Over 80% of those with hearing loss don't get hearing aids, waiting an average of seven to ten years to do so. The first diagnosis is oftentimes traumatic. The condition seems outwardly benign. It's easy to act like you can fly under the radar. In reality, it's emotionally and cognitively taxing.
How hearing loss is experienced is different for everyone, depending on when it happened, how quickly it happened, your education, your income, and a variety of other measures. But what's common among those who have hearing loss later in life, after they have already formed an idea of who they are, is that they often have to go through this alone. The treatment process for hearing loss rarely accounts for the identity crisis many go through.
This makes it burdensome to have intimate conversations about how to maintain the personal and professional relationships that you currently have and will make in the future. Given that relationships are imperative to a great quality of life, a lot of us can feel existentially anxious and depressed, unsure where to turn for help. How to learn? How to love? How to raise kids? How to do these things that seem so simple, but are now fraught with difficulties, because the ability to connect is spotty, like a bad wireless signal every moment of our waking hour.
Beyond helping those who feel trapped in an identity they didn't choose, I hope in the long term that this project will give the hard of hearing community a narrative that is truly representative of their range and experiences. In turn, I hope these stories inspire designers to design for people -- for strengths, for perspective, for emotional intelligence, and for a will to live -- not for the perceived status quo, and definitely not for "dis"-ability.
Design for Ability does not posit, through its interviews or otherwise, any particular type of treatment. Opinions remain confined to those of the interviewers who are sharing their story to provide an understanding of what living with hearing loss is like, not how to treat it. Any treatment recommendation or decision should be made under counsel of a medical practitioner.