John’s been experiencing problems hearing at work. He’s in denial and keeps telling himself that everyone is mumbling. He feels that you have to be old to use hearing aids, so he has been procrastinating on finding a hearing professional, and hasn’t had a hearing test. Unfortunately, he’s been cranking up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing considerable harm to his ears. Sadly, his resistance to acknowledging he has loss of hearing has prevented him from looking for effective treatments.
But John’s attitude is more outdated than he realizes. Loss of hearing doesn’t have the stigma that it once did. While in some groups, there’s still a stigma about hearing loss, it’s far less apparent than it used to be, especially with younger generations. (Isn’t that ironic?)
What Are The Problems With Hearing Loss Stigma?
Put simply, hearing loss has some cultural and social connections that aren’t always necessarily true or helpful. For some people, hearing loss may be seen as an indication of aging or a loss of vitality. People are often worried that they may lose social standing if others know they have hearing loss. They feel like they may look old and come off as less “cool”.
You may be tempted to consider this stigma as somewhat of an amorphous concern, separated from reality. But for people who are trying to deal with hearing loss there are some very real consequences. Including these examples:
- Relationship setbacks (that isn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Obstacles in your occupation (Perhaps you were in a meeting and you didn’t quite make out some significant facts).
- Putting of on hearing loss treatment (leading to less than ideal outcomes or unnecessary struggling).
- Job hunting problems (it’s sad to say, but some people may be prejudiced against hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
This list could continue for a while, but at this point you most likely get it.
Fortunately, this is all transforming, and it genuinely does seem as if the stigma surrounding loss of hearing is fading away.
The Decline of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decline in hearing loss stigma is happening for a variety of reasons. Population demographics are changing and so is our relationship with technology.
Hearing Loss is More Prevalent in Youth
Maybe the number one reason that hearing loss stigma is vanishing is that hearing loss itself is becoming a lot more prevalent, especially with younger people (and we’re talking mostly about young adults not children).
Most statistical studies report the number of people with hearing loss in the U.S. around 34 million, which breaks down to 1 in 10 people. In all likelihood, loud noises from several modern sources are the leading reason why this hearing loss is more prevalent than it’s ever been.
There’s more discussion and understanding about loss of hearing as it becomes more widespread.
We’re More Comfortable With Technology
Maybe you were concerned that your first pair of hearing aids would cause you to look old so you resisted wearing them. But nowadays hearing aids nearly blend in completely. No one really even sees them. This is also, partly, because hearing aids are smaller than ever and in the majority of cases are very subtle.
But in many cases hearing aids go undetected because these days, everyones ears seem to have technology in them. Technology itself is simply so pervasive (and individual) that no one bats an eyelash when you have a little piece of helpful technology yourself.
An Overdue Change in Thinking
There are other factors for why loss of hearing has a better image these days. Recently, hearing loss has been depicted with more accuracy (and more humanity) in popular society, and a few prominent celebrities have come out with their own hearing loss truths.
The more we see 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’s possible. The ideal would be to reverse the trends in youth hearing loss while combating against hearing loss stigma.
But at least as the stigma goes away, more people will feel comfortable making an appointment with their professionals and getting regular exams. This will keep people hearing better and enhance general hearing health.