At the end of last year the legendary musician Sting took to the papers and announced that he wouldn’t be wearing a hearing aid. In an instant he became every audiologists least favourite musician.
Not reserved for rich and famous rock stars; hearing loss affects 1 in 6 people living and working in the UK today. Yet it takes the average adult 13 years to accept that their hearing is deteriorating and do something about it. Over the last few years study after study has emerged from leading universities detailing the impact hearing loss has on our quality of life, family relationships, its links to loneliness and scarily its prevalence in those with dementia.
So why does it take us so long to do something about it? Some people associate hearing loss with aging, and hearing aids as big, beige, banana like devices that dangle precariously behind the ear. Whistling with the smallest turn of the head and making everything too loud to tolerate. People sometimes take the stigma even further and report that it will make them vulnerable to teasing in the workplace, or worse still that others will lose faith in their professional capabilities.
How they would delight if they knew that some hearing aids are 100% invisible and can be worn for months at a time. That detailed algorithms can cancel out feedback making shrieking hearing aids a thing of the past. These hearing aids can be made from medical grade titanium, custom moulded to an individual’s ear canal, making them both comfortable and discreet. There are hearing aids that even recharge overnight, just like a mobile phone would.
Hearing loss doesn’t discriminate. Yes wear and tear can play a part, but there are babies, children, teenagers, mothers, uncles as well as grandparents who are either born with or acquire a hearing loss for a multitude of reasons.
The hearing aids of the past were cumbersome and intrusive but today’s hearing aids have the lightning speed technology that we see in so many other devices; on the most minute of scale. Which is perfect for people who want no one to know that they have a hearing loss. Yet there are options for those who want to proudly display their hearing aids, with a range of colours and sizes around, for people too with poorer eyesight or dexterity.
And to think that someone’s hearing and their professional capabilities could be in any way linked is nothing short of preposterous. We live in the glorious era where our most intelligent, forward thinking and respected man- Stephen Hawkins- has defied every medical, life limiting diagnosis handed to him.
So Sting, we thank you; not for the statement -that you as a role model should have known better than to make- but for bringing hearing loss back to the front of our minds. You reminds us that a hearing loss doesn’t have to be life limiting; but that the joy of listening is a pleasure for us all to enjoy.