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.

@julieo4

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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Agreed. HLAA is a Godsend to me, and I have been a member for about 15 years. Working now on starting a coaching business for hearing challenges. Being an advocate is primary to learning what is helpful and necessary. Without hearing, we lose so much, and are putting ourselves at risk for early dementia, falls, and more. So important to try to help others. I am hoping my new business will bring people into the HLAA also.

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@mickey5909

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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@mickey5909
Hi,
There are a lot of apps for Android and IPhones. Try them out but don’t pay for any. I currently use Live Transcribe ( for androids only right now) , the free version of Otter and Voice to Text and occasionally TextHear Personal. Some fail me at times so I can switch to another app. What app are you using for your iPad?

FL Mary

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@mickey5909

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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@mickey5909 Try them they really help even when I could go into a store and talk with the clerks … depending on your phone… you may have to load and unload a few before finding the one that works best …Google them… and the Google Play store App has several.. K

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@th1

Agreed. HLAA is a Godsend to me, and I have been a member for about 15 years. Working now on starting a coaching business for hearing challenges. Being an advocate is primary to learning what is helpful and necessary. Without hearing, we lose so much, and are putting ourselves at risk for early dementia, falls, and more. So important to try to help others. I am hoping my new business will bring people into the HLAA also.

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Good luck to you. There's definitely a need for 'hearing loss coaching'. 🙂

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@julieo4 "Hearing loss coaching", I like that ! Never heard that said. "mentoring" is what I've heard but I like the sound of "coaching' – it's more upbeat!

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@arrowshooter

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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Once I purchased a black horn which you put up to your ear facing the person you want to hear and listen. It was supposed to be a gag gift for someone over 60. However, this thing works so well. I am tempted to get it out when I have soft speaking guests. (My son) Some people just will NOT TALK LOUDER! He will not! Anyway, I do wear hearing aids, they are large (not orange). I wish I knew how to post pictures. I would show you the black horn and the hearing aids. Woogie

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I actually have a genuine ear horn from the early 1900s, that I use in presentations sometimes. You are right, it does work. It brings the sound direct to the person's ear IF the speaker talks into it. Funny, but that is the secret behind telecoils and hearing loops. Those built in t-coils bring the sound directly to the hearing aid while bypassing all background noise. Consequently, most people with hearing loss are able to hear well with that technology. Back in the day, they recognized that background noise was the culprit, even if it was ambient noise that is part of life. Isn't it a shame that the industry has marketed shame and denial for so many decades. Now it's all about hiding hearing loss with invisible devices .Back then when it showed, people knew what they had to do to connect. 🙂 Do you know there are ways to use a hand held or partner worn microphone with your hearing aids? If your son used one of those mikes you'd hear him. PS: Your purchase of that black horn for a friend who was getting older promotes another myth or stereotype about hearing loss: that hearing loss is a sign of old age. Yep, it is more common in older people, but many kids have it and many in their prime have it. I'm 'old' now, but sure wasn't when I was diagnosed at age 21. 🙂

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@julieo4

I actually have a genuine ear horn from the early 1900s, that I use in presentations sometimes. You are right, it does work. It brings the sound direct to the person's ear IF the speaker talks into it. Funny, but that is the secret behind telecoils and hearing loops. Those built in t-coils bring the sound directly to the hearing aid while bypassing all background noise. Consequently, most people with hearing loss are able to hear well with that technology. Back in the day, they recognized that background noise was the culprit, even if it was ambient noise that is part of life. Isn't it a shame that the industry has marketed shame and denial for so many decades. Now it's all about hiding hearing loss with invisible devices .Back then when it showed, people knew what they had to do to connect. 🙂 Do you know there are ways to use a hand held or partner worn microphone with your hearing aids? If your son used one of those mikes you'd hear him. PS: Your purchase of that black horn for a friend who was getting older promotes another myth or stereotype about hearing loss: that hearing loss is a sign of old age. Yep, it is more common in older people, but many kids have it and many in their prime have it. I'm 'old' now, but sure wasn't when I was diagnosed at age 21. 🙂

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Yes, indeed! It implies old age! The horn I purchased says: OVER THE HILL HEARING AID Directions: Hold small end to ear and hear. As I said, I found out how well they really work. My sister had blue tooth hearing aids. She passed away and my niece gave them to me. I am going to go to the Audiologist and have them fitted for me. I have been there before last February and he said yes! So, now, I have been hibernating for over a year. After I get my second vaccination, I will make the appointment to make it happen. What is your recommendation?

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@woogie

Once I purchased a black horn which you put up to your ear facing the person you want to hear and listen. It was supposed to be a gag gift for someone over 60. However, this thing works so well. I am tempted to get it out when I have soft speaking guests. (My son) Some people just will NOT TALK LOUDER! He will not! Anyway, I do wear hearing aids, they are large (not orange). I wish I knew how to post pictures. I would show you the black horn and the hearing aids. Woogie

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How I would love to see a photo of your black horn. I remember well my grandmother having one of those!

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@woogie

Yes, indeed! It implies old age! The horn I purchased says: OVER THE HILL HEARING AID Directions: Hold small end to ear and hear. As I said, I found out how well they really work. My sister had blue tooth hearing aids. She passed away and my niece gave them to me. I am going to go to the Audiologist and have them fitted for me. I have been there before last February and he said yes! So, now, I have been hibernating for over a year. After I get my second vaccination, I will make the appointment to make it happen. What is your recommendation?

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I definitely recommend that you follow through on that. Hearing aids will help you if they are programmed for your hearing loss. You are fortunate to have an audiologist who is willing to do that for you. It's a shame to toss hearing aids that can be repurposed. If they have BT, they are fairly new, so go for it.

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@woogie

Julie, what exactly is it you do?

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Hard question to answer. I'm a retired educator and human service provider. I'm a consummate volunteer for The Hearing Loss Assn. of America, and do a lot of advocacy and education through HLAA. I'm the newsletter editor for HLAA Fox Valley Chapter and also for HLAA Wisconsin.

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