Stigmatisation, is the subjective mark of shame, or disease linked with many conditions such as obesity, blindness, paraplegia and many others. The perceived stigma for hearing loss is often feeling that one is discriminated or judged negatively because of their hearing loss. Stigma associated hearing loss is a real thing according to researchers. More specifically, the association of hearing loss, old age, senility, and cognitive disability go hand in hand. “The Hearing Aid Effect” is what researchers characterize the stigma associated with hearing loss. Younger adults particularly notice this effect, sensing they are viewed as less intelligent and adequate in the workforce.
What is stigma?
There are two types of stigma, internal and external. Internal stigma is an individual’s feelings toward their own hearing losses. People often express feeling a sense of embarrassment, fear or vulnerability. An example of a common internal stigma is the fear of asking for accommodations to avoid appearing incompetent. External or environmental stigma are verbal and gestural messages from family, friends and employers. They often express impatience, frustration or embarrassment towards the individuals hearing difficulties.
Does Stigma Stop People From Getting Hearing Aids?
In far too many cases it does. A large percentage of the population who have been suggested to seek hearing care are in denial about their hearing. The primary reasons for denial are stigmatisation more so, age-related stigma, attractiveness and embarrassment. While many believe prices to be the main deterrent of hearing aid use, stigma is a much greater barrier to seeking proper hearing care. We’ve attached our Davidson’s Guide to Better Hearing that discusses why hearing aids are important for healthy aging and improving overall quality of life for the client and their surrounding friends and family members.
I know Someone Who Needs Hearing Aids, What Should I Do?
It can be very apparent when someone is having difficulties hearing. As such, it can be very difficult to initiate the conversation, especially if they have no interest in visiting a hearing aid clinic. Here are some tips to start the conversation and successfully schedule the first appointment:
Tip #1 – Discuss their feelings towards hearing loss
The greatest factor influencing one’s motivation to seek hearing services is their view on hearing loss itself. By discussing views and opinions about hearing loss, you will gain a better understanding of their knowledge of hearing aids and their past experiences with hearing loss. This is particularly important with individuals who still perceive hearing aids to be big and conspicuous.
Tip #2 – List difficult listening environments
Having an open discussion about when family members have difficulty understanding may help them acknowledge their hearing loss. Sharing personal experiences of listening difficulties will help open the conversation further. Gaining a better understanding of the difficult listening situations they experience will also help tailor their personal hearing care needs. These could be daily situations such as listening to the television, or hearing on the phone.
Tip #3 – Communicate with their surrounding
Sharing your observations with other friends or family members will help establish a supportive environment surrounding their hearing loss. An increased awareness will facilitate the transition of wearing hearing aids. Especially if the person feels supported by friends and family members.
Wearing Hearing Aids: Putting them on at the start of each day
Changing daily habits becomes harder as we age. Hearing aids add an extra step to clients morning and evening routines. Clinicians recommend wearing them almost all day, every day. However, there is a noticeable difference on what clients report as their usage during follow up appointments. Whether the reason is forgetfulness, overall comfort or simply the level of attractiveness, it is important to encourage your loved ones to wear their hearing aids daily. Here are three tips to help someone wear their hearing aids more often.
Tip #1 – Set small goals
With new hearing aid models becoming more and more comfortable, many first time users are able to wear them all day long right from the start. With that said, some individuals may still benefit from getting used to hearing aids more gradually. Hearing aids will provide the user with new sounds that haven’t been heard in a long time. Since the brain needs time to adjust to the new sounds, wearing the devices a little longer each day might offer a smoother transition into wearing them full-time.
Tip #2 – Get in contact with a community
Hard of hearing people can often feel alone and secluded by their hearing losses. Reaching out to a local hearing aid association will help a hard of hearing person get in contact with people who live a similar experience. These organizations educate about hearing loss and allow hard of hearing people to connect and share their experiences, questions and worries.
Tip #3 – Assistive listening devices and accessories can help
For many people, hearing aids on their own will provide the desired outcomes. For others, assistive listening devices and hearing aid accessories can make a huge difference. These can be items such as amplified telephones, TV systems, direct connection to smartphones and vibrating alarms and subtitles are all tools that can offer significant improvements in clarity in the right situations.
Hearing loss can be a very difficult subject to address. Opening a discussion and sharing personal experiences is a great step toward helping someone seek the best quality of life possible. New products such as Signia Styletto are changing people’s perceptions of what a hearing aid looks like and what it can do. If you or a loved one would like to learn more, please schedule an appointment at one of our Davidson Hearing Aid Centres locations to talk to our hearing health care professionals.