Age old stigmas and myths about hearing loss that don't go away

Posted by Julie, Volunteer Mentor @julieo4, Feb 1 3:35pm

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about hearing loss. Stigmas and myths abound. Let's talk about it. What are your thoughts on this topic?

Here's one: "If I don't shout at you, you can't hear me."

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Correct…or. Put you hearing aids in – Can't you hear me? [We already have them in….but they don't seem to know that we can't understand them]

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I just thought of another one. I have an acquaintance that I had always seen at large group gatherings and one day I visited her in her home with just one other person. Later she told my friend who had been with me that she was so pleasantly surprised with our conversation because all these years she thought I was so quiet.

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People don't realize that if they turn away from you, it's impossible to hear them. If you say, I'm sorry, I missed that, they'll repeat the first few words in a louder voice, and then revert to their soft one again.

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For me the worst thing someone can say to me is "Never mind, it wasn't important". That simply means that I'm not important enough to be bothered with repeating something I didn't hear. It happens all the time.

Seriously though, I'm looking for comments about stigma…you know, the kind that pegs people with hearing loss as 'less than smart'. Also the advertisements for hearing aids that tell us loud and clear that we need to hide our hearing aids. You know, they are nearly invisible, or so small no one will know you're wearing them. What does that lead to perceptions about hearing loss? What do you think about those ads?

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@julieo4

For me the worst thing someone can say to me is "Never mind, it wasn't important". That simply means that I'm not important enough to be bothered with repeating something I didn't hear. It happens all the time.

Seriously though, I'm looking for comments about stigma…you know, the kind that pegs people with hearing loss as 'less than smart'. Also the advertisements for hearing aids that tell us loud and clear that we need to hide our hearing aids. You know, they are nearly invisible, or so small no one will know you're wearing them. What does that lead to perceptions about hearing loss? What do you think about those ads?

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The ads stress the invisibility of aids because most people believe that only OLD people need aids, which, of course, is not true. It's all the same as all the wonder glop you can buy to prevent or remove wrinkles. Dammit, I EARNED these wrinkles! I never understood how there could be so many ads for miracle glop until I slowed down while passing the shelves of it on my way to the prescription counter…OMG, tiny little jars cost as much as $50!!! There are creams for your face, for your arms, for your elbows…no end of how the people who develop all the stuff can empty your wallet. It's as though it's downright shameful to be and OLD person!

Decades ago, I cared for one of my great aunts, a tiny little person with a very large nose that was extremely prominent. She believed, however, that she was gorgeous, so, although she had little money and refused to buy decent food, she mail ordered all kinds of wonderful stuff guaranteed to "fix" every part of her body. After she died, I remember my no-nonsense aunt, sweeping the entire collection (which covered a five-foot long counter) into a big galvanized trash can. I was always amused that my great aunt spent so much time and effort on products to increase her beauty…when the first thing anyone noticed was her gigantic nose!

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@julieo4

For me the worst thing someone can say to me is "Never mind, it wasn't important". That simply means that I'm not important enough to be bothered with repeating something I didn't hear. It happens all the time.

Seriously though, I'm looking for comments about stigma…you know, the kind that pegs people with hearing loss as 'less than smart'. Also the advertisements for hearing aids that tell us loud and clear that we need to hide our hearing aids. You know, they are nearly invisible, or so small no one will know you're wearing them. What does that lead to perceptions about hearing loss? What do you think about those ads?

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One summer I was at a birthday picnic for my brother. My aunt was trying to tell me something, with the music and talking I couldn’t hear her. I asked her twice to repeat what she was saying. She just waved her hand and called me a dummy. I was stunned beyond words. No one had ever referred to me as a dummy before. At least not to my face.
I’m not ashamed of my hearing lost. I let everyone know that I’m pretty much deaf. I hope this would make it easier for us to communicate. Guess that’s not always the case.

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People just don't understand about hearing aids. At my last physical exam the doctor told me to remove my hearing aids so he could check my ears. I removed them and he continued to talk as he went on with the exam and I couldn't understand anything he was saying. I had to stop him and put in my hearing aids so I could understand him. I asked him to repeat what he had said and he didn't. He was so far into technical medicine that he doesn't understand the patient. I won't be seeing this doctor again.

The tiny, invisible hearing aids the industry strives for and advertises do not serve me well. My hearing aids work fine but like many people they do not allow me to understand speech very well. I sometimes wish they were big and orange so I wouldn't have to explain my hearing loss to everyone. I don't mind sharing these things with all you folks on this forum but you are not the people who need to hear and understand this message. We speak this message to hearing folks and they don't "hear" us.

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@arrowshooter Since he was obviously poorly informed, I'll ask did you explain your hearing loss to the doctor? What would you ideally say to him about it? Or to anyone else?

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@julieo4

For me the worst thing someone can say to me is "Never mind, it wasn't important". That simply means that I'm not important enough to be bothered with repeating something I didn't hear. It happens all the time.

Seriously though, I'm looking for comments about stigma…you know, the kind that pegs people with hearing loss as 'less than smart'. Also the advertisements for hearing aids that tell us loud and clear that we need to hide our hearing aids. You know, they are nearly invisible, or so small no one will know you're wearing them. What does that lead to perceptions about hearing loss? What do you think about those ads?

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I can't tell you how any times people have said to me "Never mind". My husband has excellent hearing. When we go to church, someone says something funny–the whole congregation laughs–except me. I ask him to tell me and he gets very irritated. He won't. If we are in a crowd of people (that was before the pandemic), someone says something I don't hear or something funny, my husband will not tell me. When we get home, I say "what was so funny today?". He says "You don't expect me to remember that, do you?" I know he just simply doesn't want to take the time to repeat what people say or tell me what was so funny. So many, many times he has hurt my feelings. He knows it and really doesn't care. By the way, I am older than he by 8 1/2 years. We had our 39th anniversary this past week. We couldn't go out so we ordered out.

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@barbb

@arrowshooter Since he was obviously poorly informed, I'll ask did you explain your hearing loss to the doctor? What would you ideally say to him about it? Or to anyone else?

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No – sorry to say I didn't. I was so focused on my own questions that I forgot. I missed a great opportunity and realized it after the doctor left the room. I have failed to do take opportunities like this before too. I get so focused on hearing and understanding that I forget.

Forgetting things and distractions are common on a doctor visit. I had written all my issues down and showed it to the triage nurse. She took the paper to give to the doctor. Because of COVID protocols the doctor called from a different room to do the discussion and came into the exam room to do the 5-minute physical exam. Then left the room again and re-conneted on the phone. I was thrown off by the COVID procedure. And this was a new doctor for me because my old doctor had retired.

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@arrowshooter I'm thinking about what we could learn from this situation. When you wrote all your issues down, shall I guess that you did not put "please note hearing loss" at the top of the list? 🙂 How about the minute the MD starts talking, something like, "Excuse me Dr. X., because of my hearing loss I need for you to ?face me when you talk (except he's probably not wearing a plastic type mask) – I may need for you to repeat – or…could you type (write) what you are saying" or ???.

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