Survey Shows Hearing Loss Stigma Remains Alive and Well for Many

hearing aid stigma
Shari Eberts
June 25, 2024

Rumor has it that hearing loss stigma is on the decline. People say: Everyone is wearing things in their ears these days so wearing hearing aids is less of a big deal. Lots of people use captions on social media, even if they don’t have hearing issues. TV programs like the Bachelor series regularly include people with hearing loss and cochlear implants now. 

All these pieces of anecdotal evidence are terrific, and some of these activities will likely help reduce stigma over time, I hope. But new research shows that hearing loss stigma may be stickier than common wisdom dictates, especially in adults 55 and older, the group most likely to need hearing assistance.  

Survey Finds Just 12% of Adults over 55 Feel Confident about Public Hearing Aid Use

A new survey of 2,001 UK adults conducted by eargym showed many people continue to battle hearing loss stigma. When asked how they would feel about wearing hearing aids in public, one-third of respondents said they would feel “apprehensive” or “embarrassed.” Only 12% said they would feel “confident.”

When asked the same question about wearing glasses, the opposite trend was found, with 34% of adults feeling “confident” about wearing eyewear in public. Only 13% of adults felt “apprehensive” or “embarrassed.” 

Hearing loss stigma grows with age

The survey found that feelings of stigma about hearing loss and hearing aids vary with age. Younger adults aged 18-24 were less stigmatized, with 20% saying they would feel “confident” or “excited” about wearing hearing aids and 39% saying they would be “unaffected.” 

By contrast, only 12% of respondents aged 55+ said they would feel “confident” or “excited” about wearing hearing aids in public with a further 25% saying they were not sure how they would feel about it.

Given the increasing prevalence of hearing loss as people age, stigma may be a large factor preventing people who could benefit from hearing aids from using them. 

Similar age-based attitudes exist about captions 

An unrelated study by language learning app Preply looking at caption use found similar age trends, with captions most popular among younger generations. Gen Z (aged 10-25) were the most frequent users at 70%, followed by Millennials (aged 26-41) at 53%. Older respondents, such as Gen X (aged 42-57) and Baby Boomers (aged 58-67) were the groups least likely to use subtitles often at 38% and 35% respectively.

Is caption use related to hearing loss stigma too?

Will Attitudes Change as Cohorts Age?

What neither survey addresses is how feelings of stigma may change over time. As the 18-24-year-old respondents in the eargym survey age closer to needing hearing aids, will they remain as open to them?

Perhaps the answer is yes because they grew up wearing “things in their ears” and regularly using captioning. Or maybe proximity to reality will cause their excitement to wane. 

Only time will tell.   


Shari Eberts

Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss, (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with Shari: BlogFacebookLinkedInTwitter.

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