Now Hear This

September 14, 2008

While out doing my shopping the other day, I found myself walking behind a young mum who was happily pushing her child along in a buggy. Nothing unusual in this or so I thought until I spotted that the mother was wearing bilateral hearing aids. She had a skin-toned hearing aid mounted behind each ear and they looked like the sort of thing that my granny would have worn. The poor girl , I thought.  It’s bad enough having to cope with a disability such as hearing loss but surely she shouldn’t have to put up with these very uncool-looking devices just to be able to hear.  Why can’t hearing aids look sexy?

As I walked back to my car I couldn’t stop thinking about this injustice.  In this day and age of technology where every second young person is wearing an earphone attached to a mobile phone, iPod or whatever, it seems incongruous that hearing-impaired people should be expected to disguise their hearing loss. Since the ban was introduced to stop the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving, a huge range of fancy ear pieces have appeared to facilitate drivers who want to talk and drive.  I fail to see why hearing aids can’t be made to look like the multitude of earphones now on the market.  I guess like everything else, it all comes down to money and the skin-toned version above, is probably the best the HSE is prepared to fund on a medical card.

I did a little research and came up with the same old design but at least I found it in some more interesting shades.

Have you ever seen anyone wearing a funky looking hearing aid?  I know I haven’t.  Instead of blending in a hearing aid with the skin, why not make a statement with them? Wheelchair users get to have fun with colours so why can’t hearing aid users have fun too?

Then I looked a little harder and I came up with these from a US manufacturer.

These ones are glitzy enough to resemble jewellery.  I’m sure they’re very pricey but they’re fun and this new generation of hearing aids can be used as wireless receivers for cell phones as well as computers, iPods and TVs. It’s great to find that for some people at least, hearing devices can become an item of self-expression. Some manufacturers have even renamed them PCAs or Personal Communication Assistants.

I’d be very interested to hear other people’s views on this issue. Surely I’m not the only one who thinks that the hearing aids supplied by our health service, are seriously uncool?