How Many Pairs of Shoes Do You Have?

I’m a fairly conservatively-dressed young male and I have several. The each serve different needs in my life, based on the activity I am doing or the place I am going. I don’t wear my running shoes to weddings, and I don’t wear my leather chukkas to the beach. However I, and everyone else who uses them, only have a single pair of hearing aids. Does that make sense?

(Ok, maybe I’m not the most conservative about fashion. I just used “chukkas” in a sentence”)

Charles Eames was a notable designer of the early 20th century who believed that “design depends largely on constraints.” (I learned this from the book Design Meets Disability by Graham Pullin. You can expect a few more posts inspired by this great read.) For shoes, this makes sense. The design of dress shoes is constrained by the need to be fashionable and match the rest of the outfit. Running shoes are much more brightly coloured, because they don’t have that constraint. Instead, they are constrained by the need to be supportive, grippy, and breathable. When it comes to hearing aids however, all of these constraints fall on a singular set of devices. Hearing aids need to be fashionable, water-resistant, perform well in noise, etc, etc, etc. This is because almost no one owns multiple sets of hearing aids.

To a large extent, this is due to cost. High quality devices aren’t cheap, forcing people to sacrifice certain wants to meet their needs. As I discussed in my last post, I gave up bright, flashy BTE hearing aids to have a pair that would be better suited for the needs of sweat-protection and phone use. Now its no secret that the cost to build hearing aids is nowhere near the cost for a consumer to purchase them. Much of the cost is due to things like research and development, and the time spent adjusting the hearing aids to the user’s needs. The actual cost of the hardware, the bits of metal and plastic that make up hearing aids, is practically nothing. If a hearing aid manufacturer offered the option of owning multiple devices for different needs at a comparable cost to a single pair of hearing aids, wouldn’t a high volume of customers switch over to that manufacturer?

(Unrelated, but if you are reading this and are in any way responsible for the hiring at Sonova, Sivantos, Oticon, Resound, Widex, Starkey, or any other hearing aid manufacturer you’ll be happy to know I don’t currently have a summer job lined up. Send me an email, we can talk.)

Imagine visiting your hearing care professional not to obtain a new set of hearing aids, but a new tool-box of hearing aids. In such a package, you might be able to pick out a fun, colourful pair of RITEs for everyday use, a more robust pair of BTEs for playing sports and exercising, and a muted, discrete pair of CICs for formal events. All of these devices would run on the same technology, so adjusting them to a user’s hearing would take far less time that fitting three sets from three different manufacturers. People wouldn’t have to give up things they want in their hearing aids for the sake of meeting their needs.

What do you think? Is this something you’d be interested in? Let me know!




One comment

  1. Charleen Alcena · March 1, 2018

    Hahaha did you end up getting that summer job ? Do you agree that glasses and hearing aids are similar? I’m learning that the stigma is completely different. But I strongly feel like they serve the same purpose targeting different senses. Now that being said I must say that I don’t have a minor eye prescription…my glasses would be a moderate to moderately-severe scale in the Audiology world. And in the Optic world the more severe your eye loss the more likely you have to break several piggy banks to purchase a pair. Am I out of trend for having only one pair of glasses? I know many people around me have one for every day of the week or to coordinate with activities or their wardrobe. Especially with the rise of being glasses online. (I’d love to see the parallel of that and the selling of online hearing aids — Fork in the Road post) Anywhoo I feel like I only have 2 eyes and one head to put these frames on. And thinking about a bunch of pairs having to stay in my drawer in the dark for days begging to be worn is unfortunate (or the fact that I would have so many would mean that I am fortunate). I agree with you for the shoe analogy … but then again one only has 2 feet and would never be able to wear all of them at the same time. In Canada I believe its impossible to only have one pair. You need at least about a pair for every season ? I’m a fake minimalist because I must admit, I have quite a number of pairs of shoes (over the minimum qualification for Canada’s 4 seasons)….

    More thoughts ?

    Liked by 1 person

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