John’s having a difficult time at work because he can’t always hear conversations. He’s in denial and keeps telling himself that everyone is mumbling. What’s more, he thinks he’s too young for hearing aids, so he hasn’t scheduled a hearing exam and has been avoiding a hearing exam. Regrettably, he’s been cranking up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing significant damage to his hearing. So, sadly, his denial has prevented him from getting help.
But what John doesn’t recognize is that his views are outdated. Because the stigma around loss of hearing is becoming less prevalent. Particularly, with younger people, it’s far less evident, even though you might still see it to some extent in some circles. (Ironic isn’t it?)
What is The Harm of Hearing Loss Stigma?
Put simply, loss of hearing has some social and cultural associations that aren’t always fundamentally helpful or true. For many, hearing loss may be regarded as a sign of old age or a loss of vitality. The fear is that you’ll lose some social status if you admit you have hearing loss. They feel like they may look old and come off as less “cool”.
You may be tempted to think of this stigma as somewhat of an amorphous problem, isolated from reality. But there are a few very real consequences for people who are attempting to cope with the stigma of hearing loss. Here are some examples:
- Relationship problems (Your not just tuning people ot, you just can’t hear them very well).
- Job setbacks (Perhaps you were in a meeting and you didn’t quite make out some crucial point).
- Delaying treatment of loss of hearing (leading to unnecessary struggling and undesirable outcomes).
- Job hunting problems (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.
Luckily, changes are occurring, and It seems as though the stigma of hearing loss is truly disappearing.
The Reasons For The Decrease of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decrease in hearing loss stigma is happening for several reasons. Our connection to technology combined with demographic changes in our population have begun to change how we feel about devices like hearing aids.
Hearing Loss is More Widespread in Younger People
Possibly the biggest reason that hearing loss stigma is disappearing is that hearing loss itself is becoming a lot more common, specifically with younger individuals (and we’re talking mostly about young adults not children).
34 million U.S. citizens are dealing with hearing loss according to most statical research, which breaks down to 1 in 10 people. There are too many reasons for this for us to get into here (noise from multiple sources appears to be the primary factor), but the point is that hearing loss is more prevalent now than it ever has been in the past.
As loss of hearing becomes more common, it becomes easier to break down the stigmas and false information concerning hearing issues.
We’re More Comfortable With Technology
Maybe you were worried that your first set of hearing aids would cause you to look old so you resisted wearing them. But these days, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids pretty much blend entirely in. No one notices them. In many cases, newer hearing aids are small and discrete.
But often hearing aids go unnoticed because these days, everyones ears seem to have technology in them. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so no one is concerned if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
A Shift in Thinking Long Overdue
Naturally, those two factors are not the exclusive causes behind the reduction of hearing loss stigma. In recent years, 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. Now, of course, we want to stop hearing loss in every way that we can. If we could determine a way to reverse trends in youth hearing loss as we challenge hearing loss stigma that would be optimal.
But more people will come around to seeing a hearing specialist as this stigma goes away. This can help enhance overall hearing health and keep people hearing better longer.