John’s having a hard time at work because he doesn’t always make out conversations. He’s in denial and keeps telling himself that everyone is mumbling. What’s more, he feels 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 test. Unfortunately, he’s been doing significant damage to his ears by pumping up the volume on his earbuds. Sadly, his reluctance to admitting he has loss of hearing has prevented him from seeking out effective solutions.
But what John doesn’t realize is that his views are antiquated. Hearing loss doesn’t have the stigma that it used to. Specifically, with the younger generation, it’s far less pronounced, even though you might still encounter it to some degree in some circles. (Isn’t that ironic?)
How Can Hearing Loss Stigma be Harmful?
The social and cultural associations with hearing loss can be, to put it simply, false and not beneficial. Loss of vigor and aging are sometimes associated with hearing loss. People are often concerned that they will lose social status if others know they suffer from hearing loss. They feel they might appear old and come off as less “cool”.
This problem could be thought of as irrelevant and not connected to reality. But there are a few very real implications for individuals who are attempting to cope with the stigma around hearing loss. Some examples include:
- Occupation obstacles (maybe you missed an important sentence in a business meeting).
- Putting off proper care of loss of hearing (leading to less than ideal outcomes or unnecessary suffering).
- Setbacks in your relationships (Your not just tuning people ot, you just can’t hear them very well).
- Difficulty finding employment (it’s unfortunate, but some people may be prejudiced against hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
There are many more examples but the point is well made.
Fortunately, changes are happening, and It seems as if the stigma of hearing loss is really disappearing.
Why is Hearing Loss Stigma Declining?
This decline in hearing loss stigma is taking place for a variety of reasons. Population demographics are changing as is our perception of technology.
Hearing Loss is More Common in Youth
Maybe the biggest reason that hearing loss stigma is vanishing is that hearing loss itself is starting to be a lot more common, particularly with younger people (and we’re talking mostly about young adults not children).
Most statistical research put the number of individuals with hearing loss in the U.S. around 34 million, which translates into 1 in 10 people. There are too many factors that cause this for us to entering into here (noise from multiple sources seems to be the primary factor), but the point is that hearing loss is more prevalent now than it ever was in the past.
As loss of hearing becomes more common, it becomes easier to break down the stigmas and misinformation surrounding hearing problems.
We’re More Confident With Technology
Perhaps you were concerned that your first set of hearing aids would make you look old so you resisted using them. But nowadays, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids virtually entirely blend in. No one really even is aware of them. Under most circumstances, newer hearing aids are small and subtle.
But hearing aids also commonly go undetected because today, everyone has some technology in their ears. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so no one is concerned if you’re wearing a helpful piece of it in your ear.
An Overdue Shift in Thinking
Naturally, those two reasons are not the only causes for the retreat of hearing loss stigma. Much more is commonly comprehended about loss of hearing and there are even famous people that have told the public about their own hearing loss conditions.
The more we observe hearing loss in the world, the less stigma there will be. Now, of course, we want to stop hearing loss in every way that we can. The ideal would be to reverse the trends in youth hearing loss while fighting against hearing loss stigma.
But at least as the stigma goes away, more people will feel secure making an appointment with their professionals and undergoing routine exams. This will keep people hearing better and improve overall hearing health.