Hearing loss is an increasingly common diagnosis, and yet, it remains a diagnosis with a stigma. Millions of people worldwide are affected by hearing loss. These people are of all ages, come from all different backgrounds and still have to overcome certain ingrained beliefs about hearing impairment.
Common beliefs about hearing loss
Whether they are the things we tell ourselves, the well-meaning comments from friends and family or the impressions we get from strangers, there are many common beliefs about hearing loss that often prevent us and others from seeking treatment. Some of the most commonly cited beliefs include:
I’m too young for hearing loss
It’s not bad enough for hearing aids
People will treat me differently
What experts and many who are now comfortable with their loss agree on is that, the stigma of hearing loss needs to end.
The research into hearing loss stigma
As hearing loss becomes more common, researchers have begun to take a closer look at people’s commonly held views and personal experiences. The results show that beliefs and perceptions may be affected by many things and that these beliefs and perceptions could have serious consequences when they prevent people from treating their hearing loss.
One study found that “perceived stigma emerged as an important theme influencing decision-making processes at multiple points along the experiential continuum of hearing loss.” In other words, it was found to prevent individuals from accepting that they may have hearing loss, scheduling hearing evaluations to diagnose hearing loss and even if hearing aids were purchased and used. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to even more serious conditions including cognitive decline.
Another study suggested that something as simple as age or use of a hearing aid could affect one’s view on hearing loss. The results found that “Younger women perceive greater stigma than older women. Less stigma is associated with hearing aid use than hearing loss, suggesting a positive effect of hearing loss management.”
There is no doubt from anecdotal evidence and more formal surveys and studies that views on hearing loss, our own views and those of others, can play a significant role in treating hearing loss.
Opening the lines of communication
What experts see as most important in battling the stigma of hearing loss is open communication about it. Hearing healthcare providers are leading the way to dispel the myths and doing away with the stigma. Here’s how:
Changing the conversation: Questions about the effect that hearing loss can have on life can make all the difference. How does hearing loss impact life? How would life change with treatment?
Encouraging responsibility: Treating hearing loss is as much about the individual with hearing loss as it is about those around them. Treatment strategies such as hearing aids can reduce frustration and improve communication for everyone, building stronger relationships along the way.
Discussing difficult situations: There will still be times when hearing can be difficult. Open discussion between patients and hearing healthcare providers about these types of situations and strategies to navigate them can help patients feel more comfortable and confident.
Connecting with others: Regularly connect with others managing hearing loss, hearing aids and the stigma around both. These connections can help diminish the internal stigma as a reminder of just how common hearing loss is.
If you believe you have hearing loss, don’t give in to the fear of stigma. Schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation today.