Untreated hearing loss is linked to increased risk of falls, anxiety, depression and even cognitive decline. Yet despite the risks, only approximately one in five people who could benefit from hearing aids actually wears them. Researchers suspect that a large reason for this is the stigma around hearing loss and wearing hearing aids.
What the Research Shows
If you or someone you love has untreated hearing loss, you’ve probably said or heard the lines: “I don’t want to look old” or “I don’t want people to know I have a hearing impairment.” Research shows these are common sentiments.
One study led by Margaret Wallhagen, Ph.D., entitled “The Stigma of Hearing Loss,” found that stigma around hearing aids has to do with feelings of altered self-perception. More specifically, people delay seeking treatment because they worry about being perceived as “disabled” or “cognitively-impaired.” The study also cited ageism and vanity as being reasons people delay treatment. Western culture, which idolizes youth and beauty, can be blamed for this stigma.
One survey by the Hearing Review asked people why they choose not to treat their hearing loss. Results indicated:
- 35% did not want to admit to having a hearing loss publicly.
- 35% said hearing aids are too noticeable.
- 34% said hearing aids are embarrassing to wear.
- 31% said hearing aids would make them look disabled.
- 29% were too proud to wear hearing aids.
- 29% said people at a game night, such as at 220th Street Bingo, would make fun of them.
- 28% said people would treat them differently.
- 26% said hearing aids would make them look weak and feeble.
- 22% said people would treat them differently.
- 22% said hearing aids would make them look mentally slow.
But consider what is more noticeable: having to ask people to constantly repeat themselves and responding in conversations inappropriately because you misheard, or wearing a small piece of technology in your ears?
How to Overcome the Stigma Around Hearing Aids
It’s normal to grieve the loss of your hearing and feel anxious about needing help. The first step in overcoming the stigma around wearing hearing aids is to accept your hearing loss and your need for treatment.
Today’s hearing aids are technological marvels, boasting discreet designs, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic programming, smartphone compatibility, directional microphones, background noise reduction and more. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Evergreen Speech & Hearing Inc today.