At Last, The Stigma About Hearing Loss is Fading Away
John’s having a hard time at work because he can’t always hear conversations. He’s in denial and continues telling himself that everyone is mumbling. He feels that you should be older to wear hearing aids, so he hasn’t scheduled a hearing exam and has been steering clear of a hearing exam. But in the meantime, he’s been doing significant damage to his ears by cranking up the volume on his earbuds. Sadly, his reluctance to acknowledging he has hearing loss has prevented him from looking for effective solutions.
But what John doesn’t recognize is that his ideas are antiquated. Because the stigma concerning loss of hearing is becoming less prevalent. Particularly, with younger people, it’s far less pronounced, though you may still see it to some degree in some groups. (Ironic isn’t it?)
How Can Hearing Loss Stigma be Harmful?
Put simply, hearing loss has some cultural and social associations that aren’t always fundamentally true or helpful. For many, hearing loss may be viewed as an indication of old age or a loss of vigor. People are often worried that they might lose social standing if others find out they have hearing loss. Some might think that hearing aids make you appear older or not as “cool”.
You could be tempted to consider this stigma as a rather amorphous concern, detached from reality. But there are some very real consequences for individuals who are trying to deal with the stigma of hearing loss. Some examples include:
- Relationship obstacles (Your not just tuning people ot, you just can’t hear them very well).
- Putting off treatment of loss of hearing (causing unnecessary troubled and poor outcomes).
- Obstacles in your occupation (maybe you didn’t hear an important sentence in a business meeting).
- Difficulty finding employment (it’s sad to say, but some people may be prejudiced against hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
This list could go on for quite a while, but at this point you most likely get the point.
Luckily, changes are taking place, and it really does seem as though the stigma over loss of hearing is fading away.
Why is Hearing Loss Stigma Declining?
There are several major reasons why hearing loss stigma is decreasing. Population demographics are changing as is our connection to technology.
Hearing Loss is More Prevalent in Youth
Maybe the biggest reason that hearing loss stigma is vanishing is that hearing loss itself is becoming increasingly common, especially with younger individuals (and we’re talking mostly about young adults not children).
Most statistical research put the number of individuals with loss of hearing in the U.S. around 34 million, which translates into 1 out of every 10 people. Most likely, loud noises from many modern sources are the primary reason why this loss of hearing is more widespread than it’s ever been.
There is more discussion and understanding about hearing loss as it becomes more common.
We’ve Become More Accustomed to Technology
Perhaps you resisted your first set of hearing aids because you were worried they would be an obvious indication that you have a hearing condition. But now hearing aids almost blend in completely. No one notices them. This is also, partly, because hearing aids are smaller than they ever used to be and in most situations are very subtle.
But often hearing aids go unobserved because today, everyones ears seem to have technology in them. Technology itself is simply so prevalent (and personal) that no one even pays attention when you have a small piece of useful technology yourself.
A Shift in Thinking Long Overdue
There are other reasons why hearing loss has an improved image lately. In recent years, hearing loss has been portrayed with more consistency (and more humanity) in popular culture, and a few prominent celebrities have come out with their own hearing loss stories.
There will continue to be less stigma about hearing loss the more we observe it in the world. Of course, now we are trying to do all we can to stop hearing loss. If we could determine a way to reverse trends in youth hearing loss as we battle hearing loss stigma that would be ideal.
But at least as the stigma ends, more people will feel secure scheduling an appointment with their hearing specialist and getting normal examinations. This will help improve general hearing health and keep everyone hearing better longer.