John’s having a hard time at work because he doesn’t always make out conversations. But he thinks it could be everyone else mumbling. Besides, he feels he’s too young for hearing aids, so he has been avoiding finding a hearing specialist, and hasn’t had a hearing test. Unfortunately, he’s been doing significant damage to his ears by turning up on his earbuds. So, unfortunately, his denial has prevented him from seeking out help.
But what John doesn’t recognize is that his viewpoints are outdated. Hearing loss doesn’t have the stigma that it used to. While in some groups, there’s still a stigma about hearing loss, it’s far less apparent than it used to be, particularly among younger generations. (Isn’t that ironic?)
How Can Hearing Loss Stigma be Harmful?
Put simply, hearing loss has some social and cultural connections that aren’t always fundamentally true or helpful. For some, hearing loss may be viewed as an indication of aging or a loss of vitality. People are often worried that they might lose social standing if others discover they suffer from hearing loss. They feel they may appear old and come off as less “cool”.
This issue may be thought of as trivial and not connected to reality. But for people who are trying to deal with loss of hearing there are some very genuine consequences. Here are some examples:
- Delaying management of loss of hearing (leading to less than optimal results or unnecessary suffering).
- Difficulties in your relationships (that wasn’t just selective hearing…you really didn’t hear what was said).
- Setbacks in your occupation (maybe you missed an important sentence in a business meeting).
- 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 quite a while, but you most likely get the point.
Luckily, this is all changing, and it truly does feel as if the stigma around hearing loss is fading away.
The Reasons For The Decline of Hearing Loss Stigma
There are various major reasons why hearing loss stigma is on the decline. Population demographics are transforming and so is our perception of technology.
Hearing Loss is More Common in Youth
Perhaps the number one reason that hearing loss stigma is disappearing is that hearing loss itself is becoming more and more common, particularly with younger individuals (and we’re speaking largely of young adults not kids).
Most statistical research report the number of individuals who suffer from loss of hearing in the U.S. around 34 million, which breaks down to 1 in 10 people. There are too many factors that cause this for us to entering into here (loud noise from several sources seems to be the biggest factor), but the main point is that hearing loss is more common now than it ever was before.
As hearing loss becomes more prevalent, it becomes easier to break down the stigmas and misinformation concerning hearing problems.
We’re More Confident With Technology
Perhaps you were worried that your first pair of hearing aids would cause you to look old so you resisted using them. But nowadays, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids pretty much blend entirely in. No one notices them. This is also, partly, because hearing aids are smaller than ever and in most situations are very subtle.
But hearing aids also typically go unnoticed because these days, everyones ears seem to have something in them. Technology itself is simply so pervasive (and individual) that no one bats an eyelash when you have a tiny piece of practical technology yourself.
An Overdue Change in Thinking
There are other factors for why hearing loss has a better image right now. Much more is commonly understood about hearing loss and there are even famous people that have told the public about their own hearing loss scenarios.
There will continue to be less stigma concerning 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 we can. The ideal would be to reverse the trends in youth hearing loss while fighting against hearing loss stigma.
But more people will come around to seeing a hearing professional as this stigma fades away. This can help improve overall hearing health and keep everyone hearing better longer.