John’s been experiencing difficulty hearing at work. But he thinks it might be everyone else mumbling. Besides, he thinks he’s too young to need 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 considerable damage to his ears by cranking up on his earbuds. So, sadly, his denial has stopped him from getting help.
But John’s mindset is more outdated than he believes. Hearing loss doesn’t have the stigma that it used to. Particularly, with the younger generation, it’s much less pronounced, though you might still encounter it to some extent in some circles. (Isn’t that ironic?)
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 many, loss of hearing may be regarded as an indication of aging or a loss of vitality. People are frequently concerned that they may lose social status if others recognize they suffer from hearing loss. Some may think that hearing aids make you look old or not as “cool”.
This issue might be thought of as unimportant and not associated with reality. But there are certain very real implications for people who are attempting to deal with the stigma around hearing loss. Including these examples:
- Putting off proper care of hearing loss (leading to less than ideal outcomes or unnecessary suffering).
- Challenges in your relationships (that wasn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Job 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 be prejudiced against hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
This list could go on for some time, but at this point you probably get the idea.
Fortunately, changes are occurring, and it genuinely does feel as if the stigma surrounding loss of hearing is fading away.
Why is The Stigma of Hearing Loss Decreasing?
This decrease in hearing loss stigma is occurring for a variety of reasons. Population demographics are transforming and so is our connection to technology.
Hearing Loss is More Prevalent in Younger People
Possibly the number one reason that hearing loss stigma is disappearing is that hearing loss itself is starting to be increasingly common, particularly among 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 factors that cause this for us to get into here (loud sound from several sources seems to be the largest problem), but the main point is that hearing loss is more prevalent now than it ever has been before.
As hearing loss becomes more widespread, it becomes easier to understand the stigmas and misinformation surrounding hearing problems.
We’re More Comfortable With Technology
Maybe you were worried that your first pair of hearing aids would cause you to look old so you resisted using them. But these days, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids nearly entirely blend in. No one really even sees them. This is also, in part, because hearing aids are smaller than they ever used to be and in the majority of cases are very subtle.
But often hearing aids go unobserved because these days, everyone has something in their ears. Everyone is used to having technology so nobody is concerned if you’re wearing a helpful piece of it in your ear.
An Overdue Change in Thinking
Of course, those two factors are not the exclusive causes for the retreat of hearing loss stigma. In recent years, hearing loss has been portrayed with more accuracy (and more humanity) in popular society, and several prominent celebrities have come out with their own hearing loss stories.
There will continue to be less stigma regarding loss of hearing the more we see it in the world. 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 more people will come around to seeing a hearing specialist as this stigma fades away. This will keep everyone hearing better and improve general hearing health.