Hearing loss is sometimes referred to as an “invisible disability,” because it’s not always obvious when people have hearing loss, and it’s not often talked about. Studies show that only 1 in 5 people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one, and on average, people with hearing loss wait almost 10 years before they do something about it. Why? Sometime’s it’s related to cost, but other times it has to do with the stigma that hearing loss carries. People might associate hearing loss with getting old or don’t want to wear hearing aids because there are ugly.
There are a lot of misconceptions that people have about hearing loss. I think it’s important to be open about hearing loss and how it can affect people’s lives, both positively and negatively. Help break down the stigma of hearing loss!
Here are 10 misconceptions about hearing loss that you should know:
Deaf people cannot drive
Deaf people can totally drive! They just need to be more cautious of their surroundings. It’s all about visuals. (I’ve recently booked my first driving lesson, and I look forward to sharing my experiences on Open Ears soon!)
Sign language is one universal language
Sign Language is as diverse as spoken languages. Each country has one or more sign language, you may be surprised that there are about 130 different ones!
Deaf people are good lip-readers
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Lip-reading is difficult, and not always accurate. Depending on how long someone has had hearing aids, or how well they can hear, some people lip read better than others. There are so many different lip-shapes and patterns, most of it is just guesswork. This is why Deaf people appreciate gestures, clues or signs to indicate the subject! It also doesn’t help lip-reading if people have accents, beards or moustaches!
Hearing loss only affects the older generation
I don’t know why people think this! Maybe because the only ‘deaf’ person they know of is their grandparents? Well, obviously this is a myth! I’m 19 and I’m profoundly deaf. Some people are born with a hearing loss, others lose it later in life. Hearing loss can affect people of all ages.
Deaf people only listen to someone when they feel like it
Due to concentration fatigue, people with hearing loss might not always have the energy to lip-read or focus on their hearing, especially if there’s background noise. If you feel like we’re ignoring you, perhaps we didn’t hear! In this case, get our attention before speaking as we might not have heard you! Try these 7 things you can do to communicate effectively with someone who has hearing loss.
Hearing aids instantly make you hear
Unlike glasses that can instantly correct your sight, people with hearing loss can’t just pop in a hearing aid and instantly hear! Depending on the level of someone’s hearing loss, hearing aids vary on power, and often need some fine tuning by the audiologist or hearing care professional to create the best listening features in each users’s technology. While hearing aids can make a big difference in one’s hearing ability, it’s not the same as someone with “normal” hearing.
Deafness is hereditary
Deafness is not always hereditary. Personally, nobody in my family is deaf. I’ll likely never know the cause of my deafness. My boyfriend, on the other hand, contracted Meningitis when he was young and lost his hearing as a result. Read more about possible causes of hearing loss.
If you talk louder, deaf people can hear
I once heard somebody compare this misconception to the body being like a microphone. Have you ever heard anybody talk into a broken microphone? It would sound quite loud with plenty of distortion. What’s the point? No matter how loud you talk, if a person has severe enough hearing loss they won’t understand you. That’s what hearing aids are for; make sounds like voices sound clearer and limit sounds like background noise. If you talk louder, it just sounds like you’re shouting at us!
Hearing loss can be repaired by medicine or surgery
Currently, there is no “cure” for hearing loss, but there are studies and research around this topic. For some people with severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant surgery may help them hear better, but when it comes to repairing hearing loss through medication or non-implant surgery, it’s still an open topic. Maybe in the future there will be a new discovery, who knows?
Hearing aids are big and unsightly
Hearing aids no longer mean wearing big, bulgy, beige hearing aids! Hearing technology now comes in all shapes, sizes and colors! Some are classed as ‘invisible‘! I used to have purple Phonak hearing aids, now I have turquoise Phonak Sky Q hearing aids, I think they look awesome!
If you’ve got a favorite misconception that wasn’t mentioned, or an experience with one – please share with us in the comments below!
Ellen Parfitt, is an 19-year-old typical, but not ordinary, teenager. She was born profoundly deaf, but it hasn’t prevented her from achieving major accomplishments in her life, such as finishing her education, scoring an marketing apprenticeship, and working as a lifeguard, Avon Representative and Girlguide Leader. She is passionate about deaf awareness and campaigning. In her free time, she runs her jewelry and gifts business with her mum.
You can follow her here on Open Ears on a regular basis, or on her personal blog, Day in the Life of a Deafie and on Twitter @deafieblogger.