John’s been having difficulty hearing at work. He’s in denial and keeps telling himself that everyone is mumbling. Besides, he feels he’s too young to need hearing aids, so he hasn’t scheduled a hearing exam and has been avoiding a hearing exam. Unfortunately, he’s been cranking up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing considerable harm to his ears. Sadly, his resistance to acknowledging he has loss of hearing has stopped him from looking for practical solutions.
But what John doesn’t recognize is that his views are antiquated. Hearing loss doesn’t have 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 was previously, particularly with younger generations. (Isn’t that ironic?)
How is Hearing Loss Stigma Harmful?
Put simply, hearing loss has some cultural and social connections that aren’t always necessarily true or helpful. For many, loss of hearing may be regarded as an indication of old age or a loss of vitality. People are often concerned that they might lose social status if others recognize they have hearing loss. Some might think that hearing aids make you appear old or not as “with it”.
You might be tempted to consider this stigma as a rather amorphous problem, detached from reality. But for people who are trying to deal with hearing loss there are some very real consequences. Here are some examples:
- Occupation obstacles (Maybe you were in a meeting and you didn’t quite make out some essential point).
- Avoiding hearing loss treatment (leading to less than optimal outcomes or needless struggling).
- Relationship problems (that wasn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Difficulty finding employment (it’s unfortunate, but some people may buy into the stigmas around hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
There are quite a few more examples but the point is well made.
Luckily, changes are taking place, and It seems as if the stigma of hearing loss is really going away.
The Decline of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decline in hearing loss stigma is taking place for a number of reasons. Our relationship with technology and also demographic transformations in our population have begun to change how we experience things like hearing aids.
It’s Becoming More Common For Young Adults to Have Hearing Loss
Younger adults are dealing with hearing loss more frequently and that could very well be the biggest reason for the decline in the stigma associated with it.
34 million U.S. citizens deal with hearing loss according to most statical studies, which translates into 1 out of every 10 people. Most likely, loud sounds from many modern sources are the leading reason why this hearing loss is more prevalent than it’s ever been.
There’s more discussion and understanding about loss of hearing as it becomes more common.
We’ve Become More Familiar With Technology
Perhaps you were worried that your first pair of hearing aids would make you look old so you resisted wearing them. But now hearing aids almost completely blend in. No one notices them. In many cases, newer hearing aids are small and discrete.
But often hearing aids go unnoticed because these days, everyones ears seem to have something in them. Technology itself is simply so prevalent (and personal) that no one even pays attention when you have a small piece of helpful technology yourself.
An Overdue Change in Thinking
Obviously, those two factors are not the only causes behind the reduction of hearing loss stigma. In recent years, hearing loss has been depicted with more clarity (and more humanity) in popular culture, and several notable celebrities have come forward with their own hearing loss truths.
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 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 fades, more people will feel comfortable scheduling an appointment with their professionals and having regular examinations. This can help improve overall hearing health and keep everyone hearing better longer.