Our hearing is deeply personal. It affects our social life, relationships, and sense of belonging, as well as our mental and physical well-being. Our hearing often gets less attention than our eyesight – most people wouldn’t give an eye test and wearing glasses too much thought. And the stats back this up: 1 in 3 of us a planning an eye test this year, but only 1 in 10 are planning a hearing test.
There’s a stigma that surrounds hearing loss. No one would be afraid to admit that their eyesight needs a little help, so why isn’t it the same for our ears?
One of the problems is that hearing aids have negative connotations. Lisa Beckwith, General Manager of rugby league side Keighley Cougars, says, “People associate hearing aids with being frail, think that make you look old, and still believe that they’re as big and ugly as they were in the 1970s and 1980s. That’s just not the case now.”
“My hearing aids are discreet and, most importantly, have changed my life. I’m more revitalised now, and have way more energy.” – Lisa Beckwith
It's also easy to forget that glasses never used to be cool either. Professional birdwatcher David Lindo (aka The Urban Birder), who wears state-of-the-art Oticon More™ hearing aids, says “People had issues with glasses in the 1970s and 80s. Now people wear them for effect.”
“People wear wireless ear buds or headphones the whole time. So what’s the difference with hearing aids?” – David Lindo
Love Your Ears is our campaign to put ears in the spotlight. To no longer live in denial about any changes to our hearing. To no longer try and cover up any hearing problems by asking others to repeat themselves, or ‘guesstimating’ what they said. Or turning the TV up a notch. Or avoiding situations where you know you’ll struggle to hear.
That’s why, as part of the Love Your Ears campaign, Hidden Hearing have teamed up with Deafmetal®, to launch the UK high street’s first hearing-aid-friendly jewellery collection. Deafmetal® was founded by international fashion designer, Jenni Ahtiainen. After a successful career designing accessories worn at the Oscars and Golden Globes and by big names in music, including Snoop Dog, Bono and Marilyn Manson, Jenni struggled when, aged just 42, she started wearing hearing aids after being diagnosed with hearing loss.
Jenni explains, “When I was first diagnosed, I was shocked. I struggled to understand why I was feeling this way and realised that I associated hearing aids with older people who didn’t look like me. I couldn’t connect with hearing aids.
“As a designer I wanted to wear something that said something about me.” – Jenni Ahtiainen
“If you have bad eyesight, you can choose glasses that suit your own style, but if you don’t hear so well, you are stuck with medical-looking hearing aids forever. As a designer I wanted to wear something that said something about me, and to find a way to bridge the gap between function and fashion.”
Award-winning UK actress, comedian and author, Samantha Baines is just one of many fans of Deafmetal®, which now trades in 11 countries.
Samantha quickly realised that hearing aids weren’t just for “people with grey hair and Werther’s Originals in their pockets” after being diagnosed with hearing loss in her 30s. As a deaf activist and fashion lover, she is excited by the arrival of the LoveYourEars Collection on the UK high street this month.
Samantha said: “Becoming deaf in your early 30s like me is much more common than you might think but no matter your age, hearing aids and deafness should be celebrated as being a part of you. At first, I worried I was getting old before my time, or that I’d be judged for wearing an aid, but now I love being deaf. I love that my hearing aid helps me in a hearing world, it’s an amazing little machine.
“Jenni is an awesome designer and her style makeover with Hidden Hearing is a real game-changer in celebrating our unique ears. Normalising hearing aids by accessorising them with elegant jewellery is a genius idea. I love that I can now style up my aid to suit my mood and what I’m wearing. Finally I can match my hearing aid with my fashion and get compliments on both!”
“Normalising hearing aids by accessorising them with elegant jewellery is a genius idea” – Samantha Baines
Love Your Ears is more than just about feeling good about wearing hearing aids. We’re encouraging people to take action on a hearing loss earlier by challenging how hearing loss is perceived. Jenni says, “By helping to change perceptions we can encourage more people to take action sooner. Addressing a hearing problem has been proven to improve quality of life and reduce the risk of other health issues. Love Your Ears is about making hearing loss more visible and raising awareness of this important public health message.”
Jenni’s new LoveYourEars collection for Hidden Hearing will be the first hearing-aid-friendly jewellery range promoted on the UK high street when it launches in October 2022. Jenni Says:
“When Hidden Hearing approached me to collaborate on tackling stigma around hearing loss, I was excited by their vision. We don’t shy away from getting our eyes tested and wearing glasses if we can’t see, but that’s still not the case with hearing. By helping to change perceptions we can encourage more people to take action sooner. Addressing a hearing problem has been proven to improve quality of life and reduce the risk of other health issues. LoveYourEars is about making hearing loss more visible and raising awareness of this important public health message.
“Removing stigma is only part of the Deafmetal® mission. We’re working with audiologists like Hidden Hearing to raise awareness of the importance of our hearing; protecting it, and treating it sooner, because untreated hearing loss has many side effects, like memory and learning problems, lack of confidence at work or in your personal life, low self-esteem, loneliness, depression and even unemployment – the cost for individuals and for a society’s economy are huge.”
Taking action on a hearing loss can positively impact your mental health and well-being, as Hidden Hearing audiologist Farah Kiani explains, “Research has found that hearing aid users report feeling younger and more empowered, having better relationships, increased self-esteem and a more active social life.”
You can take action today by booking your free hearing test and by making it part of your annual health check-up. Just follow the link or call 0808 115 8653. Give your hearing the TLC it deserves. Love Your Ears.
Sources: ‘Global Study on Wellbeing and Quality of Life’, The YouGov Analysis Institute, Dec 2021. A total of 24,041 people, aged 18+, across 14 countries were interviewed, including 2,426 in the UK.
Dr D Tsimpida, PLACE Project – a national study of hearing loss prevalence in older adults in England, updated in 2022 and funded by the Institute for Health Policy Organisation at Manchester University and The World Health Organisation.