“Perceptions matter”

Hearing aids do more than amplify sounds. It is time to start talking about what hearing rehabilitation can truly mean for an individual.

Have you ever wondered why you like certain products and why there are others that you have no connection with? As a researcher and audiologist, I find these questions very interesting for hearing healthcare.

Many decades of research show that people prefer companies and products that they identify with. As a health enthusiast, for instance, you are more likely to prefer brands and advertisements that promote a healthy lifestyle. You are also more likely to notice health-related goods and services.

Buying or liking certain products could represent a part of who you are – both to yourself and to those around you (Reed II, Forehand, Puntoni, & Warlop, 2012). Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of people are still struggling with how they feel about hearing aids.

Hearing aids do more than amplify sound

Hearing relates to more than our ears alone: whereas the cochlea encodes auditory input, the encoded information is deciphered and interpreted by the brain. Despite the complexity of hearing and, especially also hearing loss, modern hearing aids do really well.

In addition to making sounds more audible, data shows that hearing aid adoption can have a positive impact on how people experience their quality of life (Kitterick & Ferguson, 2018; Laureyns, Best, Bisgaard, & Hougaard, 2015). Research on hearing aids and how they may fit into a healthy lifestyle is still very much ongoing, but there are some promising first results.

Why do some not identify with the health benefits?

It is no wonder that as an audiologist, I consider people who are interested in hearing rehabilitation as people who care about their health. Not only their hearing health, but their overall health. Optimizing the ability to communicate with significant others and connect to them is a vital part of our well-being.

Unfortunately, a lot of people who could benefit from amplification do not necessarily seek help for their hearing problems immediately. It can take up to ten years before people see a doctor or audiologist after they started experiencing problems (Davis, Smith, Ferguson, Stephens, & Gianopoulos, 2007).

Perceptions matter

Hearing aid non-adopters often point out that, despite their struggles to hear, they do not feel the need to do something about their hearing yet or that the possible stigma associated with hearing aids prevents them from taking action. Hearing aid users, on the other end, mention high hearing aid satisfaction and report that they are rarely embarrassed about their devices (Abrams & Kihm, 2015).

In other words, there seem to be key differences in the perceptions of hearing aid adopters and non-adopters. This makes our lives as audiologists extremely interesting… What can we do to make the non-adopters give it a go?

Hearing devices have advanced so much over the years. They are smaller, better, and more advanced than ever before. In these digital times, they have become small technological marvels allowing us to stream and connect directly with our environment. At the same time, the devices automatically adapt to the acoustical environment that they are in.

Given the benefits associated with hearing aid use and more and more people interested in healthy lifestyles and digital technologies, what is not to love? Why do a lot of people feel like they don’t need them, even when their hearing changes?


Abrams, H. B., & Kihm, J. (2015). An Introduction to MarkeTrak IX: A New Baseline for the Hearing Aid Market. Hearing Review, 22(6), 16. Retrieved from https://www.hearingreview.com/2015/05/introduction-marketrak-ix-new-baseline-hearing-aid-market/ on July 19th, 2019

Davis, A., Smith, P., Ferguson, M., Stephens, D., & Gianopoulos, I. (2007). Acceptability, benefits and costs of early screening for hearing disability: a study of potential screening tests and models. Health Technology Assessment, 11(42). https://doi.org/10.3310/hta11420

Kitterick, P. T., & Ferguson, M. A. (2018). Hearing Aids and Health-Related Quality of Life in Adults With Hearing Loss. Journal of the American Medical Association, 319(21), 2225–2226. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.5567

Laureyns, M., Best, L., Bisgaard, N., & Hougaard, S. (2015). Getting our numbers right on Hearing Loss, Hearing Care and Hearing Aid Use in Europe. Joint AEA, EFHOH, EHIMA report. Retrieved from https://www.ehima.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Getting-our-numbers-right-on-Hearing-Loss-and-Hearing-Care-26_09_16.pdf on July 19th, 2019

Reed II, A., Forehand, M. R., Puntoni, S., & Warlop, L. (2012). Identity-based consumer behavior. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 29(4), 310–321. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijresmar.2012.08.002

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