The Blog

The Stigma Behind 'Deafness Denial' - And Why It's Not an Age Issue

Apparently us Brits are in the grip of 'deafness denial' as four million of us refuse to admit that we're losing our hearing, despite the symptoms being loud and clear.

Apparently us Brits are in the grip of 'deafness denial' as four million of us refuse to admit that we're losing our hearing, despite the symptoms being loud and clear.

But why are we so reluctant to check out our hearing when we don't think twice about booking an eye test?

Stigma. Ah yes. Millions of Brits take between 10 to 15 years to face up to the facts because they're worried about the stigma attached to being hard of hearing and are 'too embarrassed' to wear a hearing aid.

Although hearing loss is usually associated with something that happens to you when you get old (also known as presbycusis), deafness actually affects a large number of young people too.

But with the stigma of hearing loss affecting a large proportion of the UK, 'young people with old ears' are less likely to come forward and admit to needing help.

I should know, I'm one of them.

I was born with hereditary nonsyndromic deafness and have around 30% hearing loss in each ear. My mother, her mother and all the women on my mother's side all suffer from a form of hearing loss - from mild to severe (my grandmother is completely deaf in one ear).

From a young age I've always suffered from low confidence in large crowds and loud social environments. Although a health expert visited me once in a blue moon when I was in school, I was never encouraged to talk about it with my peers or offered any kind of help other than being given a bulky hearing aid that was too big for my small ears, without any instruction on how to use it.

Once I hit my teens, with my previous experience indented, I kept my deafness close to my chest, and would laugh along with my friends when they (unwittingly) mocked me every time I said "pardon?". I also lost count of the amount of times I shied away from group meetings, days out and debates because I was terrified of not hearing the banter and discussion going on around me.

Only a close-knit group of friends knew about it and those who found out were surprised I "hid it so well."

However, despite my school, college and university being well-informed about my condition, the amount of times I was called "ignorant" and "lazy" was shocking and looking back on it now, it completely destroyed my confidence. I was sent out of the classroom once because I was "being ignorant" after not hearing a question fired at me by a teacher. I was also advised by a well-respected teacher that I should use my disability as a way of getting into university because apparently, that was "the only way I'd succeed."

Not the best way to boost a teenager's self-esteem before they hit the big, wide world, I'm sure you'll agree. Especially one who couldn't hear everything and already had a battered self-esteem...

Despite all this, I managed to succeed in my journey to become a writer, but this wasn't without its struggles. At my very first job, I plucked up the courage to tell my boss, after which, I was SPOKEN TO LIKE THIS with a slow, exaggerated lip sync each time I looked in her direction and experienced an eye-roll each time I said "pardon."

Although my current work colleagues are totally supportive of my hearing loss, the main struggle I experience nowadays is being taken seriously by my local audiology department. I was recently told to "persevere" and "deal with it" when I called them to discuss booking an appointment and rudely informed that I wasn't a "priority". Yes, I know, shocking eh?

This is why I support anything which helps tackle the stigma of deafness - especially among young people - because I've struggled with it most my life as people forget that hearing loss isn't something exclusive to elderly people, it affects younger people like myself too.