What’s In a Name?

I was fascinated by an earlier post from Stephanie about language and the lack of an original name for hearing aids, something the aural equivalent of ‘glasses’ and ‘contact lenses’ (as opposed to ‘seeing aids’). I also enjoyed Steve’s post about ‘hearables’. It made me remember something from my childhood that I thought I’d share with you.

When I was a young child, I didn’t realise people were even saying ‘hearing aid’. Because of the accent, it sounded like they were saying ‘eerie naid’, which had no meaning other than that to me, it was the equivalent of glasses. Someone’s ‘eerie naid’ helped them hear in the same way their glasses helped them to see: such was the way of the world in my three or four year old mind.

Things were further confused by my beloved Nan saying, “Pass me my glasses so I can hear you.” Unbeknown to me, my Nan had bone conducting hearing aids attached to her glasses.

In my mind, her glasses looked something like these Cats eye glasses — but then again, it was a very long time ago!

Cats eye glasses by Paul Taylor
Photo credit: Paul Taylor website

I wonder if giving the ‘devices in our ears’ a new name would help with the image problem aids seem to have.

Hearing aids have long been associated with old age/ageing which is not good for those of us who need them at a much younger age — even in childhood.

How about a new name such as ‘Personal Amplifying Devices’? That’s what a hearing aid is really: a personal amplifying device. This would be the name equivalent of ‘contact lenses’.

When I don’t have my lenses in, I say, “I haven’t got my eyes in.” Is it that far a leap for those of us who say, “Wait, I just need to put my ‘ears’ in,” to say, “I just need to put my P.A.D.s in or my amplifiers in”?

I think not and you have to admit, it sounds a whole heap better than putting your ‘eerie naids’ in.

19 thoughts on “What’s In a Name?”

  1. For me that really sounds like your ear was cut off and replaced by a fake one (the outer part). In France people use “prothèses auditives” which I really hate (I’m from French-speaking Switzerland where we say “appareils auditifs”) because it makes it sound like a replacement for a missing limb. (Which can happen, and it’s OK, I mean, I have nothing against missing limbs…) — but for me it keeps this big wide open gap between eyes and ears, which should in my opinion be treated more similarly.

  2. That’s true, I was thinking it didn’t sound right after I said it.
    If we use the word “glasses” for seeing aids, why not use what hearing aids are made of to describe them? Like “tubes” or “buds”?

  3. “Wait, I just need to put my ‘ears’ in” is exactly what I say when arriving to the office! People have gotten used to it, it’s knid of funny every time a new person arrives to see their eyes (after all, hearing aids are less conspicuous than, say, glasses).

  4. I also say “ears”, works in both French and English, is short, and people remember it once they’ve got it. Like Stephane, I get puzzled looks every now and again, but I just act normal and let the puzzled unpuzzle themselves.

    I have heard people say “eyes” for contacts or glasses, so there’s a parallel there we can lean on.

  5. Hello,
    In France it is often my “appareil” and it is the same word for… teeth! This means it isn’t a specific word for Hearing Aids . As for me I say “I have to put the sound on” and I sometimes say where’s my Phonak just like I say where are my Ray Ban for my sun glasses, where are my Converse… my Iphone. Phonak (or another brand) would be more famous everyone could understand it. This is a really big deal to change the language and maybe an interresting opportunity for Phonak to communicate this way in public ( tv spots with teens).

    Imagine’ the Muse 2nd law music I m just listening to now or something else modern and rock,
    Teens playing tennis or surfing on a SUP, riding, playing football..
    “Wahoo look he has the last phonak’s ! How lucky he is !”
    “Yes and his Phonak is connected to his smartphone…”.

    Or a girl listenning to music on her phone thanks to her phonak, in the bus.

    Or listening to her lessons while taking an exam… (No this could be useful to remain our secret) LOL

    For me it is just the job of brands.
    The 1st brand which will succeed in associating hearing aids with its name will be the leader forever on this particularly trendy market.

    No one wonder what is an iphone it is just the phone. Tomorrow no one has to ignore what is a bolero or a phonak.
    Phonak has to do the job !
    Phonak has to rebuild its range of products to make it easier to understand and remember. The current situation is just impossible to be understood by anyone at 1st sight !

    Let’s take once again the exemple of apple or samsung products’ success ( I am neither a fan of iphone nor S5’s) it is just to notice they succeeded in it… Volkswagen with the Golf also did it.

    Phonak can do it

  6. I’m glad it’s not just me who says, “Wait while I put my ears in.” But, while this is OK in conversation with family members, I think we would all benefit from a new term when talking with others outside the family.

    I like the ‘Phonak’ suggestion. Why not? We say iPad rather than ‘tablet’ and iPhone rather than ‘phone’. I think I’m going to start using this. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Oh, and as a matter of fact, I knew someone once whose son had to have actual prostethetic ears as he was born without ears. They do exist and can be seen here: http://www.medicalartprosthetics.com/content.php?page=prostheses&sec=auricular

    Thanks for your comments! Look out for my next post coming soon.

  7. It is Glasses because the main part is the glass? The main part of a Hearing aid today? I Think ist must be the incredible processor using digital Hearing aids. So it must be something like HePo (Hearing Processor) or PoSo für Processor Sound.

  8. So we have to give it different names in different languages.
    We are calling e.g. Mobile Phones – Handy in Austria.

    Glasses are called Brille or in the dialect at Vienna “Scheanglprothese” for the moderat glasses or “schnapsglaseln” for the thicker one. The User of the glasses are called “Schasaugata”

    Hearingaids are called “Horcherl” – wich is derived from Hören (=Hearing) – seems to fit best. The user of horcherl is called a “Terische Kapelln” – which means some some sort of hard Hearing band.


  9. I think Hearing without the Word aid’s is also Good. Like :” put your hearing’s on we are late.”

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