Looking for partners and partnership

It is probably one of the most common prejudices about hearing aids: they are a hindrance if you want to get to know someone.

Amongst those with hearing loss who have not yet opted for a hearing aid (group 2), across all the countries 19% of respondents hold this view. The vote is particularly clear in the USA – here, one in three fear that it may be difficult to make new acquaintances. In the UK, the figure is just under one in four (24%), in France 15%, in Germany 12% and in Switzerland 11% of respondents worry that wearing a hearing aid will make it harder to meet someone.

What is the real truth about this prejudice?

In the “Hearing is Living” study we wanted to get to the bottom of it. First, we were interested in the experiences of hearing aid wearers themselves. The result: more than half (52%, top 2 boxes) of hearing aid owners report that they find it easy to make new acquaintances. Since 52% of respondents in the control group also said they had no problems getting to know people, there is no difference between hearing aid owners and the general population.

We wanted to find out more, and asked: “Have you had a relationship break down because of the hearing aid?” Only 3% of hearing aid users answered “yes” to this question. In comparison, in the group of non-users also 3% of respondents state that a previous relationship had broken down – albeit not because of a hearing aid, but because of their hearing loss. To cover the subject of getting to know people and partnerships from all angles, we couldn’t ignore the partners in the relationship – after all, they have their own opinions on the question “hearing aid: yes or no”? And their opinion is clear: 41% of those respondents whose partner or spouse is affected by hearing loss, but does not yet wear a hearing aid would be glad if their partner would get one. Just under one in five (19%) even believe that getting a hearing aid would improve their relationship.

And what about those respondents whose partner or spouse has already opted for a hearing aid? For them, things are even clearer. A resounding 81% confirm: “I am glad that my partner wears a hearing aid.” 40% report that they received more attention from their partner since he or she has had a hearing aid. And 38% think that they now have a better relationship (see Figure 9).

 

 

And what about those respondents whose partner or spouse has already opted for a hearing aid? For them, things are even clearer. A resounding 81% confirm: “I am glad that my partner wears a hearing aid.” 40% report that they received more attention from their partner since he or she has had a hearing aid. And 38% think that they now have a better relationship (see Figure 9).

 

Figure 9: Statements (Group 3, Partner)

The study also shows that there is no need to worry about being attractive: almost a third of hearing aid owners with moderate to severe hearing loss say that they feel attractive and desirable (29% agreement in the top 2 boxes), whilst in the comparison group without hearing aids only half as many respondents (16%) agree with this statement. And the hearing aid owners feel just as attractive and desirable as the control group (27%). Such a positive inner attitude is bound to show on the outside, and 28% of respondents with hearing aids report that they often receive compliments. Of the group who have not yet opted for a hearing aid, the figure for those who state they often receive compliments is only 22% (in each case, respondents with moderate to severe hearing loss, top 2 boxes. See Figure 10).

Figure 10: Statements

Spouses and partners also believe that a hearing aid does not detract from their partner’s attractiveness: seven out of ten respondents (70%) whose spouse or partner has hearing loss but has so far done without a hearing aid would not find their partner any less attractive if he or she were to wear one. This is echoed by the partners of the hearing aid owners, of whom 71% agree that: “My partner is not less attractive to me because he wears a hearing aid”. It is not just those study participants confronted with the subject of hearing loss because their partner is affected who are completely open to hearing aids. Those  respondents who have no close connection with the topic of “hearing and hearing loss” – the control group – also have much less anxiety about contact than affected people seem to fear. (See Figure 12).

Within the framework of the “Hearing is Living” study, we carried out a small thought experiment with the respondents from the control group. We asked them: “If you were single and wanted to get to know someone, what would be a deterrent to starting a relationship with this person?” The result: if the person in question wore glasses, that would be a hindrance to a relationship for 2% of the control group. If they wore a hearing aid, that would be a deterrent for 9%. However, if the person in question did not wear a hearing aid but definitely could not hear well, that would definitely deter 24%, or one in four respondents. Female respondents in particular show a firm opinion here: entering into a relationship with a man who does not hear well but does not wear a hearing aid would be completely out of the question for 28% of the women. And for the sake of completeness, the other side of the coin: 78% of respondents in the control group would not have a problem with starting a relationship with someone who wears a hearing aid (see Figure 12).

Figure 12: Thought experiment (control group)

What does all this mean for our previous theory that: “Hearing aids are a hindrance when you want to get to know someone”? The study results allow only one conclusion: in the search for a partner, quite evidently neither hearing loss nor hearing aids themselves represent a hindrance – it is much more likely just to be your own feeling of insecurity that stands in the way. These days, a hearing aid is just as natural as glasses, the study clearly shows. A total of 94% of the control group agree or strongly agree with the statement “In principle, I think glasses are a positive thing – if wearing glasses means you can see better, you should definitely wear them”. Almost as many, namely 92% of respondents, believe: “In principle, I think hearing aids are a positive thing – if wearing hearing aids means you can hear better, you should definitely wear them.”

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