John’s been having problems hearing at work. He’s in denial and is constantly telling himself that everyone is speaking unclearly. What’s more, he thinks he’s too young to need hearing aids, so he’s been procrastinating on seeking out a hearing specialist, and hasn’t had a hearing examination. But in the meantime, he’s been doing significant harm to his ears by turning up the volume on his earbuds. So, sadly, his denial has stopped him from seeking help.
But John’s outlook is older than he realizes. Hearing loss doesn’t have the stigma that it used to. Specifically, with the younger generation, it’s much less pronounced, even though you might still encounter it to some degree in some groups. (Ironic isn’t it?)
How is Hearing Loss Stigma Harmful?
The social and cultural associations with hearing loss can be, to put it simply, untrue and not helpful. Loss of vitality and aging are oftentimes connected to hearing loss. The fear is that you’ll lose some social standing if you admit you have loss of hearing. Some might think that hearing aids make you look older or not as “cool”.
You could be tempted to consider this stigma as somewhat of an amorphous issue, detached from reality. But there are a few very real implications for individuals who are trying to deal with the stigma of hearing loss. Some examples include:
- Relationship problems (Your not just tuning people ot, you just can’t hear them very well).
- Putting off proper care of hearing loss (resulting in less than optimal results or needless suffering).
- Occupation obstacles (maybe you didn’t hear a significant sentence in a business 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 quite a few more examples but the point is well made.
Luckily, changes are happening, and it truly does feel as if the stigma surrounding loss of hearing is on its way out.
Why is The Stigma of Hearing Loss Diminishing?
This decrease in hearing loss stigma is occurring for several reasons. Population demographics are changing and so is our connection to technology.
Hearing Loss is More Widespread in Younger People
Maybe the biggest reason that hearing loss stigma is vanishing is that hearing loss itself is starting to be increasingly common, specifically with younger individuals (and we’re speaking largely of young adults not kids).
34 million U.S. citizens have hearing loss according to most statical studies, which translates into 1 in 10 people. There are too many reasons for this for us to get into here (loud noise from many sources appears to be the biggest factor), but the point is that loss of hearing is more prevalent now than it ever has been before.
There is more discussion and understanding about loss of hearing as it becomes more common.
We’ve Become More Familiar With Technology
Perhaps you resisted your first set of hearing aids because you were concerned they would be a noticeable sign that you have a hearing issue. But now hearing aids almost blend in completely. No one really even sees them. In many cases, newer hearing aids are small and subtle.
But hearing aids also frequently go unnoticed because today, everyone has some technology in their ears. Everyone is used to having technology so no one is concerned if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
An Overdue Shift in Thinking
Obviously, those two reasons are not the only causes behind the reduction of hearing loss stigma. Much more is generally comprehended about loss of hearing and there are even celebrities that have told the public about their own hearing loss scenarios.
There will continue to be less stigma about loss of hearing the more we see 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 fighting against hearing loss stigma.
But more people will begin to be ok with seeing a hearing specialist as this stigma fades away. This will keep everyone hearing better and enhance overall hearing health.