John’s having a hard time at work because he doesn’t always make out conversations. But he thinks it’s probably everyone else not speaking clearly. He feels that you have to be older to wear hearing aids, so he has been procrastinating on finding a hearing professional, and hasn’t gone for a hearing examination. Regrettably, he’s been turning up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing considerable harm to his hearing. Sadly, his resistance to acknowledging that he has loss of hearing has prevented him from getting effective solutions.
But John’s outlook is older than he thinks. Loss of hearing doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did. While in some circles, 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?)
What Are The Problems With Hearing Loss Stigma?
The social and cultural associations with hearing loss can be, to put it simply, not true and not beneficial. Loss of vitality and aging are oftentimes connected to loss of hearing. The worry is that you’ll lose some social standing if you acknowledge you have hearing loss. Some might think that hearing aids make you look older or not as “cool”.
This issue might be thought of as insignificant and not connected to reality. But there are a few very real implications for people who are trying to deal with the stigma around hearing loss. Including these examples:
- Putting off management of hearing loss (causing unnecessary suffering and undesirable results).
- Relationship problems (that isn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Job obstacles (possibly you didn’t hear an important sentence in a company meeting).
- Difficulty finding employment (it’s unfortunate, but some people may be prejudiced against hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
This list could continue for some time, but at this point you probably get it.
Fortunately, this is all transforming, and it truly does feel as though the stigma over hearing loss is on its way out.
The Decline of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decline in hearing loss stigma is taking place for a number of reasons. Population demographics are transforming as is our perception of technology.
Hearing Loss is More Widespread in Younger People
Perhaps the biggest reason that hearing loss stigma is vanishing is that hearing loss itself is starting to be increasingly common, especially with younger people (and we’re speaking largely of young adults not children).
Most statistical studies report the number of people who dealing with hearing loss in the U.S. about 34 million, which breaks down to 1 out of every 10 people. There are too many reasons for this for us to entering into here (loud sound from numerous sources appears to be the largest problem), but the main point is that hearing loss is more prevalent now than it ever has been before.
As hearing loss becomes more prevalent, it becomes easier to understand the stigmas and false information concerning hearing problems.
We’ve Become More Familiar With Technology
Maybe you were concerned that your first set of hearing aids would cause you to look old so you resisted using them. But these days, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids nearly blend entirely in. No one notices them. Under most circumstances, newer hearing aids are small and discrete.
But frequently hearing aids go undetected because today, everyone has some technology in their ears. Technology itself is simply so pervasive (and individual) that no one even pays attention when you have a tiny piece of practical technology yourself.
An Overdue Change in Thinking
There are other factors for 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.
The more we see loss of hearing in the world, the less stigma there will be. Now, of course, we want to prevent hearing loss in every way that’s possible. The ideal would be to reverse the trends in youth hearing loss while fighting against hearing loss stigma.
But more people will begin to be ok with seeing a hearing specialist as this stigma goes away. This will help enhance overall hearing health and keep people hearing better longer.