John’s having a hard time at work because he doesn’t always hear conversations. He’s in denial and continues telling himself that everyone is speaking unclearly. 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. Unfortunately, he’s been doing considerable harm to his ears by pumping up the volume on his earbuds. So, sadly, his denial has stopped him from seeking out help.
But what John doesn’t recognize is that his viewpoints are antiquated. Because the stigma about loss of hearing is becoming less common. Specifically, with younger people, it’s much less evident, even though you might still see it to some extent in some circles. (Ironic isn’t it?)
How is Hearing Loss Stigma Harmful?
Put simply, loss of hearing has some cultural and social associations that aren’t always necessarily true or helpful. For many, loss of hearing might be regarded as an indication of aging or a loss of vigor. The concern is that you’ll lose some social status if you admit 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 problem, separated from reality. But for people who are attempting to cope with loss of hearing there are some very real repercussions. Including these examples:
- Avoiding hearing loss treatment (resulting in less than optimal results or unnecessary suffering).
- Relationship problems (Your not just tuning people ot, you just can’t hear them very well).
- Obstacles in your occupation (possibly you missed an important sentence in a company meeting).
- 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 a while, but at this point you probably get the point.
Thankfully, changes are happening, and it genuinely does seem as if the stigma around loss of hearing is on its way out.
The Reasons For The Decline of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decline in hearing loss stigma is happening for a variety of reasons. Our relationship with technology combined with demographic changes in our population have begun to change how we feel about things like hearing aids.
More Younger Adults Are Being Diagnosed With Hearing Loss
Younger adults are dealing with loss of hearing more often and that could certainly be the biggest reason for the decrease in the stigma connected to it.
Most statistical studies put the number of people with hearing loss in the U.S. about 34 million, which breaks down to 1 out of every 10 people. Most likely, loud noises from a number of modern sources are the primary reason why this hearing loss is more common than it’s ever been.
As loss of hearing becomes more common, it becomes easier to understand the stigmas and false information concerning hearing problems.
We’re More Comfortable With Technology
Possibly you resisted your first set of hearing aids because you were concerned they would be an obvious indication that you have a hearing issue. But now hearing aids nearly completely blend in. No one really even sees them. Under most circumstances, newer hearing aids are small and subtle.
But often hearing aids go undetected because today, everyone has something in their ears. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so no one cares if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
An Overdue Shift in Thinking
Obviously, those two factors are not the exclusive causes behind the retreat of hearing loss stigma. Much more is commonly understood about hearing loss and there are even famous people that have told the public about their own hearing loss situations.
There will continue to be less stigma regarding hearing loss the more we observe it in the world. Of course, now we are trying to do everything we can to prevent hearing loss. The ideal would be to reverse the trends in youth hearing loss while battling against hearing loss stigma.
But more people will begin to be ok with seeing a hearing specialist as this stigma fades away. This will help enhance general hearing health and keep everyone hearing better longer.