John’s been experiencing difficulty hearing at work. But he thinks it could be everyone else not speaking clearly. Besides, he feels he’s too young for hearing aids, so he hasn’t gone in for a hearing exam and has been steering clear of a hearing test. Regrettably, he’s been turning up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing significant damage to his ears. So, sadly, his denial has prevented him from seeking out help.
But what John doesn’t realize is that his views are outdated. Because the stigma concerning loss of hearing is becoming less common. While in some groups, there’s still a stigma around hearing loss, it’s far less apparent than it was previously, particularly among younger generations. (Ironic isn’t it?)
How is Hearing Loss Stigma Harmful?
Simply put, loss of hearing has some social and cultural connections that aren’t always necessarily helpful or true. Loss of vitality and aging are sometimes connected to loss of hearing. The anxiety is that you’ll lose some social standing if you disclose you have loss of hearing. They feel 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 there are a few very real implications for people who are trying to cope with the stigma of hearing loss. Including these examples:
- Delaying treatment of loss of hearing (resulting in less than optimal results or unnecessary struggling).
- Setbacks in your career (Perhaps you were attending a meeting and you missed some important facts).
- Difficulties in your relationships (Your not just tuning people ot, you just can’t hear them very well).
- Job hunting problems (it’s sad to say, but some people may buy into the stigmas around hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
There are many more examples but the point is well made.
Luckily, changes are occurring, and it truly does feel as if the stigma surrounding loss of hearing is fading away.
Why is Hearing Loss Stigma Declining?
This decline in hearing loss stigma is occurring for several reasons. Population demographics are transforming as is our perception of technology.
Hearing Loss is More Widespread in Youth
Possibly the primary reason that hearing loss stigma is vanishing is that hearing loss itself is starting to be a lot more common, specifically among younger people (and we’re speaking largely of young adults not children).
Most statistical research report the number of individuals with hearing loss in the U.S. about 34 million, which translates into 1 out of every 10 people. There are too many factors that cause this for us to entering into here (loud sound from several sources appears to be the primary factor), but the point is that loss of hearing is more common now than it ever has been before.
As hearing loss becomes more prevalent, it becomes easier to understand the stigmas and false information surrounding hearing issues.
We’re More Comfortable With Technology
Possibly you resisted your first pair of hearing aids because you were concerned they would be an obvious sign that you have a hearing issue. But today hearing aids nearly completely blend in. No one notices them. In many cases, newer hearing aids are small and discrete.
But hearing aids also often go undetected because these days, everyones ears seem to have something in them. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so no one cares if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
A Change in Thinking Long Overdue
There are other reasons why hearing loss has a better image these days. 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 stories.
There will continue to be less stigma concerning loss of hearing the more we see it in the world. Now, of course, we want to prevent hearing loss in every way that’s possible. If we could determine a way to counter trends in youth hearing loss as we challenge hearing loss stigma that would be ideal.
But more people will begin to be ok with seeing a hearing professional as this stigma fades away. This will keep everyone hearing better and enhance general hearing health.