Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fostering Stigmas

As a hearing aid wearer since age three, I’ve often received mailings from hearing aid manufacturers and clinics regarding special offers. Recently, I’ve been receiving mailings from one specific organization (which I will not name here) with a preferred customer discount coupon to buy new hearing aids from them.

While the value of the coupon is significant -- $1,500 to be exact – the messaging of the letter has been somewhat of a turnoff. In each mailing the organization bolds and underlines the following sentence: “This allows the hearing instrument to be smaller, less noticeable – and definitely more comfortable.”

The key words above are “smaller” and “less noticeable”. In each mailing I receive this organization speaks to new hearing aids being smaller, less noticeable, blending in with skin color, better than ‘old fashion’ hearing aids, discreet looking, in the canal, etc…

I realize there may be a stigma associated with wearing hearing aids among individuals who lose hearing in old age, but what message does this send to younger folks who are long time hearing aid wearers like me? Does it suggest that wearing hearing aids is abnormal or embarrassing? I think it is great that technology is advancing, but do these letters really help us move beyond any stigma? Or do these letters foster the stigma?

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