John’s been experiencing problems hearing at work. But he feels like it might be everyone else not speaking clearly. He thinks that you have to be older to wear hearing aids, so he hasn’t scheduled a hearing test and has been steering clear of a hearing exam. Regrettably, he’s been turning up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing significant harm to his ears. So, sadly, his denial has prevented him from getting help.
But John’s perspective is more outdated than he thinks. Hearing loss doesn’t have the stigma that it once did. While in some groups, there’s still a stigma around hearing loss, it’s much less pronounced than it was in the past, particularly among younger generations. (Isn’t that ironic?)
How is Hearing Loss Stigma Harmful?
The cultural and social connections with loss of hearing can be, to put it simply, incorrect and not helpful. For some people, loss of hearing may be regarded as a sign of old age or a loss of vigor. The fear is that you’ll lose some social status if you acknowledge you have loss of hearing. They feel like they may appear old and come off as less “cool”.
This problem might be thought of as insignificant and not associated with reality. But for people who are attempting to cope with hearing loss there are some very genuine repercussions. Here are some examples:
- Avoiding hearing loss management (leading to needless suffering and poor results).
- Relationship challenges (that isn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Setbacks in your job (Maybe you were attending a meeting and you missed some important facts).
- Job hunting problems (it’s unfortunate, but some people may buy into the stigmas around hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
This list could go on for quite a while, but at this point you most likely get it.
Fortunately, changes are taking place, and it genuinely does feel as though the stigma around loss of hearing is fading away.
Why is Hearing Loss Stigma Diminishing?
This decrease in hearing loss stigma is happening for a number of reasons. Population demographics are transforming and so is our connection to technology.
More Younger Adults Are Suffering From Hearing Loss
Possibly the biggest reason that hearing loss stigma is disappearing is that hearing loss itself is becoming more and more common, specifically with younger individuals (and we’re talking mostly about young adults not children).
Most statistical research report the number of individuals with hearing loss in the U.S. about 34 million, 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 noise from a number of sources seems to be the largest factor), but the point is that loss of hearing is more prevalent now than it ever has been before.
As hearing loss becomes more widespread, it becomes easier to break down the stigmas and misinformation surrounding hearing conditions.
We’ve Become More Accustomed to Technology
Possibly you resisted your first pair of hearing aids because you were concerned they would be a noticeable sign that you have a hearing issue. But nowadays hearing aids almost completely blend in. No one really even is aware of them. In many cases, newer hearing aids are small and discrete.
But hearing aids also often go unobserved because these days, everyone has some technology in their ears. Everyone is used to having technology so no one cares if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
An Overdue Shift in Thinking
Naturally, those two reasons are not the exclusive causes for the reduction of hearing loss stigma. Much more is commonly understood about hearing loss and there are even celebrities that have told the public about their own hearing loss situations.
The more we see loss of hearing in the world, the less stigma there will be. Now, of course, we want to prevent hearing loss in every way that’s possible. The ideal would be to change the trends in youth hearing loss while fighting against hearing loss stigma.
But at least as the stigma goes away, more people will feel secure scheduling an appointment with their professionals and getting normal exams. This will help improve general hearing health and keep people hearing better longer.