Thirty years ago I graduated with my Masters Degree in Audiology and there were 2 statistics made very clear to me. First, it takes a person about 7 years from when they first notice hearing loss until they decide to do something about it. Second, when you take the entire U.S. population who has hearing loss, about 25% actually wear hearing aids. Fast forward to today and those numbers have not changed. Pretty incredible. You won’t see numbers like this with other medical conditions, but you do with hearing loss and hearing aids. Why? This piece is going to look at the topic of “stigma”, the perception people have towards hearing loss and hearing aids, and how to move forward.
From an article by Katherine Bouton, a hearing loss advocate, she writes, “When confronting a possible hearing loss, people deny it, hide it, ignore it, or blame it on the situation; anything but acknowledge it and talk about it. This only contributes to the problem. In order to change society’s views toward hearing loss, we need to change the conversation. We need to open up and talk about it.” Many people believe stigma remains the biggest barrier to people using hearing aids, with cost way down the list—especially with lower cost options like Eargo available.
Part of the stigma of hearing loss is the association with aging. However, many people don’t realize that 50% of people with hearing loss are under the age of 60! We don’t see younger people with hearing loss because they hide it, they don’t want to appear “old”, or they don’t want business colleagues or friends to know. It’s too bad because we’ve normalized so many other medical issues; so why not hearing loss?
Here’s a great example of what can happen when one person changes the conversation. Recently, a meteorologist in Nashville, TN – Meaghan Thomas posted a story on her Facebook page that discussed the fact she wears hearing aids. Here is Meaghan’s post:
“A lot of fresh faces following me these days so let me introduce myself.
I am the morning meteorologist at @wkrntv in Nashville, who loves country music, working out, playing with my sweet Pomeranian Daisy & oh—I wear hearing aids.
I have been hard of hearing since I was little & can sometimes be self-conscious about it (especially when I ask someone to repeat something for the 5th time & I still didn’t hear it).
Even though I struggle sometimes, I want to encourage you today to embrace what makes you different & celebrate it! So cheers to my ears & whatever makes you special — let me know below!”
She posted this on April 6, 2021 and since then it has been shared over 750 times with almost 700 comments! The comments are so inspirational. Here is one of my favorites.
“Loud rock music took my hearing over time. So I finally got hearing aids and got in my truck to hear my turn signal blink, rain on a roof or the splash of a mud puddle!! Oh and birds singing make my life complete!! Thanks for posting this!“
There are so many great examples of people who proudly wear hearing aids. Here’s a fun slideshow of celebrities who are proud to wear hearing aids.
Eargo regularly publishes stories of satisfied clients who talk of their journey towards improving their hearing and quality of life. In another blog post, we share a story about Charlie Benante, the world-famous rock drummer for the band Anthrax. Before Charlie purchased Eargo hearing aids, he had this to say about what kept him from acting sooner. “I knew what the problem was but I didn’t want to accept it because of the connotations that come along with having hearing loss. I always associated hearing loss with older people, like grandparents, and I thought I’m not wearing a hearing aid hanging on my ear. I just can’t do that.”
What advice does Charlie give now that he’s happily wearing his Eargos? You’ll have to click on the link below to find out! You can read Charlie’s story here.
From helping tens of thousands of people in my career, I realize that making the decision to use hearing aids is both a financial investment as well as an emotional investment. At Eargo we do everything we can to design a hearing aid experience around YOU because everyone is unique in their journey to finding what’s right for them. Our goal is to make hearing aids accessible, affordable and actually cool to use. The Eargo team would love to put this whole stigma thing in the rearview mirror and bring better hearing to the masses!