John’s been having difficulty hearing at work. He’s in denial and is constantly telling himself that everyone is speaking unclearly. He feels that you should be older to wear hearing aids, so he’s been avoiding finding a hearing professional, and hasn’t gone for a hearing exam. Unfortunately, he’s been doing considerable harm to his ears by cranking up on his earbuds. Sadly, his resistance to admitting he has loss of hearing has stopped him from getting practical solutions.
But what John doesn’t recognize is that his views are antiquated. Because the stigma concerning hearing loss is becoming less common. Particularly, with younger people, it’s much less evident, even though you might still see it to some extent in some groups. (Isn’t that ironic?)
How is Hearing Loss Stigma Harmful?
The cultural and social connections with hearing loss can be, to put it simply, false and not beneficial. For some people, loss of hearing might be regarded as a sign of old age or a loss of vigor. The concern is that you’ll lose some social standing if you disclose you have loss of hearing. They feel like they might look old and come off as less “cool”.
You could be tempted to consider this stigma as a rather amorphous concern, separated from reality. But for people who are trying to cope with hearing loss there are some very real consequences. Including these examples:
- Job setbacks (possibly you didn’t hear a significant sentence in a company meeting).
- Difficulties in your relationships (Your not just tuning people ot, you just can’t hear them very well).
- Delaying management of hearing loss (causing needless struggling and poor outcomes).
- Difficulty finding employment (it’s unfortunate, but some people may buy into the stigmas around hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
This list could continue for quite some time, but at this point you probably get the idea.
Luckily, this is all changing, and It seems as if the stigma of hearing loss is really disappearing.
The Demise of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decline in hearing loss stigma is occurring for a number of reasons. Population demographics are transforming as is our perception of technology.
More Younger Adults Are Being Diagnosed With Hearing Loss
Perhaps the number one reason that hearing loss stigma is disappearing is that hearing loss itself is becoming more and more common, particularly with younger individuals (and we’re talking mostly about young adults not children).
34 million U.S. citizens are dealing with hearing loss according to most statical research, which translates into 1 out of every 10 people. Most likely, loud sounds from a number of modern sources are the primary reason why this hearing loss is more widespread than ever before.
As loss of hearing becomes more prevalent, it becomes easier to understand the stigmas and misinformation concerning hearing problems.
We’ve Become More Accustomed to Technology
Possibly you resisted your first set of hearing aids because you were concerned they would be a noticeable indication that you have a hearing condition. But these days, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids pretty much blend entirely in. No one notices them. Under most circumstances, newer hearing aids are small and discrete.
But often hearing aids go unnoticed because these days, everyone has something in their ears. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so no one cares if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
A Shift in Thinking Long Past Due
Naturally, those two factors are not the exclusive causes behind the retreat of hearing loss stigma. In recent years, loss of hearing has been depicted with more clarity (and more humanity) in popular culture, and a few notable celebrities have come forward with their own hearing loss stories.
The more we see loss of hearing in the world, the less stigma there will be. Now, of course, we want to stop hearing loss in every way that we can. If we could find a way to reverse trends in youth hearing loss as we challenge hearing loss stigma that would be optimal.
But more people will come around to seeing a hearing professional as this stigma fades away. This will help enhance general hearing health and keep everybody hearing better longer.