Hearing loss used to be a hallmark of old age. Picture an old lady in a rocking chair with a big cone jutting out of her ear, and you get the image.
Luckily, hearing aids aren’t the bulky distractions they used to be. They’ve become sleek and designer-inspired, and the technology allows the best hearing yet.
The changing look of hearing aids is following our changing attitudes of what it means to be “old.”
Boomers bring attitude
Historically, there’s been a big stigma associated with wearing hearing aids, says Nancy Tye Murray, Ph.D., research professor with the department of otolaryngology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo.
That attitude is changing as the baby boom generation ages.
Boomers don’t want to admit to aging as previous generations have, she says. In fact, she draws a distinction between “traditional” old, like the generation that lived through the Great Depression, and baby boomers now 60 and older. Traditional seniors, she says, are more comfortable with changes, like hearing loss, that come with age.
Technology keeps pace
This shift in attitude has paved the way for advances in hearing aid technology.
“One of the industry’s biggest leaps forward has been a new generation of hearing aids developed to meet the situational needs of boomers with active lifestyles,” says Alyssa R. Needleman, Ph.D., certified audiologist with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
New devices can monitor different hearing situations and modulate themselves to effectively amplify sounds in difficult listening situations. For people who wear aids in both ears, the devices can now “talk” to each other to provide the best signal possible, Needleman says.
Hearing goes hip
Everyone now walks around with an earpiece, from the businessman with a Bluetooth device to teens with iPods. Tye Murray says: “It’s just as likely a teen walking around with something in his ear as an 80-year-old man.”
Some companies are making hearing aid devices that are fashion statements. For example, one company offers hearing aids in designer colors and prints, like hot pink or leopard.
Price is nice
“By lowering the price and making it easy to buy, companies have opened the hearing aid market to working people of all ages, many of whom may not be in a position to invest thousands in a traditional aid,” Needleman says.
She’s especially impressed with a disposable hearing aid that’s less than $80, so if it’s lost while playing with the kids, it’s easier and more cost-effective to replace.
author: Tara Kingston