Arizona Hearing Center - April 2020

2627 North Third Street, Ste. 100, Phoenix, AZ 85004 | 14418 West Meeker Blvd., Bldg. B, Ste. 102, Sun City West, AZ 85375

April 2020

602-277-4327 |

Hearing Aids Are Technology

And It’s Time We Started Treating Them Like It

hearing aids, but patients often see getting a hearing aid as a serious disruption to their life. In a sense, hearing aids are like assisted living facilities. Some folks in their 70s today still remember a time when being moved out of a family home meant going to a dismal and gloomy nursing home. As such, they are understandably resistant to such accommodations, seeing them as a personal affront at best and complete abandonment at worst. In the first season of “The Sopranos,” Tony Soprano himself struggles to convince his mother, Livia, to move into a lavish facility that more closely resembles a resort in the Cap d’Antibes than a stereotypical nursing home. “Green Grove is a retirement community,” Tony pleads with his mother, but the message never gets through. We can’t let this stigmatized view of hearing aids persist, especially in a world where wearing high-tech gadgets has become in vogue. Walk the streets in a major city today and you’ll see dozens of people with AirPods tucked into their ears. These headphones, which are way more conspicuous than modern hearing aids, are not seen as a sign of weakness or degradation. In fact, they are just the opposite. Wearing them comes with a sense of prestige and cultural cache. Hearing aids needn’t be any different, provided we escape what I like to call brick-phone mentality that persists for no apparent reason.

Have you ever considered how we treat hearing aids differently than glasses? Glasses may not have microprocessors or machine learning, but they do offer a technological solution to a biological problem all the same. Just like hearing aids, they help compensate for an extremely common sensorial deficiency, but the way we view and talk about the two couldn’t be more different. Glasses are considered a normal, even fashionable, object, while hearing aids are viewed as an admission of weakness or old age. This mentality doesn’t serve patients, and it’s increasingly ridiculous in our evermore tech-obsessed world. In 2013, The Atlantic published a fascinating interview with author and design theorist Sara Hendren titled “Why Are Glasses Perceived Differently Than Hearing Aids?” Glasses, Hendren postulates, are not seen as a tool for people who are “handicapped” or in need of “assistive technology.” For some reason, though, hearing aids have not escaped this stigma in the same way. She argues that all technology is assistive by nature. Stigmatizing technology only serves to keep people from feeling confident in seeking it out. “By returning ‘assistive technology’ to its rightful place as just ‘technology’ — no more, no less — we start to understand that all bodies are getting assistance, all the time,” Hendren says. That’s exactly what needs to happen with hearing aids. There should be no stigma associated with wearing

Newsflash: Hearing aid technology has advanced just as much as any other type of tech. Nobody purchases a gigantic, brick-shaped cellphone anymore, nor do they have the hearing aid equivalent. The sooner we begin to talk about hearing aids as a piece of technology like any other, rather than as a crutch for the old and infirm, the faster we can abolish the pernicious and ridiculous stigma surrounding their use. Would you want to get yourself some glasses or contacts as soon as your vision started to fail, or would you prefer to wait until you can no longer read a menu or drive a car to explore your treatment options? The answer is clear, even if your vision is not, and we have

a responsibility to make sure hearing loss is treated in the same fashion.

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