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

Posted by Julie, Volunteer Mentor @julieo4, Feb 1, 2021

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?

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Hearing Loss group.

Yes – Right, right, and right again.

We are critical of people who don't remember about the hearing loss we tell them we have but we are partly at fault too for not being more assertive.

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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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Julie…. my husband used to say "Never mind, it wasn't important" to me all the time. I tried to tell him how hurtful it was but he kept on doing it. Finally I wrote him a long letter explaining in depth how it made me feel (like you, unimportant). He seemed to get it then and things are much better now. Also we got an I-Pad which prints out the conversation. We now have at least a 30 minute conversation at breakfast and again at dinner so it has been great.
Your post about stigma was interesting. Just this morning I was talking on the Caption phone with a health provider. At one point he said this was his first conversation with someone using a Caption phone, also his first conversation with someone who can't hear. Then he said "But you sound pretty sharp". Hmmmmm. Now what was he expecting?
As far as hearing aid ads I do wish they would not stress that they are practically invisible. It does seem to point out that hearing loss is almost something to be ashamed about. Personally the aids have never bothered me in that way…. I needed them so I got them. I felt the same way when I had to start using a cane… I needed it, so what. It's also been interesting how many people offer to help me with things when they see the cane. Sometimes I need the help ie carrying something and trying to open a door while using the cane. There are a lot of nice people out there who step up. Thanks for your post. Judy

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@judyca7

Julie…. my husband used to say "Never mind, it wasn't important" to me all the time. I tried to tell him how hurtful it was but he kept on doing it. Finally I wrote him a long letter explaining in depth how it made me feel (like you, unimportant). He seemed to get it then and things are much better now. Also we got an I-Pad which prints out the conversation. We now have at least a 30 minute conversation at breakfast and again at dinner so it has been great.
Your post about stigma was interesting. Just this morning I was talking on the Caption phone with a health provider. At one point he said this was his first conversation with someone using a Caption phone, also his first conversation with someone who can't hear. Then he said "But you sound pretty sharp". Hmmmmm. Now what was he expecting?
As far as hearing aid ads I do wish they would not stress that they are practically invisible. It does seem to point out that hearing loss is almost something to be ashamed about. Personally the aids have never bothered me in that way…. I needed them so I got them. I felt the same way when I had to start using a cane… I needed it, so what. It's also been interesting how many people offer to help me with things when they see the cane. Sometimes I need the help ie carrying something and trying to open a door while using the cane. There are a lot of nice people out there who step up. Thanks for your post. Judy

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I really like the solutions you've come up with. Sometimes written words are far better than spoken words; especially those spoken when frustrated. Using technology is a huge help, isn't it?

So far, in this discussion thread we've managed to hit a few of the myths that surround hearing loss. 1. People with hearing loss are 'less than smart'. 2. Advertisements for hearing aids tend to market shame and denial. 3. A good set of hearing aids will give you '20/20 hearing'. 4. One must be 'old' if they have hearing loss. Let's see how many others we can identify and then share how we feel about them.

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@julieo4

I really like the solutions you've come up with. Sometimes written words are far better than spoken words; especially those spoken when frustrated. Using technology is a huge help, isn't it?

So far, in this discussion thread we've managed to hit a few of the myths that surround hearing loss. 1. People with hearing loss are 'less than smart'. 2. Advertisements for hearing aids tend to market shame and denial. 3. A good set of hearing aids will give you '20/20 hearing'. 4. One must be 'old' if they have hearing loss. Let's see how many others we can identify and then share how we feel about them.

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The worst thing is the belief that all deaf people are dumb…which doesn't mean not smart but unable to talk. That old phrase, "deaf and dumb." Worse, when we're in a group situation (or with a person with an especially difficult voice to hear/understand), we FEEL stupid, no matter how smart we know we are. Many of the things people say, like "it wasn't important" only reinforce our own feelings of being stupid, even though we really know that's not the case. Shoot, we're working far harder just to hear and decode everything that's said than some of the other people in the group–some of whom may truly not be as smart as we are. AARGH!

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Nicely put. I feel this way more often than not

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Can you explain more about wha you are doing with the iPad? You mentioned printing the conversation? Is this via an app?

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@julieo4

I really like the solutions you've come up with. Sometimes written words are far better than spoken words; especially those spoken when frustrated. Using technology is a huge help, isn't it?

So far, in this discussion thread we've managed to hit a few of the myths that surround hearing loss. 1. People with hearing loss are 'less than smart'. 2. Advertisements for hearing aids tend to market shame and denial. 3. A good set of hearing aids will give you '20/20 hearing'. 4. One must be 'old' if they have hearing loss. Let's see how many others we can identify and then share how we feel about them.

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@julieo4
Hi everyone,
Love this discussion . I will list some things that have been said to me on more than one occasion and these comments are actually the myths about heating loss.

1. Hearing aids are ugly (I wear 2 BTEs.) Your hair is kind of long so you can’t see them. I once responded “glasses are ugly” (that person wore glasses and was offended).

2. An ENT doctor actually asked me if I drove. I was also asked this by someone else and said that I use my hands to drive , not my ears…do you drive? This also goes for …Do you watch TV…go to the movies etc.

3. At an airport years ago I told the attendant I wouldn’t hear my seat number announced and why ( we were being led onto the plane in orderly rows). She asked me if I needed a wheelchair. I burst out laughing and just said no thank you.

4. Well, you can read lips so that’s okay.

5. You are so lucky you can’t hear that…whatever it was.

6. Oh you can hear when you want to (in other words it’s selective hearing)

7. Do you sign? No, do you?

8. Well being hard of hearing is not who you are. I guess that’s true to an extent but it affects every second of every minute of every hour of every day and what I do.

I’m a big advocate but still amazed at what people think a person with hearing loss CAN’T do.
I have short explanations to explain my loss and what I need from the other person…it varies per situation and how long the encounter is. I am always courteous but can come back with a zinger if needed. My loss is not my fault.

I have had a sign I made up years ago on red construction paper for medical facilities that says “Please Note…Patient has hearing loss and may not hear name called. Please being this with you when you call my name”. I insist that it be attached to the front of a chart. This takes the stress off of being in the waiting room and I usually see the red paper when they come to get me. I take it back after checkout.

I’m always upfront about my loss . In social gatherings some people are curious enough to ask about it and others ignore you. With the mask situation it is easier to explain I can’t understand you through a mask and whip out one of my several phone apps.

I don’t expect hearing people to understand what hearing loss is but I also don’t expect rudeness and stupidity. Unfortunately it’s an invisible condition and the advertisers play a big part in the shameful stigma surrounding Hearing loss. Think of all the movies or tv shows that poked fun at people who couldn’t hear…there are a lot of them…and the people portrayed are usually old. I have seen young bullies taunting a deaf classmate in movies and calling him dumb. Have you seen any advertisements depicting young children with hearing aids? I only see seniors.

I have the same pet peeves as everyone else. I doubt the advertisers will change their marketing status. It’s up to us to spread the word. I do think people are more informed today but it’s still an uphill struggle for all of us, young and old. I have hopes for the younger generation to change things. I find them more tolerant of people with disabilities of any kind.

FL Mary

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@kmgiamei

Can you explain more about wha you are doing with the iPad? You mentioned printing the conversation? Is this via an app?

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It's a small I-pad, sized 5"x8". My daughter brought it over and set it up for me. I guess it must be an app that she added. I really know nothing about this tech stuff but this is easy to use and I only use it for conversations. We set it on the table between us and it just prints everything we say. I have used it in the living room with four people sitting 6 feet apart and it worked well there also. Picked up all four conversations. It is not always accurate in what it prints but at least I can ask for clarification.
I really like that it print out what I say also. My Caption phone does not do that and sometimes by the time I ask a question and the person explains and I try to figure out what the phone has printed, I've forgotten what I asked. It just takes so much concentration to do almost anything that I lose track sometimes (at least that's my excuse now).
We're thinking off getting a larger I-Pad in hopes that it will have a larger microphone and be more accurate in what it prints.

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@joyces

The worst thing is the belief that all deaf people are dumb…which doesn't mean not smart but unable to talk. That old phrase, "deaf and dumb." Worse, when we're in a group situation (or with a person with an especially difficult voice to hear/understand), we FEEL stupid, no matter how smart we know we are. Many of the things people say, like "it wasn't important" only reinforce our own feelings of being stupid, even though we really know that's not the case. Shoot, we're working far harder just to hear and decode everything that's said than some of the other people in the group–some of whom may truly not be as smart as we are. AARGH!

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That term 'deaf and dumb', as politically incorrect as it is today, has been around for generations. Generations ago it was assumed that a person who could not speak or hear was 'not intellectually able'. In other words, dumb, stupid, etc. Those people were treated as 'Children of a Lesser God' (seem movie), and families had very low expectations for them. And, of course the word dumb really meant 'mute' or unable to speak. Most deaf people can speak, but due to their inability hear, their diction is poor and it's hard to understand them. Most likely, when you are born that way, it's easier to not speak than it is to not be understood.

In years past, there were tons of jokes about 'absent minded professors' who misunderstood things; another thing that tied old age and absent mindedness to hearing loss. No, I don't feel 'stupid', because I know I'm smart, but often I feel that others don't know how smart I am. Reality. I think that's why I enjoy writing.

I had an experience once that really stayed with me. My husband and I were at a social event with many prominent people from our city. We were among the younger folks there. A group of women, whom I knew casually because we all played golf at a club in town, were standing in a circle discussing local politics. This was back in the 80s. I was participating in the discussion quite well. All of a sudden one of the women came over to me and said. "What is it that you are using? I didn't know you were smart." I was using a direct audio input microphone that plugged into my hearing aid. It looked like a black cigarette and was quite small, but it was attached by a cord that ran to my hearing aid. AND, I could hear quite well in spite of the noisy environment…think large cocktail party. I was not insulted by her comment. I was elated by her observation. It was so wonderful to feel included in a conversation. That was the point in which I realized that showing I was helping myself was a key to getting help and respect from others. Later this woman apologized to me profusely as she realized her comment may have offended me. Again, it didn't. It gave me the courage to let it show and speak up when I needed support. It also gave me the motivation to offer to speak to groups about hearing loss, etc.

As my hearing loss has deteriorated over the years, it has become harder to hear in settings like that. However, I do fairly well with my cochlear implant and am thankful for the accessories I can use with it. I'm also thankful for my hearing aid and the activated telecoil it has in it. These devices keep me 'smart' and involved. I thank HLAA for teaching me about many of these options. Now, in my 70s, I'm watching some of my own peer group start showing signs of hearing loss. Most of them are struggling with the idea of seeking help. Some have gotten hearing aids, but many won't even try some of the technology that can make the hearing aids even better. They just stop going places where people create background noise socializing. The most frustrating experience , is meeting those who would use assistive tech if only they had been told about it by the people who sold them their expensive hearing aids. It's not nice to learn that those expensive devices did not come with some of the options that make them worth their cost. There's a lot to learn. It's good that we can discuss this 'stuff' here. 🙂

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@judyca7

It's a small I-pad, sized 5"x8". My daughter brought it over and set it up for me. I guess it must be an app that she added. I really know nothing about this tech stuff but this is easy to use and I only use it for conversations. We set it on the table between us and it just prints everything we say. I have used it in the living room with four people sitting 6 feet apart and it worked well there also. Picked up all four conversations. It is not always accurate in what it prints but at least I can ask for clarification.
I really like that it print out what I say also. My Caption phone does not do that and sometimes by the time I ask a question and the person explains and I try to figure out what the phone has printed, I've forgotten what I asked. It just takes so much concentration to do almost anything that I lose track sometimes (at least that's my excuse now).
We're thinking off getting a larger I-Pad in hopes that it will have a larger microphone and be more accurate in what it prints.

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@judyca7
Hi,
What is the name of the program you are using on your iPad ? I have all my speech to text programs (apps) on my phone. Also my Captel landline “prints out “ everything the speaker at the other end says, although , as you said , accuracy is hit or miss. I don’t use that as much as the Innocaption app for my phone.

FL Mary

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@imallears

@judyca7
Hi,
What is the name of the program you are using on your iPad ? I have all my speech to text programs (apps) on my phone. Also my Captel landline “prints out “ everything the speaker at the other end says, although , as you said , accuracy is hit or miss. I don’t use that as much as the Innocaption app for my phone.

FL Mary

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I need to stay more on the up and up. I didn't even know there were speech to text apps for the phone. I know about the phone captioning apps, but never heard of the speech to text programs.

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I am reading some great things here that I haven't thought about as far as advocating for myself. I have always had a hard time being assertive and really saying what I need to say when it comes to my hearing loss. I never had an issue talking about it, my issue always came about with how do I say or bring it up. What a great idea about the sign at the doc office. I am always making sure I sit close to the door so I can hear them call my name.

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