John’s having a hard time at work because he doesn’t always make out conversations. But he thinks it might be everyone else mumbling. Besides, he thinks he’s too young to need hearing aids, so he’s been procrastinating on finding a hearing specialist, and hasn’t had a hearing examination. But in the meantime, he’s been doing significant harm to his ears by cranking up the volume on his earbuds. So, unfortunately, his denial has stopped him from seeking out help.
But John’s outlook is older than he thinks. Because the stigma concerning hearing loss is becoming less prevalent. Particularly, with younger people, it’s far less evident, though you might still encounter it to some degree in some circles. (Ironic isn’t it?)
How Can Hearing Loss Stigma be Harmful?
Put simply, loss of hearing has some cultural and social connections that aren’t always necessarily true or helpful. Loss of vigor and aging are sometimes connected to hearing loss. The anxiety is that you’ll lose some social standing if you admit you have loss of hearing. They feel like they may appear old and come off as less “cool”.
You might be tempted to consider this stigma as somewhat of an amorphous problem, separated from reality. But for individuals who are trying to deal with loss of hearing there are some very genuine consequences. Here are some examples:
- Difficulties in your relationships (Your not just tuning people ot, you just can’t hear them very well).
- Occupation obstacles (Perhaps you were in a meeting and you missed some important information).
- Delaying management of hearing loss (resulting in less than optimal outcomes or unnecessary struggling).
- 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).
This list could go on for quite some time, but you most likely get it.
Fortunately, this is all changing, and It seems as though the stigma of hearing loss is really going away.
Why is The Stigma of Hearing Loss Declining?
This decrease in hearing loss stigma is occurring for a number of reasons. Population demographics are transforming and so is our connection to technology.
It’s Becoming More Common For Young Adults to Have Hearing Loss
Perhaps the primary reason that hearing loss stigma is disappearing is that hearing loss itself is starting to be more and more prevalent, particularly among younger individuals (and we’re talking mostly about young adults not children).
Most statistical studies put the number of individuals with loss of hearing in the U.S. around 34 million, which translates into 1 in 10 people. There are too many reasons for this for us to entering into here (noise from numerous sources appears to be the primary problem), but the point is that loss of hearing is more prevalent now than it ever has been before.
There’s more discussion and understanding about hearing loss as it becomes more widespread.
We’re More Comfortable With Technology
Maybe you were concerned that your first pair of hearing aids would cause you to look old so you resisted wearing them. But these days, technology is so pervasive that hearing aids virtually entirely blend in. No one really even is aware of them. This is also, in part, because hearing aids are smaller than they ever used to be and in the majority of circumstances are very discreet.
But often hearing aids go undetected because these days, everyones ears seem to have something in them. Everyone is used to dealing with technology so nobody is concerned if you’re wearing a helpful piece of it in your ear.
An Overdue Shift in Thinking
Of course, those two reasons are not the exclusive causes for the retreat of hearing loss stigma. Recently, loss of hearing has been depicted with more accuracy (and more humanity) in popular culture, and several prominent celebrities have come out with their own hearing loss truths.
The more we see hearing loss in the world, the less stigma there will be. Of course, now we want to do everything we can to prevent hearing loss. If we could find a way to reverse trends in youth hearing loss as we challenge hearing loss stigma that would be optimal.
But more people will begin to be ok with seeing a hearing professional as this stigma goes away. This will keep everybody hearing better and improve overall hearing health.