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INTRODUCTION

 

Since the introduction of the wearable hearing aid in the mid 20th. century, there has been a drive to make the instrument smaller, less cumbersome and more discrete. When the main part of the aid was worn either in a pocket or attached to the wearerís clothing by a clip, the colour was often grey or silver to blend in with a manís business suit or beige or skin-toned for wear under a ladyís dress. The most visible part of the hearing aid, the receiver button in the ear itself, was invariably skin-toned.

 

In the 1970s, when post aural or behind the ear hearing aids became more common, they were produced almost exclusively in beige. Now that they, along with "in the ear" aids, are the preferred type of aid for the vast majority of wearers, commercially available aids and the current NHS range of BTE aids include models available in brown and grey so that they are less visible against darker skin or through grey hair.

 

As children constitute quite a small percentage of hearing aid wearers, their specific requirements have not been considered until very recently. Only in the last 10 years have we seen the introduction in the UK of miniature BTEs more suited to the smaller ears of babies and young children and the advances in digital technology have now ensured that "in the ear" and "in the canal" aids will become more available for the older child for whom the only constraint is the size of the ear itself.

 

Recently, following a trend started in the USA in the late 1980s, hearing aid manufacturers have been producing ranges of aids in bright, bold colours or with cases made of tinted transparent plastic so that the workings of the aid are visible.

 

If the advertising is to believed, these aids have become increasingly popular with hearing impaired children but there seems to be no research into why this should be the case. None of the major hearing aid manufacturers has any written information to show whether bright coloured aids contribute to or help to dispel the effect of stigma and searches of medical, educational and associated journals have uncovered no references to coloured hearing aids at all.

 

Are they seen as a fashion statement or as a further indicator of the "differentness" of the child (Goffman 1963)? Only the most recent literature (Green 1999) mentions coloured hearing aids and it would appear that many children enjoy them, even having matching coloured hearing aids and earmoulds.

 

Parents, on the other hand, are more cautious. Some are happy with the bright colours while there is still a desire in many others to hide the aids much as possible.

 

The aim of the current study is to gather the views of hearing impaired children and their parents to these aids and to gain an insight into some of the criteria used by them when opting for or against the use of coloured aids. It is hoped also to discover whether views change with the childís educational setting, either mainstream school or hearing impaired unit; whether boys or girls are more attracted to coloured aids; if age is a factor or the position of the child in the family.

 

Note:
The study has been written with UK english spelling throughout. However most, if not all,  web search engines regard color and colour as separate words. So this foot note has been added to ensure that anyone searching for color, colors, colored, colorful and earmolds will at least find this page.

 
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