The Stigma of Hearing Impairment
Stigma is abundant against those with hearing impairments. However, before examining the stigma, it is of essence to first explore the condition. Hearing impairment occurs when there’s damage to one or more parts to the ear, creating a problem.
The degree of hearing loss can range differently depending from person to person. Certain people can have partial hearing loss or complete hearing loss. In some types of hearing loss, a person can have more trouble if there is noise in the background. Also, if one of both ears are affected, the impairment may be worse compared to the other ear.
Congenital Hearing vs Acquired
The timing of hearing loss can also differ from person to person. Congenital hearing loss is at birth, and Acquired hearing loss happens later in life, during childhood, teenager years or in adulthood. All types of hearing loss can be sudden or progressive over time.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 37.5 million American people aged 18 and over are hearing impaired or deaf.
Some causes of hearing impairment include genetic disorders, injuries to the ear or head, complications during pregnancy or birth, infections or diseases, and medications.
Hearing Impairment Stigma
There is still a huge stigma around hearing impairments which is very harmful in today’s society. This everlasting stigma can influence decisions on patients that need hearing help. For example, stigma affected the initial acceptance of hearing loss, whether to be tested or seek treatment, the type of hearing aid selected, and when and where hearing aids were worn.
Hearing aids are stereotyped as tools that old people wear, and can cause people to be self-conscious if they need to wear them at a younger age. They perceive hearing aids as a way for people to tease them and make fun of them, instead of tools that will help them.
Also in the way hearing aids are portrayed in movies contributes to the hearing impairment stigma but further stereotyping hearing aids and disabilities.
We must work together to help fight this stigma and the stereotypes around hearing impairments. Let’s teach our fellow friends and family to allow hearing aids to be a tool and powerful technology that can help others with hearing impairments, and not to associate it with being old, weak or not as capable as others.