John’s having a difficult time at work because he can’t always hear conversations. He’s in denial and keeps telling himself that everyone is mumbling. He thinks that you should be older to wear hearing aids, so he hasn’t scheduled a hearing test and has been avoiding a hearing exam. Unfortunately, he’s been pumping 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 prevented him from seeking out effective treatments.
But John’s perspective is more outdated than he thinks. Loss of hearing doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did. Specifically, with the younger generation, it’s much less evident, even though you may still encounter it to some degree in some circles. (Isn’t that ironic?)
What is The Harm of Hearing Loss Stigma?
Simply put, hearing loss has some social and cultural connections that aren’t always fundamentally true or helpful. For some, loss of hearing may be regarded as an indication of old age or a loss of vigor. The fear is that you’ll lose some social status if you admit you have hearing loss. Some may think that hearing aids make you look old or not as “with it”.
This problem might be thought of as inconsequential and not associated with reality. But there are a few very real consequences for people who are trying to deal with the stigma around hearing loss. Some examples include:
- Putting off proper care of hearing loss (resulting in less than ideal outcomes or unnecessary struggling).
- Difficulties in your relationships (that isn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Career obstacles (Maybe you were attending a meeting and you didn’t quite make out some relevant information).
- Difficulty finding employment (it’s unfortunate, but some people may be prejudiced against hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
There are several more examples but the point is well made.
Fortunately, changes are taking place, and it really does feel as if the stigma surrounding hearing loss is on its way out.
The Demise of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decline in hearing loss stigma is taking place for a number of reasons. Population demographics are changing as is our connection to technology.
It’s Becoming More Common For Young Adults to Have Hearing Loss
Perhaps the primary reason that hearing loss stigma is vanishing is that hearing loss itself is becoming a lot more common, especially with younger people (and we’re speaking largely of young adults not kids).
34 million U.S. citizens have loss of hearing according to most statical studies, which breaks down to 1 in 10 people. There are too many factors that cause this for us to entering into here (loud noise from multiple sources seems to be the primary problem), but the point is that hearing loss is more common now than it ever was before.
There’s more discussion and understanding about hearing loss as it becomes more widespread.
We’re More Comfortable With Technology
Perhaps you were worried that your first pair of hearing aids would make you look old so you resisted wearing them. But nowadays hearing aids almost completely blend in. No one notices them. In many cases, newer hearing aids are small and discrete.
But frequently hearing aids go undetected because today, everyone has some technology in their ears. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so no one is concerned if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
An Overdue Change in Thinking
Naturally, those two factors are not the only causes behind the retreat of hearing loss stigma. In recent years, loss of hearing has been portrayed with more accuracy (and more humanity) in popular culture, and several notable celebrities have come forward with their own hearing loss truths.
The more we observe hearing loss in the world, the less stigma there will be. Of course, now we want to do everything we can to prevent hearing loss. The ideal would be to reverse the trends in youth hearing loss while fighting against hearing loss stigma.
But more people will come around to seeing a hearing professional as this stigma goes away. This will help enhance general hearing health and keep everybody hearing better longer.