Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

In Depth

Consumers

The hearing aid revolution

Forget what Granny wore — today's devices range from the invisible to those in leopard print and Bluetooth-enabled

Last Updated February 26, 2007

Like many people with hearing loss, Toronto jewelry designer Mimi Shulman was ashamed of her problem and put off wearing hearing aids for years.

Fourteen years ago, she decided to buck the trend. Shulman created a colourful assortment of bat wings, iridescent fish and whimsical painted and bejeweled molded plastic pieces that attach to hearing aids and tuck in neatly behind the ear.

The latest hearing aids, such as Oticon's Delta line, are designed as fashion accessories with bold colours and shapes that are intended to be noticed.

"I got my first hearing aids when I was in my thirties, but I didn't use them for two years after that," said Shulman, who now markets her EarWear collection online. "But then I realized that the best way to deal with it was to show them off."

Shulman was ahead of her time when she rejected the old-school attitude to hearing aids and began turning them into fashion statements.

Now, with baby boomers hitting middle age, the industry is catching up, marketing a whole raft of devices that combine high-tech wizardry and sleek aesthetics.

Huge jumps in technology

The new-generation hearing aids are smaller, smarter and better-looking than their predecessors.

And the advances in digital technologies mean these units can now do much more than simply amplify sound. Directional microphones can be fine-tuned to zero in on specific frequencies coming from specific directions, or to cancel persistent background noise such as fans or traffic.

While Shulman's approach is all about showing off a hearing aid, there are also highly sophisticated in-the-ear devices available now that are virtually invisible to the naked eye.

New "open fit" devices mean that users don't have to plug up their ears with form-fitted ear moulds that can make a person feel like they're talking in a tunnel.

Developers are also tackling the problem of power — or at least not having to replace expensive batteries regularly. The latest iteration is a rechargeable aid that can be plugged into a charger or a USB port alongside your iPod to get a fresh jolt of juice.

The marketing is also getting slicker. New models introduced in recent months sport high-performance names like Pulse and Delta. Colour options range from tones that blend with your skin or hair colour, to bright metallics and animal prints for more adventurous spirits.

Next on the launch pad will be Bluetooth-enabled devices, which are expected later this year. They'll let people link their hearing aids with gadgets such as cellphones, landline phones and portable audio players.

Boomers 'don't want what their grandmothers used to wear'

It's all part of taking the stigma out of an experience that has had so many negative connotations for many people, said Heather Ferguson, the president of the Toronto-based Hearing Foundation of Canada.

And that's important in a world where people are starting to lose their hearing 20 years earlier than they used to an increase in harmfully loud noises.

"I can't tell you how many people I run into in their late forties who are upset because they have to wear hearing aids," Ferguson said.

"[Hearing aids] have always been so ugly, and people associate them with aging. But there [also] used to be a stigma around glasses until they became fashion items."

Ross Harwell, audiology manager for the hearing aid specialist Oticon Canada, noted that the industry has been waiting for baby boomers to arrive and spark the drive for more fashionable hearing aids.

"They're different from the typical seniors you see. They have access to more information. And they don't want what their grandmothers used to wear."

Full-service retailers market hearing aids like glasses

Even the act of purchasing hearing instruments has gotten a boost in recent years, according to Ed Braun, the managing director of hearing aid designer and supplier ReSound in Toronto.

"Go back to 1985 and hearing care offices were on the fourteenth floor at the back of a building," Braun said.

Now there are street-level full-service outlets like ListenUp! that are turning the whole exercise into a more appealing retail experience. Opened in 2004, ListenUp! already has 26 locations in Ontario.

"We felt that if we bring it out in the open, it will help to remove the stigma about hearing aids and increase awareness about hearing loss," ListenUp! vice-president and chief audiologist M. J. DeSousa explained.

"We're out to change the whole experience and reach that 80 per cent of people with hearing loss who go without treatment."

ListenUp! stores are trying to do for hearing aids what opticians did for glasses. They have an array of product displays and audiologists on site to provide testing services and walk customers through the features of the various makes and models.

ListenUp! vice-president and chief audiologist M. J. DeSousa speaks with a client and a hearing specialist.

"Today's customers are looking for high-tech aesthetics and features," DeSousa said. "They want to integrate devices into their life and address their communication demands. It's great, because that puts pressure on manufacturers to step up."

With manufacturers and audiologists pushing the envelope, it appears that the message is getting through to hard-of-hearing consumers.

"In 2006, penetration of hearing aids went up for the first time in many years"" reports ReSound's Braun. "That's a big transition in something that hasn't changed for decades."

For Shulman, who has lived with hearing loss most of her life, it's none too soon.

"I spent half my life faking it by not wearing hearing aids," she said. "But they help you to pay attention to what's really going on in life. The best way to deal with it is to make it so you can wear them with pride."

(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external sites - links will open in new window)

Go to the Top

MENU

Main page
Adhesives
Airline connections
Airport security
10 tips for holiday globetrotters
Alternative gifts
Alternative winter getaways
Alternative presentation ideas for holiday gifts
Apartment hunting
Inside ARGs
Athletic shoes
Auto arbitration
Back-to-school shopping trends
Barbecue tips for food
Bargain flights
Bottled water
Carbon footprints
Minimizing a trip's CO2 impact on the planet
Cellphone breakout
The pros and cons of unlocked handsets
Cellphone chic
Phones have become a fashion accessory
Christmas tree safety
Citronella
Clear-out sales: How not to be taken
Compulsive shopping
Costly toys
Counterfeit goods
Cross-border shopping
Cruise crime
Cruise vacations
Cultural diversity
Dollar parity
Donated Clothing (Part I)
Donated Clothing (Part II)
Dropping prices?
Dryer safety
Eco-garden
Eco-friendly dying
Environmentally friendly entertaining
Father's Day
Food: Canada's cuisine comes of age
Funny fare
Hunting down Canada's national food treasures
Fireworks
Foie gras frenzy divides Chicago
Fur: sustainable resource or fashion faux pas?
Giving to charities
Going solo
Travel tips for women backpacking it alone
Green cleaning
Green gadgetry
Green packaging
Hearing Aids
Helium: A disappearing gas?
Hidden fees
Holiday feasts
Holiday shipping
Holiday planning
Home alone
Hot destinations
Year of the Asian vacation?
Hot destinations
Warm getaways that are off the beaten path
Inflatable pools
Identity theft
Kids toys
Learning toys
Legal fees
Long-distance flying
Making connections
Tips for getting online when travelling
Making connections
Phones to go
Mothers' Day
Pet food safety
Pet food, alternatives
Phone deregulation
Pickpockets
Plastic: What's in it, and is it safe?
Recalls and advisories
Redeeming rebates
Refunds: How to get your money back
Repelling mosquitoes
Santa's knee: 10 tips on preparing kids to see the man in red
Scooter sales rev up
School bus safety
School shopping
Second-hand sales
Smoke detectors
Student survival guide
Sunscreen
Sunglasses
Tips: Is your waiter playing mind games?
Toy stereotypes
Travel: Strategies to stretch your cash in Europe
Vermiculite
Water safety for kids
Winterizing your car
Year in review: Consumer Life 2006
Your computer
[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

CBC IN ITALY 36 coffins in a gymnasium: An Italian town mourns its earthquake victims
In the Italian town of Ascoli Piceno, 36 coffins laid out in a cavernous gymnasium bear the remains of some of the more than 280 people who died in Wednesday's earthquake.
The burkini is an option, not oppression, say those opposed to ban
The recent court decision overturning one French town's ban on the burkini is unlikely to put the debate about the body-concealing swimwear to rest. Some of those who have decried the ban say all the controversy won't stop women from wearing what they want.
Trump's doctor took 5 minutes to pen report dubbing candidate's health 'astonishingly excellent'
Donald Trump's personal physician told NBC News he needed just five minutes to write a glowing public assessment of Trump's health as a limousine waited to carry the letter back to Trump.
more »

Canada »

Liberals commit $450M, up to 600 troops to UN peacekeeping missions video
Canada will commit roughly half a billion dollars towards UN peace support operations over the next few years, a commitment that includes hundreds of troops and police officers. The announcement is being made at an air base in Bagotville, Que.
'This is not OK': N.L. newspaper uses front page to blast sexist 'trolls'
The St. John's Telegram — which calls itself the People's Paper — used its front page Friday to respond to recent online harassment of one of its female journalists.
Premier Rachel Notley says her government may change course if budget plans don't work
With a record deficit approaching $11 billion, Premier Rachel Notley for the first time on Friday said her government may have to "re-calibrate" its plan to deal with the worst economic downturn the province has seen in 30 years.
more »

Politics »

Tony Clement takes aim at bridge tolls, CBC in bid to become leader
Conservative Party leadership candidate Tony Clement says it's time to rebuild the party's relationship with Atlantic Canadians.
Liberals commit $450M, up to 600 troops to UN peacekeeping missions video
Canada will commit roughly half a billion dollars towards UN peace support operations over the next few years, a commitment that includes hundreds of troops and police officers. The announcement is being made at an air base in Bagotville, Que.
Stephen Harper leaves politics, gives up House of Commons seat video audio
Nearly a year after his federal election defeat, former prime minister Stephen Harper finally signalled the resignation of his House of Commons seat Friday, ending a career in politics that spanned more than two decades.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Video Britney Spears hitches a ride for James Corden's Carpool Karaoke
​Oops! James Corden did it again, sharing his Carpool Karaoke commute with Britney Spears on Thursday's edition of The Late Late Show.
Lawyer for Making a Murderer accused wants blood, DNA evidence tested
The attorney for a Wisconsin inmate featured in the hit Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer filed a motion Friday seeking permission to perform extensive scientific tests on evidence she believes will show he's innocent.
Dancing on a different stage: the balletic inspiration behind PS4's Bound video
Professional dancer Maria Udod helps translate her art into a playable character in Bound, a new game for the PlayStation 4.
more »

Technology & Science »

Dig reveals surprise about 'super-henge' near Stonehenge
A dig where researchers last year said they had detected a "major new prehistoric stone monument" buried near Stonehenge has revealed something quite different than expected.
Video Brazilian plant's 'sneeze' caught on video video
A plant in the Brazilian rainforest and one discovered fossilized in amber in Mexico and the Dominican Republic are similar because it appears the two release pollen in an explosive way, like a sneeze, researchers say.
Summer 2016 an 'exceptional' year for biodiversity in St. Lawrence River video
From North Atlantic right whales to narwhals to sunfish, this summer has proven to be a banner year for biodiversity in the St. Lawrence River.
more »

Money »

Analysis Janet Yellen, Jackson Hole and the anti-Davos
A fishing hole in the middle of Wyoming might not be the first place that leaps to mind when one thinks of venues for major world economic conferences, but the bucolic scene of Jackson Hole is just that. Once a year, the global elite descend on the area to listen to what the U.S. central banker has to say.
McDonald's Happy Meal mistake, and Rio's poor Olympic ROI: BUSINESS WEEK WRAP
From more details on how the Fort McMurray fire keeps burning red ink, to some valid questions about the costs of Canada's gold, silver and bronze medals, it was a colourful week in business news. The CBC's Jacqueline Hansen gets you caught up on the week that was in her video recap.
Canola dispute looms over Canadian PM's visit to China
A long-standing dispute involving Canadian canola exports to China threatens to overshadow Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trip to the economic superpower that begins next week.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Recap Jays light up Twins with a Martin, Smoak show to reclaim 1st in AL East video
Justin Smoak broke out of a slump with five runs-batted in, Russell Martin also drove in five and Josh Donaldson hit his 30th homer of the season as the Toronto Blue Jays' offence ignited for a 15-8 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
Blue Jays reacquire catcher Dioner Navarro from White Sox
The Toronto Blue Jays have added depth at catcher for the stretch run by reacquiring veteran switch-hitter Dioner Navarro from the Chicago White Sox.
Preview Novak Djokovic ready to defend U.S. Open title
Friday's U.S. open draw set Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal as potential semifinal opponents, while No. 2 Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka are in the other half of the bracket.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »