As Helen Keller famously said, “Blindness separates people from things. Deafness separates people from people.” Ms. Hanae Okada, managing director of the hearing aid shop, Kameido Magokoro Hochoki, has made it her life’s work to end the social isolation deafness can bring to those who suffer from it.
“I began my working career in an entirely unrelated business, but then met an inspirational figure, a great man, who showed me just how much people’s lives could be improved by hearing aids. I felt that it was a worthwhile path to follow, so I studied hard about the business, gained qualifications, and opened the shop here in 2000. I was born and raised in Kameido, so it was an easy decision to open the shop here,” she says.
“Unfortunately, some people in Japan have a rather negative image of hearing aids. They see them as expensive, not particularly useful and rather fiddly things. Sadly, unscrupulous dealers who sell people overpriced items, offer poor advice and provide no after-care service have created this image. It couldn’t be further from the truth; modern hearing aids are very high-quality, unobtrusive and, like all modern machines, have benefited from the digital revolution. You can control your aid with smartphone apps now!”
“As people age, their hearing declines. At first many people don’t notice or don’t miss the everyday noises; the sound made by turning the pages of a newspaper, for example. As their hearing worsens, they start to mishear conversations, feel embarrassed by their inability to follow what’s being said, and become socially isolated. It’s a problem for not only the sufferers themselves but for the people around them; having to repeatedly shout even the simplest conversation is exhausting.”
So what should people concerned about their hearing do? “Well firstly, people should find the shop nearest to their home that is a member of the Japan Hearing Instruments Dispensers Association. There are 967 member shops in Japan. Proximity is important, as the aids need adjustment and cleaning to maintain their peak performance. Once a month is optimum, if possible. Within walking distance or a short bike ride is best. Also, membership in the association guarantees trustworthiness.”
“Secondly, people must understand that it is their brains that recognize speech, not the aid. Brain training and rehabilitation are very important factors in getting used to wearing and using a hearing aid. It’s very difficult for an 80-year-old to begin using an aid and expect it to be perfect immediately. We recommend people start in their 50s.”
“We give customers a hearing test, discuss their needs and recommend models. Adjustment and fitting takes about an hour. For many customers, we recommend a trial rental; they can rent an aid and see how it works for them. This is very useful in deciding what kind of aid to use in the long term. We carry most of the major makers; the GN ReSound Group brands such as Beltone, Phonak, Signia and so on.”
A wide variety of hearing aids are available. For mild to moderate hearing loss.
To more severe loss.
Some are almost invisible.
And some are very sleek and stylish.
Ms. Okada’s passion for her work shines through as she deals with a steady stream of visitors to her shop.
If you have any concerns about your hearing and find yourself in the Kameido area, then why not drop in? Put yourself in the hands of the professionals at Kameido Magokoro Hochoki. You can even play with Asuka, the perky Pomeranian!
Story and Photos by Stephen Spencer