Newsflash! Hearing Aids Are Cool!

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A long time a go in a place far, far away, a certain class of people were once not so affectionately known as retards. Now, far more affectionately, if a bit sterile-sounding, they're known as mentally-impaired/challenged/disabled. As well, there once was a class of people known as cripples. These very same people are now known as the handicapped.

In the 19th century, doctors coined the terms midget and dwarf to describe people whose height was other than normal or proportional. These height-challenged (oops, did we just make up a new one?) are now known as little people. Doctors even threw around the terms moron, imbecile and idiot to describe people of varying (and low) IQ levels. Now, not so much.

Which, for the purposes of this story, all brings us full circle to the innocuous hearing aid, that small device placed in one's ear to help them hear better. While some of the aforementioned name changes certainly needed to be made, one wonders if, now, a hearing aid really needs to be known as a "personal communication assistant." A company called Phonak thinks so and has dubbed their new line of multi-colored devices as such.

Hearing Mojo takes a look at the changing world of hearing aid marketing and device manufacturers' seemingly new strategy of hipifying the lowly audio device. With ads ranging from a shirtless buff dude to a man in a bee keeper outfit, one hearing aid maker, Audeo has taken a left down fashionista lane hoping to remove any stigma people might associate with wearing a hearing aid. The company has released its hearing aid line in 15 colors with names like Pinot Noir, Pure Passion and Green With Envy.

On one hand, the shift towards making hearing aids cool seems misguided since they aren't which isn't to imply there's something uncool about a person who wears them but they are what they are. It's as simple as that. Some things don't need the Dolce and Gabbana treatment. On the other hand, with the aging of baby boomers who, as a group, still don't want to admit they've become responsible adults, this hippication of the device makes perfect sense. It plays directly into the notion many 50 year olds still think they're still cool enough to regularly hang out with 25 year olds. It's all about youth, baby. Wisdom is for losers. And the lowly hearing aid makers are along for the ride.

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Comments



Comments

"Lowly hearing aids," such as the Phonak Audeo and Oticon Delta (the latter of which actually pioneered this new "hip" marketing trend for "hearing devices") sell for a not so lowly price. A pair retails for about $6,000. You can bet the manufacturers and dispensers of these lowly objects applaud these new marketing campaigns, even if deep down they find them embarassing.

Posted by: Jill on June 11, 2007 9:13 AM

"Lowly hearing aids," such as the Phonak Audeo and Oticon Delta (the latter of which actually pioneered this new "hip" marketing trend for "hearing devices") sell for a not so lowly price. A pair retails for about $6,000. You can bet the manufacturers and dispensers of these lowly objects applaud these new marketing campaigns, even if deep down they find them embarassing.

Posted by: Jill on June 11, 2007 9:16 AM

What?

Posted by: makethelogobigger on June 11, 2007 11:16 AM

Phonak hearing aids (as I'm a wearer of one at 33) is particularly popular with children -- because their hearing aids are particularly high powered for those with profound hearing loss (typically people with birth defects), so making them "hip" I think can be seen as part of an effort to destigmatize its target audience -- young people who wear assisted hearing devices. I'm all for it.

Posted by: DC1974 on June 11, 2007 11:54 AM

I just got a DM piece for this in the mail at home on Sat. and it took me a sec to figure out what they were selling. I'm still trying to figure out why they targeted me. I have no hearing issues and I'm not a Boomer. The model in the ad is dishy though.....

Posted by: robin on June 11, 2007 1:21 PM

i've worn a hearing aids my entire life and i'm thrilled by these cool phonaks. i hope they are strong enough for my loss.
things to consider about the hearing aid and how they are seen in society:

1) remember "men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses? glasses were VERY VERY dorky at one point-- now they are hip hip hip (square rims anyone) and the industry is HUGE.

2)conventional hearing aids are ugly. skin colored for so-called "discretion." i cover my hearing aids with my hair, but its impossible to hide the thick spaghetti-like tube coming out of my ear. hideouuusssss.

3) the design that audeo offers is simply bringing us up to date with the ipod generation. youve seen those bluetooths? techonology is now very much incorporated into daily life. if anything, this presents and opportunity to make hearing loss more VISIBLE, more understood and less stigmatized.


YAY AUDEO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: erin on June 23, 2007 4:04 PM

I think these Phonak ads have a serious flaw. They only refer to the product as a "personal communication assistant" but since that is a brand new term coined by Phonak, no one knows it means the product is a hearing aid. I think the popular assumption is that itís a Bluetooth device not an instrument for improving your hearing.

Posted by: J on July 2, 2007 4:07 PM

I'm late to this party, but I'm thrilled about the new designs. I'm 39 and wear a different brand. Maybe if you were faced with the choice of wearing huge geriatric beige hearing aids, you'd see it differently. The Audeo is far from being the first "cool" looking hearing aid (even Phonak has sold other models for several years). I think the term "PCA" is stupid, but the devices themselves are the best thing since the internet. They are so invisible most people have no idea I wear them.

Posted by: LM on September 13, 2007 1:17 PM





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