22 January 2009

Hearing impaired people still stigmatized

Hearing loss is still perceived as an old people's affliction, even though data from around the world say something else. The misperception makes it socially hard to cope with hearing impairment, not least in the workplace.

The 2008 annual report from the national Swedish association of hearing impaired people, Hörselskadades Riksförbund, HRF, supports the perception that hearing problems are still stigmatizing. Among those perpetuating the stigma are the hearing impaired people, themselves, who are likely to be in denial about their condition. Often, their attitude is that they just have a bit of trouble hearing, whereas only old people suffer from actual hearing loss.

According to the report, two in every three Swedes with hearing loss have had no contact with authorities who could help them. About half of this group with hearing impairment has been affected by their hearing loss for more than ten years. Many hearing impaired people avoid talking openly about their hearing problem because they are fearful of other people's reaction.

Problems in the workplace

The problems with respect to openness about one’s hearing loss are evident in the workplace, as well. According to the report, two hearing impaired people in three have never talked openly at work about their hearing problems. In the private sector as many as 70 percent of people with hearing loss keep their problem to themselves.

Conversely, the HRF report pointed out that the workplaces do little to assist potentially hearing impaired employees. Hearing problems rarely figure prominently in work environment evaluations. Regular or compulsory hearing screenings among employees are uncommon. The report found that the contributions to the development of greater hearing loss awareness are needed from many parties, if those with hearing loss are to avoid suffering socially from their hearing problems.

Source: HRF Ã…rsrapport 2008,


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