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The Stigma of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss stigma

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.

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Keeping Up Communication When Your Loved One Has A Hearing Loss

Communicating with loved one with hearing loss

If your loved one has a hearing loss, you probably understand the frustration that accompanies the communication process. Repeating what you say, turning down radio and television volumes, and struggling to be understood by your family member or friend can be a daunting task. However, it pales in comparison to the struggles faced by an individual with a hearing impairment. The good news is that communication can still be meaningful and productive. Patience and an understanding of how to communicate with a hearing-impaired person can enhance communication and improve the relationship.

Communicating With A Hearing Impaired Loved One

If your loved one has a hearing loss, it is essential that you show respect and patience during communication. Here are tips that can help you communicate more effectively with a hearing-impaired family member or friend:

  • Reduce Background Noise. Turn off the television and the radio, move away from crowds, and if possible find a quiet space. If you and your loved one are at a social gathering, try to find seats away from noisy areas such as the kitchen, serving stations, and the dance floor.
  • Do not block your face. As most people with hearing loss read lips, it is vital to keep your hands or anything else away from your face. Your speech will be more precise, and your companion will be able to read your lips easier.
  • Get your friend’s attention. Be sure to gain your loved one’s attention before you speak. Saying their name, touching them on the hand, arm, or shoulder, or a wave will suffice in beginning a dialogue.
  • Know what works best for them. Ask your companion what works the best for communication. Your loved one will certainly appreciate your consideration.
  • Only one speaker at a time. If you are speaking in a group, try to ensure that only one person at a time is speaking. Multiple voices talking at once can make following a conversation awkward for a hearing-impaired individual.
  • Eye contact. Face a person who has a hearing loss while maintaining eye contact at all times. Facial expressions and body language are essential.
  • Keep a natural tone of voice. Do not shout or exaggerate words as you speak to a hearing impaired person as it may distort your words even further.
  • Rephrase. If you are having trouble with your loved one understanding what you are saying, try rephrasing your words into more straightforward sentences.
  • Be patient. The essential tip is to be patient with your loved one. Show your loved one a significant amount of respect and by staying relaxed and patient throughout the conversation.

Start Improving Communication Today

If you have no problems hearing or understanding speech, it may be difficult for you to understand the obstacles confronted by a hearing-impaired person on a daily basis. A hearing healthcare professional can support you in understanding the challenges faced by your loved one and offer advice for improving communication between the two of you.