John’s been experiencing problems hearing at work. He’s in denial and continues telling himself that everyone is speaking unclearly. What’s more, he believes he’s too young for hearing aids, so he has been avoiding seeking out a hearing professional, and hasn’t gone for a hearing examination. Unfortunately, he’s been turning up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing significant damage to his ears. Sadly, his reluctance to admitting that he has loss of hearing has prevented him from looking for effective treatments.
But John’s mindset is more outdated than he thinks. Because the stigma around hearing loss is becoming less common. Specifically, with younger people, it’s much less pronounced, though you may still encounter it to some extent in some groups. (Ironic isn’t it?)
How Can Hearing Loss Stigma be Harmful?
The social and cultural connections with loss of hearing can be, to put it simply, incorrect and not beneficial. For many, loss of hearing may be regarded as an indication of old age or a loss of vigor. The concern is that you’ll lose some social status if you acknowledge you have loss of hearing. They feel they might appear old and come off as less “cool”.
This problem may be thought of as insignificant and not associated with reality. But for individuals who are trying to deal with hearing loss there are some very genuine consequences. Including these examples:
- Career setbacks (Perhaps you were attending a meeting and you didn’t quite make out some relevant information).
- Avoiding hearing loss treatment (leading to needless struggling and poor results).
- Relationship challenges (that wasn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Job hunting problems (it’s sad to say, 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.
Thankfully, changes are happening, and It seems as if the stigma of hearing loss is truly disappearing.
The Reasons For The Decrease of Hearing Loss Stigma
There are several major reasons why hearing loss stigma is decreasing. Our connection to technology in addition to demographic changes in our population have started to alter how we experience devices like hearing aids.
Hearing Loss is More Widespread in Younger People
Possibly the biggest reason that hearing loss stigma is vanishing is that hearing loss itself is starting to be more and more prevalent, specifically among younger individuals (and we’re talking mostly about young adults not kids).
Most statistical research report the number of people with loss of hearing in the U.S. about 34 million, which breaks down to 1 out of every 10 people. There are too many factors that cause this for us to get into here (noise from multiple sources seems to be the primary factor), but the main point is that hearing loss is more common now than it ever was in the past.
There is more discussion and knowledge about loss of hearing as it becomes more common.
We’ve Become More Accustomed to Technology
Maybe you resisted your first pair of hearing aids because you were concerned they would be a noticeable indication that you have a hearing problem. But now hearing aids almost blend in completely. No one notices them. This is also, partly, because hearing aids are smaller than they ever used to be and in the majority of instances are very discreet.
But in many cases hearing aids go unobserved because today, everyones ears seem to have something in them. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so no one cares if you’re wearing a helpful piece of it in your ear.
An Overdue Shift in Thinking
There are other reasons why hearing loss has an improved image right now. Recently, hearing loss has been portrayed with more consistency (and more humanity) in popular society, and several notable celebrities have come out with their own hearing loss stories.
There will continue to be less stigma regarding hearing loss the more we observe it in the world. Now, of course, we want to stop hearing loss in every way that’s possible. If we could find a way to counter trends in youth hearing loss as we battle hearing loss stigma that would be optimal.
But at least as the stigma goes away, more people will feel secure making an appointment with their hearing care specialists and undergoing routine examinations. This can help enhance overall hearing health and keep people hearing better longer.