Hearing Aid Stigma – Patient’s Perspective

packageHearing instrument technology has certainly come a long way over the past ten years.  Digital advances have made hearing instruments more versatile, offering consumers wireless connection to other devices including Smartphones and audio devices. Hearing instruments have also become smaller and re-designed to be less noticeable to the non-wearer, an aesthetic issue of relative high importance to the end-user.  As such, it serves as no surprise that the smaller receiver-in-the-canal/ear (RIC/RITE) BTE instruments represented approximately 60% of all hearing instruments sold in the commercial sector in the United States during the first quarter of 2014 (see Hearing Review article from April 11, 2014). From this perspective, one could argue that the hearing industry has accomplished the mission of not only providing quality hearing instruments, but presenting all the necessary components in a perfectly acceptable package.

a-different-perspectiveAs an audiologist, I assumed that the introduction of thin tube and RIC/RITE BTEs would essentially eliminate any reluctance on the part of the patient to actually wear hearing instruments. To me, they are not noticeable at all unless you knew what to look for and got really close to someone’s ear. So, when I was made aware of the new product Vanish, I simply could not see the need for such a product.  That perspective changed pretty quickly upon reading the following letter from a patient residing in San Jose, California:

vanish-1I would like to tell you how awesome I think your Vanish product worked for me.  I recently had to get my first hearing aids and did so very reluctantly.  My main issue was the stigma associated with wearing them.  I was positive that everyone would be able to see the tubes (refer to the image at the right), know I am wearing hearing aids, and for some reason think less of me.  I know this was wrong, but for the first three weeks I was so self-conscious about having the visible tubes running over and into my ear that I was continually looking in the mirror and trying to adjust them so they wouldn’t be so visible.    

vanish-2Today I had my tubes treated with the Vanish product and it completely changed the way I feel about wearing them (refer to image to the left).  Immediately after getting the treatment completed I asked my wife what she thought.  Her comment was that I needed to put them in so she could decide.  I told her I did have them in and she had to get her glasses out and get within about a foot to even see them.  I look in the mirror now and literally cannot see the tubes unless I turn my head sideways and get about six inches away. There is no way for me to express how grateful I am for Vanish. 

This is a product that could change the entire hearing aid industry as people would no longer feel the stigma of having to wear them.  I waited to get mine at least a year or two longer than I should have simply because I didn’t want to go through the embarrassment.  Due to this I missed out on so much because of my hearing loss.   I am maybe the happiest hearing aid wearer in the country today!

Keith Walters, San Jose Ca.

teachable-momentsThe unsolicited letter from a hearing instrument wearer offered a teaching moment to me as an audiologist.  Regardless of how unnoticeable a hearing instrument may seem to me, if a patient feels self-conscious about wearing appropriately fit devices for whatever reason, I need to listen and try to figure out a solution.  Of course, choosing NOT to wear hearing instruments when warranted and constantly asking Brain-Food-Food-for-Thought-245x300“What?” or admitting “I didn’t hear you” or “Can you repeat that?” tends to be way more noticeable to others; I totally get it. However, in this particular case, it is not about me as the audiologist.  It is about Mr. Walters and his desire to make his hearing instruments less noticeable.  Now there is an easy solution to this problem that you can offer your patients. So, if you experienced the same reaction to this product as I initially did, it may be worth reconsidering, particularly when a patient appears self-conscious about wearing hearing instruments. This is what they probably really want and you can certainly deliver! Food for thought to my #Audpeeps!

About AU Bankaitis

A.U. Bankaitis, PhD is a clinical Audiologist with extensive clinical, research, and business experience within the hearing industry. Dr. Bankaitis created this blog to educate her colleagues on viable product solutions for their patients and/or clinical practice.
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4 Responses to Hearing Aid Stigma – Patient’s Perspective

  1. Erin Bagley says:

    Does this work on receiver wires or just slim tubes? It looks like a RIC in the above photo, but I couldn’t tell from the product description.

  2. Julie Jackovich says:

    So glad you posted this. Audiologists should really take another look at this product. Especially if they do have a patient on the fence about wearing aids because they don’t want anyone to, “notice,” this will really help convince them that life would be so much better if they can hear!

    • aubankaitis says:

      thanks for the feedback Julie; I know you talk to a lot of our customers who perhaps may not be convinced this product has a place. reading the letter by the patient has changed my tune for sure.

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