The topic I am covering today is the stigma of wearing hearing aids.
This stigma is closely linked to the stigma of deafness itself. 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.
A set of negative or unfair beliefs that a society or
group of people have about something.
The idea that a person wearing one 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 lower intelligence.
They are old
Of course, one of the most common beliefs of those who wear hearing aids, or see someone with hearing aids, is that they are old. As we grow older, our hearing can diminish due to the natural wear-and-tear of using our ears. People whose hearing has begun to diminish later in life may be worried about the stigma attached to the devices 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 been thought to be perpetuating the stigmatisation of hearing aids. Companies who advertise hearing checks and services have used advertisements 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 wearing these 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’s not always hearing people
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 wearing them 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 wearer is ashamed of their deafness and does 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 wearing them, find out if you need to adjust how you communicate and then do them.
What is the way to tackle stigma? Don’t make assumptions.