Hearing aid technology has advanced rapidly but its design can be stigmatising and not inclusive of the needs and lifestyles of people with hearing loss.
This project set out to improve first time users' understanding, ownership and acceptance of their hearing aid by conducting an ethnographic study. Home visits were made to nine people with hearing loss – five older users over 65, two young people under 30 and two parents with teenage sons – to explore context of use. Engineers were interviewed to understand the technology; audiologists were observed recommending and fitting the devices. The research revealed a wide range of issues related to how people operate, maintain and perceive hearing aids. Many older users, for example, have other age-related impairments such as reduced dexterity and vision, which make operating the device difficult.
The results of the study are an insight bank of user behaviour and a range of specially devised inclusive design tools for exclusive use by the Oticon development team. By bringing inclusive design principles to one of the world's most sophisticated hearing care manufacturers, the aim is to create hearing aids that fit people's lives more effectively.