Why is hearing aid uptake still low

It seems to have been my role for years to challenge thinking in audiology, when I am just passionate about helping people to be able to hear better, and using good science, technology and services to achieve that. Which is why, years ago now, we started Blamey Saunders. I postulate that we audiologists might actually be reinforcing the perceived stigma of using hearing aids by being overly therapeutic and medical. In an era when older folk have had to learn to book anything and everything online (even a doctor’s appointment), need an App to get a taxi or a rideshare, order our food via the QR code at our table, and do our banking, we can surely trust them to set up and use hearing aids, as long as they are designed to be easy (Blamey Saunders used an end to end technology model that made it easy to self test and self fit. The hearing aid sound processing was designed to sound good and be easy to use. And our tele-audiologists were trained in customer service.
So we should be making getting hearing aids easy and not depressingly therapeutic. As our designer, Dr Leah Heiss said “Desirability, not disability”. Of course some people with hearing loss need more help than others. And the data indicates that they are the people with more severe hearing difficulties, complicated hearing issues, and people with more than one health problem. So why are we expecting people who just have a bit of difficulty hearing to respond to a very medical sounding model. Someone may want to hear a bit better, but the concept of “needing rehabilitation” is probably enough to send your average 50 to 60 year old running away. So why are we promoting as though everyone is an invalid, when what the majority need is good customer service, for which informational counselling is an overly posh word.
So what differentiators should a hearing aid audiologist advertise? My view is that it should be benefits that reflect obvious value to the customer – things like cutting edge knowledge of the latest research in hearing and hearing devices; knowledge of research in the wide variety of devices and treatments available today. Few audiologists say this on their shingle.
What should the consumer with mild hearing difficulties expect: – Good value? Clear instructions? A differential diagnosis? I’d suggest, all of those. But let’s not burden people with the expectation that they need to be “rehabilitated”. And don’t let me start on “Person centred care” – which is what everyone in healthcare should be doing as a baseline.

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