John’s been having problems hearing at work. He’s in denial and keeps telling himself that everyone is mumbling. He believes that you should be old to wear hearing aids, so he hasn’t gone in for a hearing exam and has been steering clear of a hearing exam. Unfortunately, he’s been turning up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing considerable harm to his ears. So, sadly, his denial has prevented him from seeking help.
But John’s attitude is more outdated than he thinks. Because the stigma around loss of hearing is becoming less prevalent. Specifically, with younger people, it’s much less pronounced, even though you may still encounter it to some degree in some circles. (Ironic isn’t it?)
How Can Hearing Loss Stigma be Harmful?
Simply put, hearing loss has some social and cultural associations that aren’t always necessarily true or helpful. For some, loss of hearing might be seen as an indication of aging or a loss of vigor. People are often concerned that they may lose social status if others know they suffer from hearing loss. They feel they might look old and come off as less “cool”.
This problem could be thought of as unimportant and not associated with reality. But there are some very real consequences for people who are attempting to deal with the stigma around hearing loss. Some examples include:
- Setbacks in your relationships (that isn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Putting off proper care of loss of hearing (leading to less than ideal results or needless struggling).
- Occupation setbacks (Perhaps you were in a meeting and you missed some relevant point).
- Difficulty finding employment (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 several more examples but the point is well made.
Fortunately, this is all transforming, and it genuinely does seem as if the stigma surrounding hearing loss is on its way out.
The End of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decrease in hearing loss stigma is occurring for several reasons. Our connection to technology along with demographic changes in our population have begun to alter how we feel about devices like hearing aids.
More Younger Adults Are Being Diagnosed With Hearing Loss
Possibly the biggest reason that hearing loss stigma is vanishing is that hearing loss itself is becoming a lot more common, particularly among younger individuals (and we’re talking mostly about young adults not kids).
Most statistical studies put the number of individuals who suffer from 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 get into here (loud sound from a number of sources seems to be the primary factor), but the point is that hearing loss is more common now than it ever was before.
As hearing loss becomes more common, it becomes easier to break down the stigmas and false information concerning hearing conditions.
We’re More Confident With Technology
Perhaps you were worried that your first set of hearing aids would cause you to look old so you resisted using them. But nowadays, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids virtually entirely blend in. No one notices them. This is also, partly, because hearing aids are smaller than ever before and in most situations are very subtle.
But in many cases hearing aids go undetected because today, everyones ears seem to have technology in them. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so nobody cares if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
An Overdue Change in Thinking
There are other factors for why hearing loss has a better image these days. Recently, loss of hearing has been portrayed with more consistency (and more humanity) in popular culture, and a few notable celebrities have come out with their own hearing loss stories.
The more we observe loss of hearing in the world, the less stigma there will be. Of course, now we want to do everything we can to stop hearing loss. The ideal would be to reverse the trends in youth hearing loss while fighting against hearing loss stigma.
But more people will begin to be ok with seeing a hearing professional as this stigma fades away. This can help enhance general hearing health and keep everybody hearing better longer.