If I asked you to cite reasons why a person with a hearing problem will not wear a hearing aid, what would be your response? Cost, discomfort, and complexity may come to mind. However, one of the biggest reasons people refuse to wear hearing aids is their perception of the social stigma surrounding the usage of a hearing aid.
One primary reason for the stigma of hearing loss is its association with age. Many people connect a hearing aid with aging, and this assumption is not valid. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that 2-3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with hearing loss. Furthermore, schools and universities have programs specifically tailored for the hearing impaired. Even though young people have hearing loss, vanity and the association with age keep people from wearing a hearing aid. This type of thinking dates back to ancient Greece where a stigma towards ageism was common.
The first step in overcoming a hearing loss stigma is to let others know about the hearing loss. Talking about your hearing loss may take time but do not be afraid to talk about it. You will probably be surprised by the support your family and friends will give you. Here are a few tips to follow when speaking about hearing loss with your loved ones and friends:
On average, individuals wait seven years before getting hearing aids after they realize they have a problem. This statistic is mainly due to the negative association with stereotypes and aging. There are also people who connect a hearing loss with illness. The fact is that a hearing loss can affect anyone regardless of age, culture, or gender. Modern hearing aids are not ear trumpets! They are high-tech mini-computers that are getting smaller and more comfortable all of the time.
If you have a hearing loss, are you avoiding treatment? It is true that overcoming the stigma may be difficult, but it is vital to look at the benefits of treating your hearing loss. Take time and observe how your hearing loss affects you at home, at work, and in your leisure time. How many conversations and social occasions have you missed out on because you could not hear? Now is a great time to face the stigma of hearing loss head-on. Hearing aids are shrinking, and numerous organizations such as the Hearing Loss Association of America offer support to those with hearing loss.