How To Combat The Stigma of Hearing Loss

Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” It often arises from external forces like prejudices, stereotypes or societal norms, but it can also come from inside ourselves — perhaps as we internalize the negative perceptions of others or suffer from a generalized fear of being different from the norm.

Stigma surrounding hearing loss can make us afraid to admit that we have trouble hearing. The shame and embarrassment of stigma drives us to behave in unproductive and unhealthy ways, like neglecting to ask friends and family to use communication best practices or refusing to seek out the professional assistance we need. It may lead us to avoid socializing or prevent us from applying for a deserved promotion. Over time, these behaviors can lead to isolation, depression, and a plethora of health problems.

We must nip hearing loss stigma in the bud. But how?

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How A Gratitude Journal Helps Me Manage My Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be frustrating and annoying, but what if expressing gratitude for the positive aspects of life could help offset some of those negative feelings? In my latest post for Hearing Tracker, I share my experiences using a gratitude journal to help manage my hearing loss. See an excerpt from the piece below. To read the full article click here

Living with hearing loss can be incredibly frustrating. You might miss the joke at a social gathering and stand staring while everyone else laughs or you may try to enjoy a dinner out at a restaurant, but the background noise blocks out the voices you want to hear. Sometimes your friends and family are supportive, but other times they wave off your requests for a repeat with the dreaded “never mind.” Your hearing aids are wonderful in certain situations, but not in all. There can be a lot to complain about.

But what if expressing gratitude for the positive aspects of our life could help deflect some of the frustrations we live with every day because of our hearing issues? Many research studies suggest that gratitude can help enrich your life through increased patience, better sleep, improved health, higher self-esteem and more resilience. And the benefits are long-lasting. It seemed worth a try.

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Hearing Loss: When Dinner is a Disaster

Someone at the end of the table was telling a funny story. Someone else jumped in to add a related comment or share an anecdote. Interrupting was the norm. As was covering mouths with hands when speaking. The pace was rapid fire. The background noise was incessant. But nobody seemed to mind. There were smiles and laughter and joy — a celebration of the camaraderie and interconnection of the group as each person enjoyed this special connection with new friends.

Except for me. I was at the other end of the table, too far from the speaker to get in on the action and too overwhelmed with the pace of the overlapping chatter to even try. In the moment, I felt isolated and alone, but strangely, also gratitude. I realized how lucky I am that I spend most of my time in the land of well-trained conversation partners. I vowed to try to remember that feeling the next time my family and friends forgot to talk so I could hear them.

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Communication Tips For All From Someone With Hearing Loss

I attended my first Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Board meeting a few months ago. It was exciting to learn about all the important initiatives that are underway and fun to spend time with other people with hearing loss. Before I left home, I wondered how it would be possible for 14 people, all with varying degrees of hearing loss, to hold an effective board meeting, but I was amazed how smoothly the communication flowed. In fact, it was one of the most respectful and productive meetings I have ever attended — and I have attended a lot of meetings. It made me realize how much those of us with hearing loss can teach our hearing friends about communication.

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