Reluctance by many Kiwis to seek treatment for hearing difficulties because they worry about being considered old is one of the main factors contributing to New Zealand's "hidden health problem."
So says Craig Lett, head of Audiology and Innovation for Triton Hearing, a company specialising in hearing aids and hi-tech solutions for those hard of hearing – and whose latest store in Auckland offers what he calls groundbreaking approach.
Almost 900,000 Kiwis – about one in six – suffer from hearing difficulties and Lett says too many put off seeking help because of social stigma associated with the condition.
"It is very much a hidden health issue," he says. "People will have their eyes tested dental or medical checks but, when it comes to having treatment for hearing loss, many put it off saying, 'Oh, others will think I'm old'."
Lett's comments come as Triton is opening its World of Hearing store in Newmarket in which people can walk in without an appointment and try the latest hearing technology and aids on a no-obligation basis.
He says the groundbreaking store is a first in the southern hemisphere and will offer a "surround sound experience room" for those looking for solutions to hearing difficulties. The store is to open on Broadway in Newmarket on February 23.
Hearing loss is widespread in New Zealand. A 2016 report commissioned by the National Foundation for the Deaf revealed that just under 900,000 New Zealanders – representing 18.9 per cent of the population – have some type of hearing loss, a situation estimated to have cost the economy $957.3 million that year.
Lett says even mild cases of hearing loss can have significant effects on health and well-being: "People who struggle to hear can become socially isolated. They often don't interact with others as much as they once did and, for some, this can lead to depression."
He says research shows that on average people wait seven years from the time they develop hearing issues before they come to terms with it and seek help, with the stigma of feeling old one of the main reasons people put off early treatment.
Loud noise and age are the most common factors leading to hearing difficulty but Lett says most people even in their 20s are no longer able to hear some high frequency sounds – and don't know they can't hear them.
Lett says the Triton World of Hearing store will have a team of hearing experts on hand to offer advice and support for complex hearing problems such as tinnitus or noise-induced loss. It represents a new way of hearing care in that people can visit without an appointment and experience for themselves what hearing aids can do.
He says it will complement Triton's existing nationwide network including nine clinics across Auckland.
"Apart from the stigma associated with hearing loss, price and accessibility to care are other barriers," he says. "For those who worry about being seen as old, we have totally invisible hearing aid options (these can connect to phones and live stream music) while for those concerned about price, we offer a 'Pay as you Hear' subscription service across all levels of technology by which customers can pay monthly.
Lett says Triton Hearing is to donate $1 to the National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing for every hearing check completed at Triton during New Zealand Hearing Awareness Month in March which means it is a great time to get a check.
The Newmarket store will officially open to the public on February 23. To secure a free ticket to the launch week, and entry to a prize draw visit www.worldofhearing.co.nz