Hearing Aid Visibility/Invisibility

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to rant a little and get some insights into this very puzzling thing that has come up. I am wondering, if the industry wants wider acceptability to hearing aids, why does it constantly advertise “invisible” hearing aids? If I wanted people to accept a product and their hearing loss. I don’t think I would advocate the need to hide it. Right now I am wearing miniRITE’s and I am seriously considering going to traditional BTE’s (for various reasons but one of them being visibility) I WANT my hearing aids to be visible, not vice versa. The reason being, I’m 34 yrs old I don’t think I have anything to hide just because I need hearing aids. When I tell people to speak up, I’m hard of hearing and wearing hearing aids, they look at me like “oookkkkk” lol. It’s kind of like inventing invisible glasses! LOL! Instead glasses are fashion. We should make hearing aids something of a normal thing, not try to hide them? Right? or wrong? let me know :slight_smile:

It’s actually an interesting point. I’m only a bit older than you so I get where you are coming from.

When I started in this hearing care profession in 1994, everyone was fanatical about small hearing aids. When Ronald Reagan got CIC hearing aids, it was all over. You only had to run an ad for a CIC and the phone would ring off the hook. Among the older generation who lived in the 90s, their absolute goal was that it be invisible. They wouldn’t care if it was the most aesthetically beautiful hearing aid in the world, and that Battista Pininfarina himself designed it, they were not interested in something noticeable.

Okay, so I’m making some sweeping statements, but bear with me… :rolleyes:

What I’ve seen happen in more recent years is people, even old people, have become a lot more open to the concept of visible, yet subtle hearing aids. I can go a whole month now without fitting a single CIC. And my theory is that back in the early 90s, we didn’t have Bluetooth, we didn’t see every man and his dog carrying a cell phone, we didn’t all wear iPods. But now we live in an era where so many people, perhaps especially young people have devices on their ears all the time. So my patients, even the older ones, have noticed this trend. So they are less self conscious about having a subtle device on their ear.

The company I work with, like most hearing aid companies, used to just let the scientists come up with the hearing aid design. Just a mass of nasty beige plastic for the most part. But when the current generation of cases were invented, the company brought in a design team of artists and fashion types to design the case, and then tasked the scientists with putting the technology in the pretty case.

This was a first for the company. And it really worked out. They won ten international design awards, including one from the Smithsonian.

So I think you are going to see more and more cool looking hearing aids over time. Most of the major companies have now figured out that people are not going to accept ugly monstrosities on their ear.

Back to your original point though, I think that some of the ‘old school’ ad people who put out the marketing are still remembering the days when invisible was the buzz word, and they expect that ad to pull well.

Also many companies are releasing IIC technology, or even implanted hearing aids, so they are getting some press too. After all these didn’t really exist a few years ago, so it’s something new an shiny to tempt the buying public with.

Good points! Thanks ZCT! I think there has to be a market for the younger folk. I mean again I will use the example of glasses. I have been wearing glasses since the age of nine. Recently some of my above 40 friends have had to get reading glasses. They are cringing and just SO ashamed! I’m thinking ummmm I’ve been wearing glasses forever lol…big deal…i’m sure the people who have been wearing hearing aids since a very young age will have the same opinion.

Now, I see what you mean about the technology right now. Loads of people have gadgets in their ears. Sometimes like I said earlier people don’t notice it and it actually makes things harder. If they did then at least they would speak up! I tell you trying to order a coffee in a busy coffee shop is NOT easy lol.

Plus, I’m really wondering about the compromise of quality vs. making things invisible? Are we compromising on the quality for vanities sake?

Keep in mind the ‘vision’ industry also sells LOADS of contact lenses, it’s purely a personal choice. Like anything in life, the new introductions usually sacrifice quality for aesthetics but over time the quality catches up - I think we are starting to see that now. Personally, I still think we have a ways to go and the next 10-15 years will surely brin many new innovate designs.

I think the HA industry push for invisible HA is to appeal to those who want to do something about their hearing but don’t want people to know they have hearing aids. This is what the optical companies have done with the contact lens industry starting in the late 70’s and though today with their soft lenses,colored lenses and now bifocal lenses that allow people to correct their vision without people knowing they wear glasses. For those of us who wear glasses I don’t think wearing hearing aids is much different,we have already gone though people making fun of our glasses and don’t really care what people think about the fact that we need HA, at least I don’t and I know several other HA wearers that feel the same way.
Since I began wearing HA I haven’t had anyone make fun of them or for that matter had many people even acknowledge the fact that I have HA and I wear BTE’s with ear molds Some have even thought my HA were cool with their bluetooth capabilities and wished they needed HA so they could get rid of their Bluetooth earpiece they use for their cell phone and hear the phone in both ears.
I think a major reason for the growing acceptance for wearing Ha from younger people could be from the mainstreaming of children with hearing issues who were put in classrooms with the regular hearing kids in schools. Today those first kids are now approaching their early 40’s and have dealt with HA and people or peers who had them for most of their lives and find nothing wrong with wearing HA.
In the end It basically all boils down to personal preference and vanity and it’s a pretty good time if you need HA because like glasses or contact lenses you have a choice that didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago.

You’re quite right, there is almost always a trade of quality versus size. If you have a CIC, guess what, the battery is smaller; less battery life, the components are all squished together, more chance of a short out, the plastic has to be really thin to make space for all the parts, more chance of it breaking.

Even in the world of miniaturization, there are certain laws of physics that demand certain things. Some technology is still not as advanced as we’d like, such as batteries. Certain power levels still demand a larger loudspeaker (receiver).

So there is definitely a trade off when it comes to size versus functionality. I think this is why the RIC is such a good compromise and has taken the industry by storm. The on the ear portion is large enough to accommodate all the required components, and the ear portion only needs to contain the loudspeaker. Not many compromises needed here to produce some outstanding results. And cosmetically pretty neat too.

As someone who has been responding with “Huh? What?” for 30 years, I’d much rather people know I’m hearing impaired rather than thinking I’m just dimwitted. So, yeah, I’d prefer people notice my hearing aids.

My mistake and error to forget about contact lens (ops lol) I guess I was getting caught up in the invisible debate!

Deb, I totally agree! I actually had someone tell me today after I had numerously said “huh? sorry?” they asked “you should get your hearing checked” … at which point I just stared at them. LOL!

Well after having a chat with someone at my college today about some options. I am seeing that size is indeed everything. Bigger…can be better!

ZCT I definately agree about the RIC.

Any other thoughts on this topic? I find it fascinating. Hearing aids are not to be hidden I reckon.

On the other end of the spectrum you have hearing aids that finally look futuristic. Starkey, Oticon and Siemens all have an impressive range of styles and colors. Some of their hearing aids look – dare I say it . . . cool? True, many color options are set up to match hair and skin tone, but then you occasionally have a leopard print thrown in there. We are beginning to see a trend of people who are buying a hearing aid, realizing it is an expensive and advanced piece of technology and are fine with it looking like that.

Sure, some people buy contacts. Other people buy a nice looking pair of glasses and make an accessory out of a necessity. I still get the occasional person in who demands “those hearing aids you can’t see” but they usually wind up in RICs. Most people just want to hear better.<O:p</O:p

My work would be easier if more people thought like you. Everybody is different. Some don’t care if people see them and some will not wear them if they are visible.

Having just had a chat with a counselor at my college and she had some interesting insights. Someone once asked a hard of hearing student, once they found out that they were hard of hearing… “You talk normally!” It seems people seem to think that Hard of Hearing adults (around my age perhaps) will have had it from a very young age. So, visible hearing aids are a good thing on so many levels.

Cosmo, I can imagine how frustrating it is to convince people that it’s really OK that they are seen! Too bad in our society hearing aids=old=bad. Old is NOT bad neither are hearing aids! :frowning:

Thanks everyone for input. Lets get the opinion of people who perhaps ARE embarrassed to be seen with hearing aids?

I have worn ha’s since I was 5 and accepted them pretty early on. I did do the in the canal ones at one point, but my hearing had gotten worse, and at that time, they told me I could not use the canal ones anymore. (this was over 10 years ago) Fast forward to today, I bought a new pair, my first BTE’s! I’m excited. Just to throw this out there, they had fleshy tones, but I chose silver. Because I want “cool” looking ha’s! :slight_smile: Maybe they wouldn’t be cool to someone else, but to me, they are! I totally agree with Iceman (I believe it was) about ha’s are sleeker and look more technologically advanced these days.

some of the the new Siemens models have interchangeable housings in case you feel the need to coordinate colors. As soon as I can scquire an extra set I’m going to try making then blaze orange.

I’m new to this board and and have elected to trial the Starkey Soundlens. The deep impressions will be taken at the end of this month. Since I’m a first time HA user my Audi suggested I demo a set of Starkey Xino 110 aids while waiting.

One of the reasons I am interested in the Soundlens is I would ideally like to get an aid that allows me to set it and forget it. I’d like to just put them on in the morning and, hopefully, forget they’re in my ears until I take them out at night. I’m hoping that is not unrealistic.

So, it’s not so much the fact aids might be visable, rather in my case, it’s a matter of not wanting to fool with them being behind my ears. I have, on three occasions, knocked the Xino’s off my ear putting on and taking off my glasses and sun glasses. The Xinos are light weight and you really don’t notice them. Perhaps that is the problem, as you forget they’re there. Consequently, you perform manuvers that run the risk of losing or damaging them. I’m hoping the Soundlens will work as well as the Xenos with the benefit of being deep in the canal so I don’t lose or damage them.

I too had issues with my glasses when I started wearing mine a year ago. But honestly, you quickly learn to adapt your actions. When putting on my glasses when wearing the aids I automatically use the tip of my finger to tilt the hearing aid out to slide the glasses between my skull and the hearing aid. I hold the glasses with the 2 middle fingers and thumb, and use the index finger to pull the hearing aid away. Adds maybe 1 second extra time to the act of putting them on.

And to make sunglasses easier to deal with, I have the Magnetic Clip On lenses that came with my prescription glasses.

I too wear glasses and HA and have never had a problem with either. I put the glasses on first when I wake up and don’t take them off until I go to bed, then I put the HA on and don’t touch them until just before going to bed. I did chose to have ear molds instead of an open fit because I didn’t want to drop the HA putting on sound suppressors and taking them off and having my head in weird positions when doing installations ( I’m a contractor). I’ve had the HA get knocked off the back of my ear a few times, but because of the molds and tubes never come close to having them hit the ground. I basically put the HA on in the morning and forget about them the rest of the day.


Your view is spot-on as far as I’m concerned. I’d rather they see the aid and speak up - if they even look - than not see it an mumble.

An audiologist told me a story that might give some of y’all a laugh, so I’ll repeat it. She had a patient who was in his 90s and looked his age or older, walked bent over with a cane, and his wife complained bitterly that he would not wear his hearing aids. When the Audiologist asked him why not, he replied that “They make me look old!”

Viewpoints change. I’m proud to have managed to stay alive this long. If people want to belittle me for being an old man that’s fine - if they are lucky, smart, and tough enough to get old they’ll be singing a different tune.

In the meantime I’d pay up for a hearing aid that worked as well as it possibly could given the current technology even if it looked like a baseball stuck to the side of my head.


I want to point that that all the reasons above, aside from the power levels…are remedied by money. Rather than ‘compromising quality’ I would argue they compromise on ‘longevity’. Short battery life isn’t a big deal if you can afford to change the batteries once a day, short outs don’t matter if the warranty is long enough that you’d want to replace it with a newer model by that time anyway…same for the thin plastic and chances of it breaking.

My point is, if aesthetics are that important, your not really sacrificing quality so long as you have the funds.

I Totally know what you mean about the set it and forget it. Guess what? I told my HIS the exact same thing. Now, a month later here I am wanting volume control, bigger more visible (those teeny things are very fiddly!), and 2 programs. Now, I wear glasses too and thought it would be easy to just wear them like the glasses and forget about them. With hearing aids thats not the case. Do you have a trial period on them? I hope so, cos I can imagine you are going to want to upgrade. Give it a try. If not great! If so then go with bigger for sure.

As for the current ones you are wearing if they are the small RITE, then yes, they don’t hold weight. I agree with seb, I am looking forward to my bte’s and happy that they won’t hit the ground if I knock them off by accident.

Definitely a good compromise on the RIC. I think the industry knows the visibility issues and is trying to find an all-around solution that combines functionality, aesthetics, and comfort.