John’s having trouble at work because he doesn’t always make out conversations. But he thinks it’s probably everyone else mumbling. What’s more, he thinks he’s too young for hearing aids, so he hasn’t scheduled a hearing test and has been steering clear of a hearing exam. Unfortunately, he’s been doing significant damage to his ears by cranking up the volume on his earbuds. So, sadly, his denial has prevented him from getting help.
But what John doesn’t comprehend is that his ideas are outdated. Because the stigma about loss of hearing is becoming less prevalent. While in some groups, there’s still a stigma around hearing loss, it’s much less apparent than it was previously, especially among younger generations. (Ironic isn’t it?)
What Are The Problems With Hearing Loss Stigma?
The cultural and social associations with hearing loss can be, to put it simply, false and not helpful. For some people, loss of hearing might be regarded as an indication of aging or a loss of vitality. The concern is that you’ll lose some social status if you disclose you have hearing loss. They feel they might look old and come off as less “cool”.
You could be tempted to consider this stigma as somewhat of an amorphous concern, separated from reality. But there are certain very real consequences for people who are attempting to cope with the stigma of hearing loss. Including these examples:
- Relationship challenges (that isn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Occupation obstacles (Perhaps you were attending a meeting and you didn’t quite make out some crucial point).
- Putting off treatment of loss of hearing (leading to less than optimal outcomes or unnecessary suffering).
- Job hunting problems (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.
Thankfully, changes are occurring, and It seems as though the stigma of hearing loss is truly going away.
The Reasons For The Decrease of Hearing Loss Stigma
There are a number of significant reasons why hearing loss stigma is decreasing. Population demographics are changing as is our perception of technology.
Hearing Loss is More Widespread in Younger People
Younger adults are suffering from hearing loss more often and that could very well be the leading reason for the decrease in the stigma associated with it.
Most statistical research report the number of people who have loss of hearing in the U.S. around 34 million, which breaks down to 1 in 10 people. There are too many factors that cause this for us to entering into here (noise from a number of sources seems to be the primary problem), but the main point is that hearing loss is more prevalent now than it ever was before.
As hearing loss becomes more prevalent, it becomes easier to understand the stigmas and misinformation concerning hearing issues.
We’ve Become More Familiar With Technology
Possibly you resisted your first pair of hearing aids because you were concerned they would be an obvious indication that you have a hearing condition. But nowadays, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids almost entirely blend in. No one notices them. This is also, in part, because hearing aids are smaller than ever before and in the majority of cases are very discreet.
But in many cases hearing aids go undetected because these days, everyone has something in their ears. Everyone is used to having technology so no one cares if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
A Shift in Thinking Long Past Due
There are other reasons why loss of hearing has an improved image these days. Recently, hearing loss has been portrayed with more clarity (and more humanity) in popular society, and several prominent 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. Now, of course, we want to prevent loss of hearing in every way that we can. If we could determine a way to reverse trends in youth hearing loss as we battle hearing loss stigma that would be optimal.
But at least as the stigma goes away, more people will feel comfortable scheduling an appointment with their hearing care specialists and getting normal exams. This will keep everyone hearing better and enhance general hearing health.