It’s difficult to pinpoint precisely what the stigma of hearing loss is. Maybe those with hearing loss are concerned about appearing old, uncool, or a little slow. While the exact form of the stigma is unknown, many of those who have hearing loss are aware of it.
Of course, none of the stereotypes are accurate. Hearing loss affects people of all ages, from infants to the elderly, and with today’s high noise levels, many new cases of hearing loss occur among teenagers.
Hearing loss is oddly stigmatized, given that wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, or utilizing other assistive devices have no negative connotations. This may be because hearing loss is invisible. While someone with hearing loss responds incorrectly to a question, it’s easy for others to assume they’re unintelligent or disrespectful when the truth is that they probably didn’t hear what was said.
Stigma is stopping people from treating their hearing loss.
Many people who could benefit from treatment for their hearing loss do not because of the stigma. According to the NIDCD, fewer than one-third of persons aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids have ever used them. Even fewer persons aged 20 to 69 (about 16%) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have done so. This must change, given the substantial health risks linked with untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is also stigmatized as a result of today’s laws. Most health insurance companies in the United States, for example, cover glasses, but not hearing aids. Many people are deterred from obtaining treatment as a result of this. Hearing loss will remain stigmatized unless it is acknowledged as a significant health concern and suitable accommodations are established for those with hearing loss. People with hearing loss will not seek the help they require.
The costs of untreated hearing loss
Hearing aids are an expensive investment, and some people are hesitant to spend the money because they believe they can handle their hearing loss independently. Unfortunately, ignoring hearing loss will not make it go away, and postponing treatment will cost far more than investing in hearing devices in the first place.
Hearing aids may appear to be expensive, but the cost of living with untreated hearing loss is much higher. Your relationships will suffer if you can’t hear well, and you’ll find it challenging to have meaningful conversations with the people you care about. When you have hearing loss, you may prefer to stay at home instead of going out with friends for drinks at a crowded bar, and your social life will suffer as a result. Untreated hearing loss puts people at a higher risk for worry, stress, and depression.
Hearing loss can also put a strain on your finances. Hearing loss makes it challenging to keep up in the workplace, and those who have it may be ignored for promotions or even dismissed. They also have a higher risk of injury, higher overall medical costs, poorer treatment outcomes, and are admitted to the hospital considerably more frequently than their hearing colleagues. Hearing loss has also been linked to increased confusion, frustration, and cognitive deterioration. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are also linked to hearing loss.
How to tackle the stigma of hearing loss
While any kind of cultural change is difficult and time-consuming to achieve, you can do your part by following these tips:
- Accept that you have a hearing loss. Most of the time, your hearing loss isn’t as hidden as you think.
- Make your hearing loss known to others. Other individuals, such as family, friends, and coworkers, may not be aware of your hearing difficulties if your equipment is not apparent. Accepting your hearing loss takes courage in either case and talking about it takes even more grit. Make a list of what you wish to say. Consider practicing with someone you can trust out loud.
- Wear your hearing aids with pride. To improve your hearing, commit to wearing your hearing aids every day. To confirm that your equipment is working correctly, see your audiologist for modifications.
- At work, speak out for yourself. Learn about the many types of assistive listening devices so you can identify and request the technology and accommodations you require. People in your life might not be aware of what is accessible or suitable for your situation. Become an expert first, then inquire.
- To make communication easier, tell others what you need from them. Teach the people in your life how to communicate with you in the most effective way possible so that you can hear clearly. Remind them, for example, to face you when speaking.
If you think you’re ready to treat a hearing loss, contact us today to set up an appointment.