A neighbor leaned in close, putting her ear near mine. “Can you hear it?” she asked, referring to her new hearing aid? Yes. Yes, I could hear her hearing aid announcing that it had been inserted correctly.
They haven't gotten any cheaper (the average price for a pair of hearing aids hovers around $4,000) and users often find them less than satisfactory. Further, many who could benefit don't use hearing aids because there is a cultural stigma attached to them.
Recently, Barnard College professor, Jennifer Finney Boylan, in an opinion piece in The New York Times, wrote about the cultural acceptance gap between eyeglasses and hearing aids:
”Why, I wonder, is it that devices to keep you from being blind are celebrated as fashion, but devices to keep you from being deaf are embarrassing and uncool? Why is it that the biggest compliment someone can give you about your hearing aids is 'I can hardly see them'?”
I've often wondered that myself. Hearing aids may not work as well as eyeglasses do, but that or the need to feel “cool” shouldn't be a reason for so many people to choose silence. Ms. Boylan continues:
”Among those in their 50s, 4.5 million people have some hearing loss. How many wear devices that would enable them to better hear the world? Less than 5 percent.
“Wearing hearing aids can change your life in an instant — not to mention that of the people you love, whose actual voices you may have been unable to hear. But we don’t get help.
“Because coverage by insurance carriers is inconsistent. Because we don’t know where or how to get our hearing tested. Because we’re afraid of what others might think. Because hearing loss is uncool.”
And they are wildly expensive but Boylan takes that on too while explaining some of the advances that are making hearing aids more successful for users.
Earlier this year, CNN reported on 78-year-old New Yorker, Peter Sprague, another who wants to make hearing aids cool. He's gone so far as to create a prototype of his idea, to start a company and to seek venture capital funding. Here he is in a short video explaining it all:
The hearing aids are called HearGlass which is, according to Sprague's company website, a
”...disruptive wearable device that incorporates full audio spectrum HiFi [hearing aids] into eyeglasses, allowing for a directional hearing experience superior to traditional [hearing aids]. Bluetooth/WiFi capabilities allow for hands-free music streaming, telephony, voice-activated commands and on-the-fly setting changes.”
You can find out more at the website. HearGlass is not yet available, Sprague is still in the fundraising phase and I have no idea if they work well. I'm not here to sell them.
I just like the idea that there are some people trying to remove the stigma from hearing aids so maybe more people will use them.