Why Don’t the Media Care About Hearing Loss?

The more I write about hearing loss issues, the more I realize that those in the media do not care. They don’t seem to view hearing loss as a serious issue. Or newsworthy. Or important. But those of us with hearing loss and those of us with friends and family with hearing loss know differently. Hearing loss may not be fatal, but it threatens your life — the quality of your life. And with 50 million Americans with hearing loss alone, it is an issue of grave importance to many.

I recently submitted an op-ed piece to The New York Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and USA Today. Not simultaneously, of course, because you can only submit an op-ed to one news outlet at a time. I thought that since May was Better Hearing and Speech month, the media might be interested in publicizing the stigma associated with hearing loss and how this stigma is preventing many from seeking treatment. I hoped that by discussing the stigma openly, there might be an opportunity to begin to break it. Unfortunately, not one of these influential media outlets was interested.

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Maybe my article was not well written, or controversial enough, or political enough, but I do believe the issue itself is important enough to warrant attention. I challenge the media outlets to take a look at the global health crisis of hearing loss. If they did, they would see that according to the World Health Organization, hearing loss is the second largest global health issue behind anemia. They would learn that in the US, more people have hearing loss than suffer from diabetes, Alzheimer’s, autism and osteoporosis combined. They would recognize the terrifying links between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Perhaps that would be an interesting story.

I think the media would be surprised to learn that hearing loss is not just an issue for the old. Given the ubiquitous presence of earbuds and iPods, 20% of teens now have some type of hearing loss. This data is from 2010 so the numbers are likely higher today. Hearing loss and tinnitus are also the #1 and #2 war wounds of our returning veterans. This is a serious issue, and one that should be getting more attention.

But why is the media so important? Isn’t it the scientists and doctors and legislators we really need on our side? We need them too, but the media is the fastest and most cost effective way to build awareness and reduce the stigma of hearing loss among the general population. With greater awareness and decreased stigma we could start to see changes like:

  • More people getting tested and treated for hearing loss
  • Services like hearing loops and closed captioning becoming more widespread
  • Hearing loss prevention included as an important part of health education for school-aged children
  • More research dollars allocated to finding treatments and cures for hearing loss

But none of this is possible without awareness of the issues, and for better or for worse, we need the media for that.

Readers, how can we help get the media to care about hearing loss?

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28 thoughts on “Why Don’t the Media Care About Hearing Loss?

  1. As one with severe hearing loss, I agree with you 100%.
    One of my major annoyances with TV is when in news broadcasts with multiple anchors all speaking at once. Another annoyance is when music interferes with the spoken word in TV.

    It is as if TV broadcasting caters only to those with good hearing and does not care about the rest of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just shared this on my Facebook page. I am so glad to see you mentioning this and attempting to get the media to pay attention. It’s terribly frustrating on so many levels. Captioning needs to be utilized more and needs to be accurate. I recently was on an airplane and they have announcements that have no captions. The only captioning was on the safety briefing. Of course, I was left out of the loop on information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heather, thanks. I almost missed a flight because I could not understand the announcement for the flight. When I purchased my ticket, and since I was traveling alone, I needed to assure myself that I would not miss my connection, so I stated that I was hearing impaired. It said “DEAF” on my ticket and boarding pass. No one seemed to notice. Maybe if I requested a wheelchair?? :-).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly. If I travel alone I have to befriend another traveler to be my ears for me. On this last flight I had my husband with me and I would look to him with questions in my eyes during announcements and he would say it wasn’t important. And only repeat the ones that I needed to know. I had to let go of my need to know every announcement but part of me really wanted to know what each said and I wanted to be the one to dismiss it if not important –not someone else screening it for me.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. There are many reasons:

    1) It’s hard to talk about hearing loss without pissing a lot of people off.

    If you take the view that deafness is a medical problem, you piss off people who identify with “Deaf culture.”

    If you take the view that deafness is not a medical problem but an identity, you piss off those that are not involved in Deaf culture.

    You cannot really hold both perspectives simultaneously, so you will always piss people off when writing about deafness.

    Since we live in such politically correct times and are so afraid to offend people, it is easier to remain silent.

    2) Hearing loss is a very complicated disability.

    It is really hard to do justice to the complexity of hearing loss in a newspaper article.

    3) Many people are not capable of understanding hearing loss because of its complexity. No point in writing about something if the readership cannot comprehend it.

    4) Hearing loss is a very scary problem to have. Most people don’t want to talk about it.

    5) Hearing loss is invisible, so it doesn’t capture the attention that a more visible medical issue would.

    6) There are no real solutions to hearing loss as of now. What solutions we have reduce the symptoms but still leave those affected with a bad quality of life. This doesn’t make for uplifting reading.

    Hearing loss will always have a stigma because of the reasons above. The only real solution is a biological cure such as what Stanford is working on.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I wonder if its to do with the complexity of hearing loss. The newspapers are very quick to publicize the good news stories. So for example the wonder of being able to hear following a cochlear implant. Often these articles focus on the positive stuff which is great but then it leaves the reader with the impression that hearing aids or CI cure everybody and they can hear like a normal person. Jo Milne is really well known , with massive YouTube hits and her book . she is a great positive role model and focuses very much on her strong attitude of not letting her hearing loss or ushers syndrome affect her life …she just gets on with it. Her story and she is inspirational but we are not all like Jo . My friends read her story and find it difficult to understand why I dont hear better , or get better HA or a CI and therein lies a difficulty of getting others to understand that the miracle of going from hearing nothing to hearing birds for example is only part of the story. Being able to hear conversation and being able to communicate …there are a lot of people with hearing loss stuck in the middle struggling every day. Their story tends to get lost as it us a difficult concept for people to understand.

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  5. The media are all about money. That being said, there is one avenue open to all of us: the letters to the editor page of your local and national papers. Most well written and considerate letters can be published. I read them – do you? Shari, I regret that your piece was not published. But keep trying. This is a growing problem that is only going to explode in this and the coming generations. Thoughtful focused statements about hearing loss will have to be heard.

    Funny that I never looked for a forum or support source on the web. “We” definitely have to LIVE WITH OUR HERING LOSS. It helps to hear about the journey others are having. I often get completely bummed out and frustrated trying to participate socially, as I have always done, and it translates for me as loneliness and powerlessness. That’s not fun. Thank you.

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  6. I think, as with most diseases, people have to be touched on some level to be interested or it has to be sensational. Major increases in donations follow when a larger number of people are affected (such as Alzheimers) or when someone famous is involved. Look at the interest in Derrick Coleman and some of THAT interest was generated because the Seahawks were winning. Putting a “face” on the issue gets more results.

    As I age, more people I know have some age-related loss so they have empathy with hearing loss issues and are more open to helping me hear them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Is membership in HLAA a helpful investment, in your opinion? Are there other resources available. Even I think it odd that though I have been in hearing aids since 1987 I am only now looking for support and information other than my audiologist office.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was a volunteer with HLAA awhile back. They are a dying organization – very outdated and inefficient.

      hearingtracker.com, Facebook Groups (there’s a group for just about any aspect of hearing loss you can imagine), and hearingaidforums.com provide more up-to-date (and free) information in my opinion.

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    • I was a volunteer with HLAA awhile back. I believe they are a dying organization – very outdated and inefficient.

      hearingtracker.com, Facebook Groups (there’s a group for just about any aspect of hearing loss you can imagine), and hearingaidforums.com provide more up-to-date (and free) information in my opinion.

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  8. I’ve been an editor in the deaf community for 35 years. I’ve had a number of op-ed essays printed, though usually in the local paper, not the national ones. I can think of several reasons your submission might not have been accepted — not timely enough, not focused enough, no news peg to hang it on. (I’m just guessing, having not seen your article.) Often if they want to do something on deafness, they would go after a big cheese to write it, like the president of Gallaudet or director of the NAD. I’d be glad to give your essay a look-see if you’d like some feedback.

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  9. Just found this and re-blogged it too – hope you find us and even better, join the CCAC – collaboration is our first name :-), Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning, #CaptiontheWorld, let’s make noise

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I just flew across country twice in 5 weeks. Severe storms altered flights in and out of Dallas-Ft. Worth. I wear hearing aids in both ears and due to a motor vehicle accident wear a walking boot on one foot and get wheelchair assistance in large airports. I didn’t hear the overhead announcements about cancelled or delayed flights and the gate personnel didn’t make local speaker announcements, which are usually too muffled to understand. To make matters worse, the screens at each gate showed outdated or no information at all. I spend much time plodding through the corridors in the walking boot looking and asking for information—it was exhausting. I wrote the airline about these frustrating experiences in hope of improving service to the many hearing impaired customers. In fairness to the airline employees dealing with the weather related confusion, I commend them for putting up with the huddled masses in an unavoidable situation, and hope all airlines continue to make improvements to there protocols on behalf of the ever growing population of hearing impaired customers.

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