There is no doubt that everyone wants to look and feel young and vital. No wonder anyone with hearing loss would hesitate to admit and wear a hearing aid for the fear of looking old. Moreover, wearing a hearing aid will make more and more people know about one’s disability which so far was not visible or gone unnoticed.
The first most noticed fear is that society will tag the person ‘deaf’ and the social interactions will be restricted to a small group of people.
One will not appear young and will be at times ignored for not being able to effectively participate in various interactions, social gatherings, events, or meetings in noisy or group settings. Even within the family, there have been instances where a person with hearing loss feels ignored or many times not presented before the guests by the family. Gradual isolation, shyness, depression, and loss of self-confidence often become a part of one’s personality. Most of the time, underestimation of hearing loss by an individual, and low trust in the effectiveness of hearing aid also add to the already long list of reasons, for not using a hearing aid.
A persistent negative stigma keeps a hearing disabled person away from wearing a hearing aid. The general perception of hearing loss as being “old” cognitively poor, poor communication partners, uninteresting activities, and engagements keep reluctant to wear hearing aids. To avoid a perceived embarrassment, making disability visible or becoming the center of backhanded humor, discussion among peers also becomes a part of social stigma. Not wearing a hearing aid disconnects you from the world and then depression, dementia, and aging come faster than anything. It's important to remember that the impact of any verbal comment or the fear of it, is far smaller than the significant health risk that comes along, with not wearing the right hearing aid at the right time.
Perception of the Financial Burden
Many hearing aids especially the ones that go behind the ear, could be quite easily visible because of their size. This may ward off many people from wearing a hearing aid. The ones which are small in size or are fitted inside the ear/ canal are usually high cost and not suitable for all ear canals and many types of hearing losses. Coupled with social stigma, financial burden mars the buying decision in a large percentage of people needing hearing help. Many times, unrealistic expectation, poor awareness of technology, poor counseling, and availability, and lack of positive advocacy from current hearing aids users brings low confidence in buying a hearing aid.
Depending on the lifestyle of the person a hearing aid might need a few visits to an audiologist for reprogramming or fine-tuning. Not to be ignored the truth that in India small towns and villages don’t have a hearing aid clinic or audiologist and the cost of traveling to the city is cumbersome. Reachability to remote areas with good quality low budget hearing aids should be of utmost priority to manufacturers. Now India has its make-in India brand hearing aids of good quality which through many governments and privately run organizations, are benefitting hearing-impaired persons.
All said and done lots of effort and awareness have to be generated in this section. Like the optical industry, where wearing spectacle is no more a stigma rather has become a style statement, this invisible disability will also be adapted and the use of hearing aid may not be a stigma in years to come. Hope for the best for every human!