Could the increasing use of IPods, MP3 players and in-the-ear cell phones possibly lessen the stigma associated with hearing aid usage? Every day millions of people of all ages walk around listening to their mp3 players or other electronic devices. With the growing normalcy and broad reach of the use of earwear, those needing hearing aids may not feel as conspicuous and uncomfortable as even a year ago. Dr. Jackler, chair of otolaryngology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, in a Stanford news release hypothesized, "within a few years, wearing a device in your ear will be as common as wearing a wristwatch.we are in the midst of an ear-level device revolution."
Of the one third of adults over the age of 65 who have some level of hearing loss, only a staggeringly small 20% use some kind of hearing aid. In determining if the widespread usage of in-the-ear consumer electronics has had an impact on hearing aid acceptance, Dr. Catherine Palmer, director of audiology at the Eye & Ear Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says, "we have not seen a big change so far," though she does acknowledge the potential for such a cause and effect relationship to develop in the future.
The creation of devices using Bluetooth communication technology to turn select hearing aids into wireless, hands-free headsets is an encouraging sign. Deborah Albaugh, audiologist and owner/operator of HearBest, Inc in Mt. Lebanon predicts that though these devices were not yet available in 2005, they are not far from becoming a reality. A promising advancement related to the use of Bluetooth technology is the ability to make hearing aids compatible with cell phones, currently of serious concern to hearing aid users.
Baby Boomers are approaching their fifties and sixties with optimism and a fresh outlook on aging. Because Boomers have consistently embraced new technology, the development of these devices may very well translate into a less stigmatized and therefore more exciting and useful answer for those who experience hearing loss.