Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stigma of Hearing Loss

After reading the article posted on Jamie Berke's blog about hearing loss stigma, I felt the need to add my own experience.

I think being late-deaf is a little like coping with finding out you have a life-long disease.  There's a process that needs to happen.  The beginning for me was marked by anger and self-pity.  That evolved to understanding and finally acceptance and integration of the condition as part of "me".  I cannot stress enough that my contact with my local Deaf community, and learning ASL has had an extremely high impact on this process, though.  I see, through others, that becoming Deaf is not something that is embarrassing or shameful.  I see the incredible intelligence amongst the community, and knowing my own intelligence and ability does not depend on my ability to hear others.

Through the process, I have come to prefer larger hearing aids because people can more easily understand  "why" I cannot understand what they're saying, and why they need to repeat themselves endlessly sometimes.  Vanity simply takes a back seat.  And I truly believe that when you show people intelligence and ability, ageism and prejudice can vanish as they realize that hearing has no bearing on either.

Like most of the medical community, hearing professionals simply do not understand the Deaf community, so they follow the marketing and accept the stigma about the very people they are trying to help.  They push the "invisible" hearing aids, and they talk about how much these new aids will help you function in society.  For people with mild losses, this is great and true, but the rest of us need to truly come to terms with reality.

In terms of overcoming stigma, I see some great advances in Hollywood, and we all can be our own best advocates by educating those around us.  If one in ten are D/HoH, then we all need to make sure we educate at least 9 people in our lives to work towards a brighter future.

1 comment:

Xpressive Handz said...

Great post! I, too, have the large, bulky over the ear hearing aids, but what I've found is that people assume I can HEAR and distinguish what I'm hearing because I'm wearing them. They are just what they are "aids". Imperfect they may be, I don't leave home without them.