Hearing loss is an invisible disease and has, for many years, been associated with being old, inattentive, or even stupid. Moreover, the consequences of a hearing loss have not been well communicated to the greater public. Therefore, people aware of their hearing loss have no burning platform to act.
Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions experienced by older adults, with its prevalence reaching 33% of people over 65, and almost 50% in those older than 75. It is estimated that only 17% of those who would benefit from using a hearing aid actually use one.
The lack of accurate information and stigmatizing mindsets surrounding ear diseases and hearing loss often limit access to care. Even among healthcare providers, knowledge relevant to prevention, early identification, and management may be lacking, thereby restricting the care they provide to those with ear and hearing needs. Additionally, there is a big stigma related to hearing loss, and many misconceptions of what a hearing aid does, costs, or looks, and sounds like.
What communication looks like today
Large suppliers (with exceptions of course) do not help correct these misconceptions as they, too, communicate to address these stigmas and misconceptions by addressing the stereotyped pain points. Moreover, most hearing aid manufacturers market themselves to clinic owners and audiologists and not to the end-users. This means that the messaging is often very technical and nerdy.
Examples of business to consumer communications are “this means that the metallic sound many users of hearing aids relate to hearing aids is something from the past” or “you can get a more natural sound picture.” or “you can get an M&RIE (Microphone & Receiver-In-Ear), which gives you a complete, natural and more fulfilling hearing experience”.
These examples are not mentioned to point fingers at the manufacturers, but they should really consider segmenting their messages into B2B vs B2C communication.
First off, these examples can be very hard to understand if you are not an audiologist or at least an experienced hearing aid user. Secondly, these are not really selling points to end-users. Why mention metallic sounds are “more fulfilling” than before? This sounds like it is no good and still needs some work before the sounds are natural. Moreover, does this inspire consumers to do something about their hearing loss? Not really.
In WHO’s report on hearing, they even criticize manufacturers for their messages that reinforce the stigma around hearing aids. Marketing strategies aim to improve hearing aid uptake by promoting devices that are small and barely noticeable when worn.
By talking about being invisible, there is an underlying message that a visible hearing aid is a bad thing, and that hearing loss is something that shouldn’t be shown. Everyone in our industry should start communicating in a different way.