BIHIMA chairman, Paul Surridge, was delighted to be invited to address members of the Association of Independent Hearing Healthcare Professionals (AIHHP) earlier this month.

The aim of the presentation was to encourage collaboration between key players within the hearing sector, in order to advance the message of better hearing care for all – a message already being pioneered by several corporate bodies and charities within the sector.

The aim is to open up what is a relatively small and concentrated market for the sake of transforming the lives of many more people with hearing loss. Through a unified communications message, dialogue, and information sharing, Mr Surridge asserted that the sector is well positioned to drive forward an agenda for change.

Mr Surridge set the scene by drawing attention to arresting statistics about the extent of the untapped market: the fact that there are 3.6 million people who are under retirement age who are in need of help with their hearing but do not currently access hearing technology.

Continuing the theme, Mr Surridge called for the industry to unite  in changing current perceptions about hearing loss, so that the current assumption of “hearing aids for the old” is replaced by the message of “hearing well throughout life”.

Whilst the sector must continue to improve hearing care for the older generation – enabling dignity, an ability to remain active, confidence, longer life expectancy, the ability to contribute to society in a way that avoids isolation, and the possible early onset of dementia – it must also be reaching out to the young and to middle aged adults with hearing loss, giving them the opportunity to live their lives to the full and to reach their potential in social, academic and career settings.

One of the crucial ways the industry can help change perceptions is by continuing to call vociferously for a new normal approach to hearing health: so that regular hearing checks come to be seen in the same light as routine appointments for eyes and teeth (“eyes checked, teeth checked, hearing checked” is the motto at the heart of one of BIHIMA’s key campaigns).

BIHIMA recognises the vital role the independent sector and manufacturers play in educating consumers, changing perceptions and tackling stigma. Mr Surridge explained how BIHIMA’s rebrand and new strategy have been carefully devised to position the association at the forefront of this mission to bring about a new society-wide understanding of hearing loss.

He left the AIHPP members with the challenge to think about their individual role in this common goal of transforming the lives of the millions of people with hearing loss.