Staefa, Switzerland, February 8, 2010
According to a survey conducted by Hear the World, a global initiative by leading hearing system manufacturer Phonak, despite significant advances in hearing technology, hearing aids were associated with old age more than any other accessories surveyed, including glasses, a wheelchair, crutches and canes for the blind. This misperception has serious consequences for the 800 million people worldwide living with hearing loss.
According to the survey, which polled 4,405 people between the ages of 14-65 years old in the United States, France, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Italy, not wanting to admit to having hearing loss in public was among the top three reasons for not wearing a hearing aid. While 93 percent (USA: 88 percent; UK: 87 percent ; GER: 94 percent ; F:98 percent ; I: 96 percent and CH: 96 percent) responded that they would wear a hearing aid if it was necessary, previous research has indicated that many people with hearing loss do not in fact wear a hearing aid. In the United States and United Kingdom alone, only one in four people requiring a hearing device actually wear one.
“Hearing loss and the solutions available to treat it have long been misunderstood, and the survey findings point to exactly that,” said Dr. Craig Kasper, chief audiology officer of Audio Help Associates of Manhattan. “Hearing aids have come a long way and it is important to the well being of those with hearing loss that these misperceptions be addressed. In fact, recent technology advances have made it possible for those who need a hearing aid to wear their devices with ease and confidence.”
Milestones in hearing technology
The first devices created to assist those with hearing loss appeared in the 17th century and were called “ear trumpets.” Due to the stigma associated with the condition since that time, “ear trumpets” were often hidden in fans, integrated into walking sticks and some were even camouflaged as diamond-encrusted pieces of jewelry.
By the 1920s, hearing aids were developed that were small enough to carry in a handbag, and by the 1940s, the first pocket devices were introduced. In the early 1960s, the behind-the-ear device (BTE) was developed and has since then undergone rapid innovation as microelectronics has progressed.
Today’s hearing aids work with digital technology and are equipped with powerful computer chips, ensuring better sound quality, wireless connectivity, modern design and ever smaller dimensions to help users wear their hearing aids with minimal detection.
Overcoming the misperceptions around hearing loss and hearing
Often neglected due to the stigma associated with the condition, hearing loss can create social and emotional barriers for the individuals living with it, or the families of those it affects. In fact, research shows that when left untreated, hearing loss can lead to reduced earning power, disruptions in family life and can cause a wide range of other psychological problems.
In fact, the Hear the World survey also found that frustration (46.8 percent) isolation (45.3 percent) and fear (36.8 percent) were the feelings most often associated with untreated hearing loss.
“What I see in my practice is that the unnecessary fear and frustration associated with hearing loss and hearing aids is often accompanied by a lack of information about ways to prevent and/or solutions available to treat the condition,” said Dr. Kasper. “This is unfortunate given that hearing loss is a condition that can be treated with great benefit for the individual, as well as for society.”
As a means of addressing this lack of information around hearing loss, Hear the World was founded in 2006 to raise awareness of hearing-related issues around the world.
“As the world gets increasingly noisier, there’s never been a more important time to be aware of our hearing at every age and to educate others about this growing issue – and that is precisely what we hope to achieve through Hear the World,” said Vanessa Erhard, Director of Communications for Hear the World.