Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why do people deny having hearing loss?

Your question reminds me of a patient I recently saw.  He refused to wear his hearing aids at work.  When I asked why, he responded that he didn’t want the guys to make fun of him.  This raised two questions in my mind. 

First, would the guys at work really make fun of him?  I think not.  Most people aren’t going to make fun of someone’s health issues. There might be a little bit of good hearted ribbing.  But mostly, few if any will notice hearing aids.  Hearing aids are small, discreet and well camouflaged.  Typically, if someone sees them, they are impressed by the aids.  

Second, you can’t hide hearing loss from others.  People know when you don’t hear or mishear.  If he has a co-worker who would make fun of someone with hearing aids, then he is likely making fun of him already for not hearing well.  Wearing hearing aids will help, especially at work. Those with untreated hearing loss earn on the average $20,000 less per year than those who use hearing aids.  Further, if someone is mishearing or misses information all together, it leaves the impression that they are slow and/or stuck up.  These are good reasons to use hearing aids especially at work.

This case is a good example of how the stigma of hearing loss actually is a self-stigma. Self-stigma is self inflicted.  A self-stigma threatens one’s perception of self.  The stigma exists because the person with hearing loss feels misplaced shame, low self-esteem or even depression.  These feelings create a desire to hide hearing loss. The desire to hide it leads to denial and blaming others for mumbling or for having a soft voice. 

The first step to getting past self-stigma is being honest with one’s self, and recognizing and accepting hearing loss.  Become informed on the impact of untreated hearing loss; the loss of self-confidence, decreased earning potential, decreased intimacy, decreased overall health, the impression you leave when you don't hear or mishear and more.  Understanding the many ways hearing impacts life can be a motivator to seek help. 

Life sounds great!  Enjoy every moment!

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