John’s having a hard time at work because he doesn’t always make out conversations. He’s in denial and is constantly telling himself that everyone is speaking unclearly. Besides, he believes he’s too young for hearing aids, so he hasn’t gone in for a hearing exam and has been avoiding a hearing test. Regrettably, he’s been cranking up the volume on his earbuds in the meantime and doing considerable harm to his ears. Sadly, his resistance to acknowledging that he has hearing loss has stopped him from getting practical treatments.
But what John doesn’t realize is that his views are antiquated. Loss of hearing doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did. Specifically, with the younger generation, it’s far less pronounced, even though you might still encounter it to some extent in some circles. (Isn’t that ironic?)
How Can Hearing Loss Stigma be Harmful?
The cultural and social associations with loss of hearing can be, to put it simply, not true and not helpful. Loss of vigor and aging are oftentimes associated with hearing loss. People are commonly concerned that they could lose social status if others discover they have hearing loss. They feel like they might look old and come off as less “cool”.
You might be tempted to consider this stigma as somewhat of an amorphous problem, detached from reality. But for people who are attempting to deal with hearing loss there are some very real consequences. Some examples include:
- Occupation setbacks (Maybe you were attending a meeting and you missed some significant information).
- Relationship challenges (that wasn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Delaying proper care of hearing loss (leading to needless suffering and poor results).
- Job hunting problems (it’s sad to say, but some people may be prejudiced against hearing loss even if it’s not entirely legal).
This list could continue for some time, but you most likely get the point.
Thankfully, changes are happening, and it really does feel as if the stigma around loss of hearing is on its way out.
The Passing of Hearing Loss Stigma
This decrease in hearing loss stigma is happening for a variety of reasons. Our relationship with technology coupled with demographic transformations in our population have begun to change how we experience things like hearing aids.
Hearing Loss is More Widespread in Younger People
Younger adults are suffering from hearing loss more frequently and that could certainly be the biggest reason for the decrease in the stigma connected to it.
Most statistical studies put the number of people with loss of hearing 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 get into here (noise from many sources seems to be the biggest problem), but the point is that hearing loss is more prevalent now than it ever was before.
There is more discussion and understanding about hearing loss as it becomes more widespread.
We’ve Become More Accustomed to Technology
Maybe you resisted your first set of hearing aids because you were worried they would be a noticeable sign that you have a hearing problem. But nowadays, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids virtually entirely blend in. No one notices them. Under most circumstances, newer hearing aids are small and discrete.
But hearing aids also frequently go unnoticed because today, everyones ears seem to have technology in them. Everyone is used to having technology so nobody cares if you have a helpful piece of it in your ear.
An Overdue Shift in Thinking
Obviously, those two reasons are not the exclusive causes for the reduction of hearing loss stigma. In recent years, hearing loss has been depicted with more consistency (and more humanity) in popular culture, and several prominent celebrities have come out with their own hearing loss stories.
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’s possible. If we could find a way to reverse 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 comfortable scheduling an appointment with their hearing specialist and getting regular examinations. This can help enhance overall hearing health and keep everyone hearing better longer.