John’s having a hard time at work because he can’t always hear conversations. But he thinks it may be everyone else not speaking clearly. He feels that you should be older to use hearing aids, so he has been avoiding seeking out a hearing professional, and hasn’t gone for a hearing examination. Unfortunately, he’s been pumping up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing considerable harm to his ears. So, sadly, his denial has stopped him from seeking help.
But what John doesn’t recognize is that his ideas are antiquated. Because the stigma concerning hearing loss is becoming less common. Specifically, with the younger generation, it’s much less pronounced, even though you may still see it to some extent in some circles. (Ironic isn’t it?)
How Can Hearing Loss Stigma be Harmful?
Put simply, loss of hearing has some social and cultural connections that aren’t always fundamentally true or helpful. For some people, hearing loss may be regarded as an indication of aging or a loss of vigor. People are commonly worried that they could lose social status if others find out they suffer from hearing loss. They feel they may appear old and come off as less “cool”.
You may be tempted to consider this stigma as a rather amorphous issue, separated from reality. But there are some very real implications for individuals who are attempting to deal with the stigma around hearing loss. Including these examples:
- Delaying treatment of hearing loss (leading to less than optimal results or needless struggling).
- Job setbacks (possibly you didn’t hear a critical sentence in a business meeting).
- Relationship problems (that wasn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Job hunting problems (it’s unfortunate, but some people may be prejudiced against hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
This list could go on for some time, but at this point you probably get the point.
Fortunately, changes are taking place, and It seems like the stigma of hearing loss is really going away.
The Reasons For The Decline of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decline in hearing loss stigma is occurring for several reasons. Our relationship with technology and also demographic transformations in our population have begun to change how we experience things like hearing aids.
More Younger Adults Are Being Diagnosed With Hearing Loss
Younger adults are suffering from hearing loss more frequently and that could very well be the number one reason for the decrease in the stigma associated with it.
34 million U.S. citizens deal with hearing loss according to most statical studies, which breaks down to 1 out of every 10 people. There are too many factors that cause this for us to get into here (loud sound from several sources appears to be the largest factor), but the main point is that hearing loss is more prevalent now than it ever was in the past.
As loss of hearing becomes more common, it becomes easier to break down the stigmas and misinformation concerning hearing problems.
We’ve Become More Accustomed to Technology
Maybe you were worried that your first pair of hearing aids would cause you to look old so you resisted using them. But now hearing aids nearly blend in completely. No one really even is aware of them. This is also, in part, because hearing aids are smaller than they ever used to be and in the majority of instances are very subtle.
But frequently hearing aids go unobserved because today, everyone has some technology in their ears. Technology itself is simply so prevalent (and personal) that no one even pays attention when you’ve got a tiny piece of practical technology yourself.
A Shift in Thinking Long Overdue
Naturally, those two factors are not the only causes behind the reduction of hearing loss stigma. Recently, loss of hearing has been depicted with more clarity (and more humanity) in popular culture, and several prominent celebrities have come forward with their own hearing loss truths.
There will continue to be less stigma about loss of hearing the more we observe it in the world. Of course, now we want to do all we can to prevent hearing loss. If we could find a way to counter trends in youth hearing loss as we battle hearing loss stigma that would be optimal.
But more people will begin to be ok with seeing a hearing specialist as this stigma goes away. This will keep people hearing better and improve general hearing health.