) that more or less everyone started buying them at a High Street shop. There is so much that could be done with hearing aids. They could be shaped differently. They could come in lots of fun colours and patterns. Somehow even the non NHS aids look like NHS aids (and that’s even in countries that don’t have an NHS!).
I remember those frames too! Children’s were either clear, pink or blue plastic I recall. I definitely think the stigma arises from the jovial (and still inappropriate) way age related hearing loss has been viewed. I can remember a children’s book called “can you hear me?” About an elderly relatives hearing confusion written in a jokey rhyming form! Appalling!
I wear glasses too as I’ve got older and definitely think if I’ve got to wear them then I want statement specs, not sure how we go about getting hearing aid manufacturers to wise up. Silver seems a little more “racy” ha ha. I shall ask more next time I have new ones!
Hi Vera. Oh, I would so love to make my hearing loss visible! As you know, my hearing loss is only in one ear, and as there is very little hearing left so a ‘normal’ hearing aid couldn’t help me. I tried the CROS aid and didn’t find it useful. However, I loved wearing it! I put my hair behind my ears to make them visible, so people would know I was hard of hearing. I felt more relaxed knowing that I had a visible sign of my hearing loss. I didn’t attempt to constantly scan the room or area around me to see if people were talking to me – they could see I may not hear them…
Interesting blog post Vera. I can also understand how people may not like their hearing loss on display…
Hope you are well?
Interesting. As well as the hiders and flaunters there are the I-wish-I-could-flaunt people. I hadn’t thought of that. Vera.