Dealing with hearing loss can be scary and upsetting. Unfortunately, this is only worsened by social stigmas associated with the condition. Some people are afraid to seek help hearing better because of how they think others will perceive and treat them. Sadly, this can cause people to struggle with reduced hearing when treatment could help them significantly.
The Social Stigma About Reduced Hearing
Historically, hearing health issues were poorly understood. Many people associated the condition primarily with old age. In other words, anyone who had difficulty hearing must be old and past their prime. Understandably, this makes many people feel hesitant about addressing the issue because feeling old can be unpleasant.
People also sometimes associate the condition with low cognition or intellectual disabilities. Additionally, some people believe that having difficulty hearing indicates social awkwardness or poor communication skills. In short, many people who suffer from reduced hearing expect that others will see them in a more negative light due to the condition.
The Sources of the Stigma
As mentioned above, the stigma is largely driven by some outdated thinking about hearing health. However, this is not the only reason that needing a hearing aid may be looked down upon.
Part of the problem comes from reduced hearing being viewed as “different.” Humans have a natural tendency to want to be part of a group and that can sometimes lead to treating others poorly. Fortunately, increased awareness is helping to reduce this issue.
Another part of the problem is driven by advertisements by hearing aid companies. They feed into the stigma by highlighting the aesthetic characteristics of their devices. Many brands emphasize the discreetness and looks of their devices. They are responding to customers’ buying preferences, which is understandable. However, this advertising tendency implies that a hearing aid is something shameful that needs to be hidden.
Dangers of This Social Stigma
You may be surprised to learn that around one in five Americans report some loss of hearing. Those are just the reported cases; the actual number is likely even higher. However, far less than 20% seek treatment.
People are ashamed of their diminished hearing and are hesitant to get help. This can cause a lot of stress and also reduced quality of life. Hearing is an important part of how we interact and socialize.
Furthermore, certain hearing health issues can get worse without treatment. As with other medical conditions, getting expert help from a doctor early can greatly improve the prognosis. Even if this isn’t the case for a specific patient, he or she is missing out on the benefits of treatment due to avoiding it. The social stigma around hearing loss has serious ramifications.
Trends Changing the Stigma
Fortunately, the social stigma around hearing health is slowly diminishing. There are a few trends that are helping to drive this change.
First, as a society, we are starting to understand hearing a lot better. Increased research and new technologies allow us to screen and test for hearing problems more accurately. Patients don’t always need to self-identify the problem before it can be treated. Better screening and detection mean that patients do not always have to get over the hurdle of seeking help by themselves.
Second, those advancements also mean that we can detect hearing problems in infants and other children. Whereas once the only people who wore hearing aids were older, it is now not uncommon to see a young child with one. This is helping to eliminate the age-related stigma about hearing aids.
Finally, education and awareness about hearing health is improving. Children in school are screened regularly and learn about potential causes of hearing damage. As people understand the condition more, there is much less stigma associated with needing a hearing aid or other treatment.
How To Fight the Stigma
Despite the good progress that has been made in reducing the social stigma around hearing health, there is still much more to achieve. On an individual level, take a moment to consider what the pros and cons of seeking treatment are. If you list these out, it is likely that the benefits of hearing better and being more engaged in conversations will greatly outweigh the drawbacks.
Addressing the emotions holding you back from treatment can also help. In many cases, they may feel less serious when you examine them closely.
Another helpful approach is to get involved with organizations such as the Hearing Loss Association of America and similar, local groups. Dealing with this problem is easier if you have support from others who have similar experiences.
Furthermore, getting involved is an opportunity to address the stigma on a broader scale. Many of these groups advocate for the needs of people with hearing difficulties. This includes combatting this unfortunate social stigma.
Don’t wait to address your reduced hearing. It is a very common problem that no one should be ashamed of. Schedule an appointment with an audiologist. You’ll be glad you did.