In our previous article about overcoming the stigma of hearing loss, we examined why a stigma exists around hearing loss. For this second installment of our three-part series, let’s turn to the issue of normalizing through advocacy of what is one of the most prevalent disabilities in the United States.
What is advocacy? You’ve probably heard the saying that knowledge is power. When you take action to foster understanding and compassion for people with hearing loss (or any other marginalization), you are empowering others to see this as a widespread issue that affects most, if not all, of us directly or indirectly. Here are some things you can do to actively diminish the stigma of hearing loss.
Advocacy for Your Hearing Health Care
The best advocate for hearing health care is you. It takes being honest with yourself and admitting that it is okay that you have hearing loss. Know that you have resources and technology that are here to help you with your hearing loss journey.
Own your hearing loss! You must also be open and honest with those around you by setting expectations and not feeling guilty about asking for accommodations when possible. That can go a long way in making everyone aware and comfortable with your hearing loss. This can also mean that you learn as much as you can about hearing loss and teach others. Knowledge is key in removing fear.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Advocating for hearing protection can be just as important as advocating for hearing loss itself. Teach others about the importance of protecting their hearing with easy tips like wearing ear protection in loud places, turning down the volume on headphones, asking about possible side effects of ototoxic medications, and not sticking anything smaller than your elbow in your ear. Get your hearing tested to establish your baseline and to figure out if you already have some degree of hearing loss.
Make Your Mark
Wear your tech with pride! Another thing you can do is turn your hearing loss/hearing aids into a fashion statement like glasses have become. Some companies are making beautiful ornaments to adorn ears, bringing beauty and fashion to your hearing devices like glasses do for eyesight. You can also get most hearing aids in a variety of colors, allowing you to customize your look — maybe in support of your favorite sports team.
Have hearing aids or a cochlear implant? To remove any negative perception people may have, let people know what they do for you. People are often unfamiliar with them and tend to fear the unknown, rather than being actively opposed. When you consider how many people walk around all day with wireless earbuds or Bluetooth devices in their ears connected to their smartphones — some even with blinking lights to attract a gaze from others — wearing technology with pride is certainly not out of place.
Ask for Help
Also, ask for accommodations when outside of the home. If you come across a business that does not provide adequate accommodations, politely request they be made. You may receive pushback because they don’t offer what you are requesting — not because they have bad intentions, rather they might not know how to handle a situation because it did not occur to them there was a problem. In that case, work with them and provide solutions and options that would help you and other people with hearing loss in the future.
Your advocacy will create waves beyond what you know. Many places — like movie theaters or other locations where hearing the activity is paramount — already have accommodations ready for people with hearing loss. They might offer an induction loop system that can be accessed by a device the facility will let you use; in some cases, the system may connect directly to your hearing aid or hearing aid accessory that you are already using.
Hearing loss is a serious subject but that doesn’t mean you can’t use humor to diffuse a tense situation. Tell someone the funniest thing you have ever misheard or poke fun to lighten the mood.
Every time hearing loss is openly discussed, the stigma begins to diminish, and the bigger the stage, the more that becomes true. When celebrities with hearing loss are open about their struggles and triumphs, it opens the door for more people to become comfortable talking about their own hearing loss stories. Recently, Lou Ferrigno, best known for his role as the Incredible Hulk from the 70s and 80s, got a cochlear implant and said in an interview, “The biggest change for me since my cochlear implant is that I have more confidence.”
From Advocacy to Equitable Treatment
So, what happens if you do everything above and people still combat your advocacy? Here are some excellent tips for helping combat any negativity associated with your advocacy. Remember, fighting for equality was never met with open arms by those from whom equality is demanded.
In our final installment in this “Overcoming the Stigma of Hearing Loss” series, we explore the importance of hearing health care and take a peek at promising technology.
CaptionCall is Here to Help
CaptionCall does more than provide captioned telephone service; we offer knowledge and community through our website. We also provide true no-cost captioning service so you can read and hear what your caller is saying. This service is available to anyone with hearing loss that needs captions to use the phone effectively. If you are on the go all the time and are eligible for the service, you should try the CaptionCall Mobile app on your Apple and Android devices. If a smartphone is not your thing, you have the wonderful home phone option delivered directly to you by one of our amazing trainers who will sit down with you and teach you how to use it. They can answer any questions you have, and our round-the-clock customer support team can help you any time after that if you run into any more questions.