Do you think media images of outdated hearing aids are helping to perpetuate the negative stigma surrounding hearing loss? When AARP faced a similar issue with photos of seniors, they partnered with Getty Images to change it. In my latest article for FindHearing, I discuss how more modern images could help break down hearing loss stigma and call on Getty Images and others to help us make it a reality. See an excerpt from the piece below.
Where are Stock Images of People with Hearing Loss?
Have you ever looked for a stock image of someone with hearing loss? They are not easy to find. This leaves few options for media outlets searching for images to use with news stories about hearing loss. This problem is on clear display in recent posts from Huffington Post and The Conversation.
Photo Credit: Dr. Barbra Timmer, Audiology Australia
Each article features hearing devices that are decades old. Outdated images perpetuate the stigmatized idea that hearing aids are ugly, embarrassing and should be hidden from view. More realistic imagery would help break down this stigma and reduce some of the social barriers people face when considering whether or not to give hearing aids a try.
The truth is that many hearing devices are attractive. Today’s hearing aids come in sleek colors and boast modern shapes. They have shrunk in size to fit discreetly behind an ear or can be personalized with stickers and jewelry to make them more visible. Hearing aids can be worn with pride and confidence, yet often they are not, as misinformation and a dearth of role models keeps the stigma alive.
Current stock images of hearing aids are outdated, inaccurate and unattractive
More realistic images would help break down much of the stigma associated with hearing aids, but where can we find them? Few good options exist.
In 2019, AARP faced a similar problem with stereotypes surrounding aging, bemoaning the lack of attractive images of people 50+ enjoying the active lifestyle that more accurately reflects aging in today’s world. In collaboration with Getty Images, they decided to do something about it, launching the Disrupt Aging Collection, a paid library of more than 1,400 images that paint a more accurate portrait of how people age in today’s society — free of ageist stereotypes.
Can we do the same for people with hearing loss — only with free images? What do you say Getty Images? Can you help?
Continue reading on FindHearing for ways you can help break down stigma.
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24 thoughts on “Outdated Hearing Aid Images Promote Hearing Loss Stigma”
Absolutely 100% true. Perception is reality. And when the perception is outdated and unattractive, it perpetuates stigma and stops people from improving their quality of life through hearing health.
Well said. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
So true! Hearing aids visuals should be marketed better. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your view.
My issue with hearing aid stock photos is they are too often of poor befuddled seniors with frustrated partners. You want to remove the stigma? Show people of all ages wearing them. And don’t make us look unintelligent.
Great suggestion! Thank you for sharing your point of view.
When I was teaching my “Buying a Hearing Aid – ARGHH!!” course one of the highlights I didn’t expect to get such positive response from was bringing in some hearing aids to let people see, touch and feel them. I had some “dummy” BTEs that Oticon gladly gave me after the last HLAA convention, and a few of my own, plus photos of current models. People really do have a notion that hearing aids look like what their grandfathers wore! Let me know how I can help. I like the concept that AARP developed so piggy backing on that approach makes sense. Thanks for bringing up an idea I’d never thought about before!
Maybe we can organize a photo shoot at the next in-person HLAA convention. Thanks for your comment.
I was so pleased to see what you are suggesting. For a long time I’ve been walking round burning up with anger at manufacturers whose advertisements for minute hearing aids are definitely promoting stigma. When I’ve asked them, they say No, they are responding to demand and will continue. Both can be true, but I think catering so publicly to that demand is the worst of worlds. Maybe they want to perpetuate demand in this way.
But I have one concern, related to what I’ve just said. Those tiny hearing aids can’t carry all features, and often don’t have a t-coil. I’m afraid photos would just make that dynamic worse. I’ve wanted to go the other direction: get hearing aids to be more like those hearables you mention and advertise them for fashion. Go the route glasses went. I’m 85, and I remember when I was diagnosed with short sight at age 5. I still remember the grief around me. Oh, she’ll be called four-eyes, she’ll have to endure endless teasing. That largely wasn’t the case, where I was, but the fear is enough to put people off who can choose (at 5, I couldn’t!). But look at glasses now? Talk about fashion! So I think hearing aids should stand out in shape, size and color. But I’ve felt very alone about this. And it would need heavy promotion. Oh, for a day when I might want to cut my hair to be able to show off my hearing aids!!
I live in North Carolina, and when our (almost vanished) State Association tried to get a mandate that audiologists must at least tell their clients about t-coils and loops, the governor at that time said he was not going to tell business people how to run their business!
Thank you for sharing your perspective and your good ideas.
Thanks for the article and your adovcacy Shari!
And, Karson, I’m with you! I HATE all this shame-creating promotion about tiny HAs. I’ve ever only heard about the need for “tiny” “invisible” HAs from HA manufacturers’ ads. I don’t want tiny — I want people to see my HAs and then remember to face me when they speak and to project consistently. That’s why I cut my hair to show off my (gorgeous RED) HAs. (Do it! go for the haircut!) BUt they’re still too small for most people to see. And am I ever over people saying, “If you need help, why don’t you get hearing aids?”
I’d boycott manufacturers who promote Hearing Aid invisibility — but there wouldn’t be any left. It’s hard to want to spend $6500 with a company that insults me and my community.
And don’t get me started: In effort to make HAs that are too tiny for aging hands, my brand-of-previous choice dropped the T-Coil. They promised a T-coil inclusive model but never released it. I tried out their “hot new technology model” — and the accessory I had to use to get access to a t-coil, to hear, for example, the announcements on the subway platform. Rather than just switching programs to hear them, I had to dig out the accessory, turn it on, wait for it to come up, THEN turn push the (tiny) button to turn on the t-coil — by which time the announcement was over and the train had left the station. Swell. Their “great” nifty new technology puts me back to begging strangers to interpret the subway announcements for me? THAT’s progress?!! My last two sets of hearing aids solved that problem for me.
Needless to say, even though I was ready to buy new HA’s last fall, I’m not buying anything that makes my life so much harder, “nifty new technology” or not. I hope manufacturer’s start getting the message that those of use who have been using HAs for awhile aren’t buying anything without t-coils. We’re not going backwards.
And while I know they want to do outreach to “younger” people who need HAs — us elders are a primary market. And “tiny” HAs and “tiny” buttons and extra accessories to access loops are NOT what we want or need.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I could not agree more. When I was first offered hearing aids in 2006 (having already struggled for years) at the age of 63 I was very reluctant to wear the old beige BTE ones I was offered. I said then that whilst spectacles were promoted as fashion accessories as well items to enhance vision hearing aids were not promoted in the same way. Since then things have improved and younger people in particular ‘bling’ their hearing aids. I find telling people I wear hearing aids hugely helpful. Apart from a few who think the pardon ‘joke’ is funny and acceptable most people are very accommodating. I think we are moving in the right direction but I do agree that advertising hearing aids as being almost invisible is not always helpful.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Every time I go out now to a store, dr’s office etc I experience frustration bc I cannot understand speech when the speaker is wearing a face mask. People don’t seem to grasp that I cannot understand them, even when I tell him correctly. I’ve experienced that I love, looks, people just repeating what you’re saying but speaking more loudly gas and when they do that, it makes me feel angry and frustrated and frustrated. I find that managers are not only insensitive to the needs of heart of hearing and deaf people but also treat us With exasperation. It does not seem to be any training for managers to the staff about how to take measures to make sure that their deaf clients understand. And because Covid is not going away anytime too soon, that’s going to continue for at least another year. Or meet at means another year of bad experiences. What do you suggest?
It is very frustrating. Here is a recent post on this topic. I hope you find it helpful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. https://livingwithhearingloss.com/2020/06/09/hearing-loss-masks-are-a-tough-combination/
Current aids about four years old………..will not spend $5,000 on new ones
In senior living community..96 years old
Daughter is EN T. Says mom your hearing cannot improve
Next step,for me trying speech to text…….several,different onesAVA
My dream would be to sit at table for six and really join in conversion
Would like to find audiologist who would explore speech to text overall and not just for brands they “sell”. Also more attention within senior communities to abate noise and acknowledge our efforts to be more able to really understand
Would like.to advocate more but being “locked in” and isolated need suggestions
These are great areas for advocacy. Is there an HLAA chapter near you that you could join? Many are hosting virtual meetings to share tips about coping during the pandemic. There is one on Saturday. Read more about it here: https://hearingloss.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcrd-qtqzkoE9Z55HB3I0zEK0xfGq8U9ikT
it’s so helpful to be up front about your hearing loss, so that the chance that people will be more accommodating, is greater. way to go!
So true. Thanks for sharing your advice.