A set of negative or unfair beliefs that a society or
group of people have about something.
The topic I am covering today is the stigma of wearing hearing aids.
The stigma of hearing aids is closely linked to the stigma of deafness. Throughout history, those who are deaf have been seen as inferior to those who are hearing, with deaf people thought to be stupid and incapable of learning. Of course, this opinion has changed over time, but hearing aids still reinforce the label “deaf” and can make the wearer seem inferior.
The idea that a person with a hearing aid is of lower intelligence can still be seen in modern society. When placed in a large group conversation, it can be difficult for a person with a hearing aid to follow everything that’s happening. Hearing aids amplify every sound in the environment, so if a group are chatting and overlapping in speech it can be difficult to distinguish between who is speaking and what is being said. The person with hearing aids may need to ask for repetition several times, or may answer a question incorrectly.
Overall, comprehension of a conversation can be limited, making the hearing aid wearer look like they’ve not understood what’s been said. This then leads to the assumption that they are of a lower intelligence.
Of course, one of the most common belief of those who wear hearing aids, or see someone with hearing aids, is that they are old. It is true that as we grow older our hearing can diminish due to natural wear-and-tear of using our ears. For a person whose hearing has begun to diminish later in life, they may be worried about the stigma of hearing aids as they may be viewed as someone who is “past it”. Many people choose to struggle to hear rather than attain hearing aids as they worry about being labelled as old or disabled.
Recently, advertisements have thought to be perpetuating the stigmatisation of hearing aids. Companies who advertise hearing checks and hearing aid services have used advertisement to target these people to recommend hearing aids that are “invisible” or suggest that they are a secret. The main issue that has been voiced about these adverts is that they suggest that hearing aids, and deafness, should be hidden away and hushed up. For those who are proud of their deaf identity, this can be seen as discriminatory advertising.
It is important to remember that stigma towards hearing aids does not only come from hearing people.
Those who have a strong deaf identity may see someone with a hearing aid as a person who is trying to fit in with the hearing world rather than accepting their deafness as part of their identity. They can assume that the hearing aid wearer is ashamed of their deafness, and do not belong in the deaf community.
Hearing aids are beneficial to many people, and absolutely useless for others; it completely depends on the individual. So if you see a person with hearing aids, find out if you need to make any adjustments to the way you communicate and then do them.
The way to tackle stigma? Don’t make assumptions.