45% of older Japanese feel their hearing is going

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The company Rion recently published the results of a survey into hearing aids for older people.

Interestingly, the company Rion was also responsible for designing the neutrino detecters that recently earnt a Japanese physicist a Nobel Prize; they also have an English magazine describing how they developed the detectors which might be more interesting than this survey…

A couple of years ago I looked into prices of hearing aids and it was quite frightening (300,000 yen or more), and unless you are certified as deaf you have to pay full whack – there is zero support from national health insurance, and even officially deaf people have to rely on local government handouts that may or may not cover the total cost. I read a couple of years ago that the hearing aid market was ripe for disruption; surely given the ubiquity of smartphones it would be possible to make the earpiece just a dumb speaker, then build an aural profile of one’s ear state and download it to a smartphone, add a decent microphone, and Bob’s your uncle?

Here’s a 1960s made in Japan hearing aid:

Vintage Chic Transistorized (Body) Hearing Aid, Model TR-6, 4 Transistors, Manufactured By Conny Industrial Co., Ltd., Made In Japan, Circa Early 1960s

Research results

Q1: Have you felt recently that your hearing is fading? (Sample size=600)

Often (to SQ)
14.8%
Sometimes (to SQ)
31.7%
Not really
27.5%
Not at all
26.0%

Q1SQ: When in your daily life have you felt that your hearing is fading? (Sample size=279, multiple answer)

Difficult to hear conversation in noisy places
62.0%
Don’t understand people who talk in a subdued voice
61.6%
I increase the TV volume when I cannot pick up what people are saying
52.7%
I more often ask people to repeat themselves during conversation
51.6%
I give vague answers when I don’t fully pick up people’s questions
50.5%
Difficult to hear people on the phone
32.6%
Difficult to follow people on TV variety shows, etc
28.7%
Family, etc, tell me the TV is too noisy when I’m watching it
24.0%
People around me tell me I’m not hearing stuff
15.4%
None of the above
1.8%

Q2: In the future, will you use a hearing aid if your hearing fades? (Sample size=600)

Yes (to SQs)
78.8%
No
21.2%

Q2SQ1: Why do you want to use a hearing aid in the future? (Sample size=473, multiple answer)

Want to enjoy conversation with friends, family
64.7%
Want to enjoy TV, radio, movies, etc
56.7%
Will be a handicap in my daily life if I don’t
56.0%
Don’t want to feel inconvenience when out, travelling
42.1%
In case of disaster I feel it will be needed
34.9%
Want to enjoy music, concerts
23.7%
Will be necessary to take part in local events
18.0%
Want to enjoy theatre, rakugo (comic story telling), etc
16.7%
Think it will be needed at work
12.9%
Other
1.5%

Q2SQ2: What shape of hearing aid do you want to use in the future? (Sample size=473)

Inside-ear type
38.5%
Over the ear type
19.9%
In the pocket type
3.2%
Don’t known
38.5%

Q2SQ3: What kind of design of hearing aid do you want to use in the future? (Sample size=473)

Design that doesn’t stand out
68.7%
Enjoyable colour, design
8.5%
Not bothered about design
11.4%
Don’t know
11.4%

Q2SQ4: What features do you want from a hearing aid you want to use in the future? (Sample size=473)

Noise reduction feature
66.6%
Speech enhancement feature
55.4%
Water-resistance
44.6%
Can clearly pick up people talking straight in front of me
43.8%
Wireless features, smartphone connection
26.4%
Other
0.8%
Not bothered by feature set
1.1%
Don’t know hearing aids had features
8.5%
Don’t know
7.8%

Q2SQ5: Where would you want to buy a hearing aid from in the future? (Sample size=473, multiple answer)

Hearing aid shop
59.0%
Optician
35.3%
Electrical superstore
20.3%
Department store
9.9%
Mail order
6.3%
Watch shop
4.4%
Other
0.2%
Don’t know
19.5%

Q2SQ6: What basis will you use when choosing where to buy a hearing aid from in the future? (Sample size=473, multiple answer)

Shop that offers maintenance
59.4%
Shop with knowledgeable staff
59.2%
Shop with certified staff
49.5%
Shop that offers a trial period before purchasing
48.6%
Shop with cordial staff
47.4%
Shop with devices from many makers
42.9%
Shop close to my home
33.2%
Shop that offers a simple purchase method
14.8%
Shop that offers discounts
13.7%
Internet, mail order shop
5.7%
Other
0.6%
Don’t know
6.8%

Q2SQ7: Will you be hesitant to use a hearing aid in the future? (Sample size=473)

Hesitant (to SQ8)
73.2%
Not hesitant
26.8%

Q2SQ8: Why will you be hesitant to use a hearing aid in the future? (Sample size=346, multiple answer)

Don’t know how effective it will be
43.6%
May be troublesome to use
43.1%
Hearing aids are expensive
41.9%
Look old wearing one
11.8%
Don’t want people to know my hearing is failing
8.7%
Difficult to understand how to buy a hearing aid
6.1%
Other
9.5%

Demographics

In the latter half of July, 600 people between the ages of 60 and 74 answered a private internet-based questionnaire. There were three age groups, 60 to 64, 65 to 69 and 70 to 74, with 100 male and 100 female in each group.

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