Quick, picture the typical hearing aid user. What does that person look like?
Did he look like this?
If you answered yes, you’re not alone. This ~50 year old, grey-but-not-too-grey, fit, Clooney-esque male is everywhere in the hearing aid world. Some version of him can be found on nearly every single manufacturer’s website and print materials.
Now as a younger hearing aid user, I’m always a little put off by the use of this age demographic being the public face of hearing aid use. I understand that the proportion of people who need hearing aids increases with age, but couldn’t we throw in some younger models every once in a while? Manufacturers know two things that could increase sales are
1) reducing the average age of first-time customers and
2) reducing the stigma surrounding hearing aid use.
Wouldn’t both of these goals be met by using a more diverse selection of people to represent these products?
- Some manufacturers are getting better at reducing stigma and stereotypes of hearing aid use. Widex has a really cool range of marketing materials showing baby-boomers out hiking and mountain biking. I think Signia even features some people using hearing aids on their homepage who are only in their 40s.
2. It seems like men are more front-and-centre in most marketing. I understand why they do this, males are generally more hesitant to start using hearing aids, but its not really the best look in 2016, is it?
3. It also seems like there’s an overrepresentation of white people in most manufacturer’s marketing materials. Whether its any more than marketing across other industries, I don’t know.
4. Do marketing people know that jobs exist outside of “businessperson?” Let’s see some other occupations using hearing aids: farmers, welders, bus drivers, etc. Not everyone lives a Google-stock-image life.
5. The average age of a customer at The Gap is 39. But there really aren’t a lot of 39-year-old looking people in their advertisements.
Do older adults really want to appear to be “cool older adults?” Or would they rather just appear to be younger adults? Gap’s advertising seems to suggest the latter (as do Youtube videos of Grandmas dabbing and such). Wouldn’t hearing aid manufacturers be better served promoting hearing aid use as a mainstream thing for everyone, including younger people?
6. The manufacturers that produce paediatric hearing aids actually do a really good job of showing off happy toddlers with big, bright devices. I think this goes a long way with making parents feel better about their child’s hearing.
7. However, teenagers are often neglected in these depictions. Phonak has just one page depicting adolescents with hearing aids (though its admittedly very thoughtful and well done – https://www.phonak.com/ca/en/hearing-aids/hearing-aids-for-children/hearing-aids-for-teenagers.html). But, manufacturers are getting much better at using social media to share success stories of younger adults wearing hearing aids. Check out Phonak’s Instagram page as a good example.
Final note: The average age at the first acquisition of a hearing aid is 63, so I don’t expect manufacturer’s to ever represent the younger population of users fully. However, I do think that a long-term approach which works towards normalizing hearing aid use across all ages would be beneficial to everyone.