John’s having trouble at work because he can’t always hear conversations. He’s in denial and continues telling himself that everyone is mumbling. He thinks that you should be old to wear hearing aids, so he hasn’t scheduled a hearing test and has been avoiding a hearing test. Regrettably, he’s been pumping up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing significant damage to his hearing. So, unfortunately, his denial has stopped him from getting help.
But what John doesn’t recognize is that his views are outdated. Loss of hearing doesn’t have the stigma that it once did. While in some groups, there’s still a stigma surrounding hearing loss, it’s far less pronounced than it used to be, especially among younger people. (Isn’t that ironic?)
How Can Hearing Loss Stigma be Harmful?
Simply put, loss of hearing has some social and cultural associations that aren’t always necessarily helpful or true. For many, hearing loss might be seen as an indication of old age or a loss of vigor. The worry is that you’ll lose some social status if you acknowledge you have hearing loss. Some might think that hearing aids make you appear older or not as “with it”.
You may be tempted to consider this stigma as somewhat of an amorphous concern, detached from reality. But there are certain very real implications for individuals who are attempting to deal with the stigma around hearing loss. Including these examples:
- Avoiding hearing loss treatment (resulting in less than optimal results or unnecessary suffering).
- Relationship obstacles (that isn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Obstacles in your occupation (Perhaps you were attending a meeting and you didn’t quite make out some essential information).
- Job hunting problems (it’s sad to say, but some people may buy into the stigmas around hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
This list could go on for quite some time, but at this point you probably get the idea.
Fortunately, this is all changing, and it really does seem as if the stigma around loss of hearing is on its way out.
The End of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decrease in hearing loss stigma is happening for several reasons. Population demographics are transforming as is our connection to technology.
More Younger Adults Are Being Diagnosed With Hearing Loss
Younger adults are suffering from loss of hearing more frequently and that could very well be the number one reason for the decline in the stigma associated with it.
34 million U.S. citizens are dealing with hearing loss according to most statical research, which translates into 1 out of every 10 people. In all likelihood, loud noises from several modern sources are the leading reason why this loss of hearing is more widespread than ever before.
There is more discussion and understanding about hearing loss as it becomes more widespread.
We’re More Confident With Technology
Maybe you were worried that your first set of hearing aids would make you look old so you resisted using them. But these days, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids pretty much blend entirely in. No one notices them. This is also, partly, because hearing aids are smaller than they ever used to be and in the majority of instances are very subtle.
But often hearing aids go undetected because today, everyones ears seem to have technology in them. Technology itself is simply so pervasive (and personal) that no one bats an eyelash when you’ve got a little piece of helpful technology yourself.
An Overdue Shift in Thinking
There are other factors for why hearing loss has an improved image right now. Much more is generally understood about loss of hearing and there are even famous people that have told the public about their own hearing loss conditions.
The more we observe loss of hearing in the world, the less stigma there will be. Now, of course, we want to prevent loss of hearing in every way that’s possible. If we could find a way to reverse trends in youth hearing loss as we challenge hearing loss stigma that would be ideal.
But at least as the stigma ends, more people will feel comfortable making an appointment with their hearing specialist and getting normal examinations. This will keep everyone hearing better and enhance overall hearing health.