John’s been experiencing problems hearing at work. He’s in denial and keeps telling himself that everyone is mumbling. Besides, he thinks 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 exam. But in the meantime, he’s been doing significant damage to his ears by cranking up the volume on his earbuds. So, unfortunately, his denial has stopped him from seeking out help.
But John’s outlook is more outdated than he recognizes. Loss of hearing doesn’t carry the stigma that it used to. Particularly, with the younger generation, it’s far less pronounced, though you may still encounter it to some extent in some groups. (Ironic isn’t it?)
How is Hearing Loss Stigma Harmful?
Simply put, hearing loss has some social and cultural associations that aren’t always fundamentally helpful or true. For many, hearing loss may be viewed as a sign of old age or a loss of vitality. The worry is that you’ll lose some social status if you disclose you have loss of hearing. Some may think that hearing aids make you appear older or not as “with it”.
This problem might be thought of as trivial and not connected to reality. But for people who are trying to cope with loss of hearing there are some very genuine repercussions. Including these examples:
- Delaying treatment of hearing loss (leading to less than optimal results or needless suffering).
- Difficulties in your relationships (that isn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Obstacles in your occupation (maybe you didn’t hear a critical sentence in a company meeting).
- Difficulty finding employment (it’s unfortunate, but some people may buy into the stigmas around hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
There are many more examples but the point is well made.
Fortunately, this is all changing, and it truly does feel as though the stigma surrounding hearing loss is on its way out.
Why is The Stigma of Hearing Loss Diminishing?
This decline in hearing loss stigma is happening for a number of reasons. Our connection to technology combined with demographic changes in our population have begun to change how we experience devices like hearing aids.
More Younger Adults Are Suffering From Hearing Loss
Maybe the biggest reason that hearing loss stigma is disappearing is that hearing loss itself is starting to be a lot more prevalent, particularly with younger individuals (and we’re speaking largely of young adults not kids).
Most statistical studies put the number of people with loss of hearing in the U.S. about 34 million, which translates into 1 out of every 10 people. More than likely, loud sounds from several modern sources are the leading reason why this loss of hearing is more common than it’s ever been.
As hearing loss becomes more common, it becomes easier to understand the stigmas and misinformation surrounding hearing problems.
We’ve Become More Accustomed to Technology
Possibly you resisted your first set of hearing aids because you were concerned they would be an obvious sign that you have a hearing condition. But these days, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids pretty much entirely blend in. No one notices them. Under most circumstances, newer hearing aids are small and subtle.
But hearing aids also often go unobserved because today, everyone has some technology in their ears. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so no one is concerned if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
A Change in Thinking Long Overdue
There are other reasons why loss of hearing has an improved image these days. 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.
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 prevent hearing loss. If we could determine a way to reverse trends in youth hearing loss as we challenge hearing loss stigma that would be ideal.
But at least as the stigma ends, more people will feel secure scheduling an appointment with their professionals and undergoing regular screenings. This will help improve general hearing health and keep everyone hearing better longer.