The Golden Bachelor, ABC’s senior citizen-focused spinoff of The Bachelor franchise, is less than a month away and of course there’s a healthcare angle at play.
In recent promos, Gerry Turner, the 71-year-old grandfather-turned-star of the upcoming reality show, is seen wearing hearing aids.
Turner’s role as the leading man of the romantic competition, which premieres on September 1, is set to reposition the conversation around older Americans and hearing aids in particular. Notably, Turner isn’t the only person to appear on The Bachelor with hearing aids.
Abigail Heringer appeared on the show in 2021 and became a fan favorite while openly discussing her hearing loss and use of a cochlear implant.
The conversation and stigma surrounding hearing loss has changed significantly over the years as the technology has improved and more people have been exposed to aids, according to Dr. Leslie Soiles, chief audiologist of HearingLife, a network of nearly 700 hearing health care clinics.
Soiles noted that hearing aids are no longer bulky ‘beige bananas’ relegated to use by older people. She said that modern hearing aids are often sleekly designed nanotechnology supported with Bluetooth capabilities and empower individuals to live full lives so as to not feel ashamed of their condition.
“The [audiology community] is trying to bring an awareness into the mainstream that being hard of hearing is something that many other people are dealing with, both young and older,” she said. “Let’s just make it part of the conversation by putting it out there, instead of trying to present these perfect versions of individuals.”
While an estimated 40 million Americans have hearing loss, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 20% of those who need hearing aids use them.
Soiles attributed this to some people thinking having challenges hearing is representative of being past their prime or not as valuable to society as others. Still, she disputed this narrative by noting it is part of the aging process and can be aided by the use of hearing aids.
As the technology continues to improve and incorporate more innovative capabilities like AI, Soiles said she expects consumer attitudes to change as well.
“As the population ages, and you have younger people that are technically competent, the upcoming seniors that need hearing aids are going to be so tech savvy. They’re going to be able to step into this easily without a sense of stigma,” she said.
The Golden Bachelor isn’t the only piece of contemporary media making hearing aids cool, either, Soiles pointed out.
Prior to the ongoing Barbie craze, Mattel introduced its first doll with hearing aids last May to boost diversity and inclusion among young girls.