The Bachelor Heard Our Call for More Inclusion: Addressing Hearing Aid Stigma
This week, ABC will introduce Gerry Turner to audiences around the world as the star of its upcoming reality show, The Golden Bachelor. A 71-year-old grandfather from Indiana, Turner is unlike most stars of the network’s popular show, The Bachelor – not just due to his age. Turner will also be the first to wear hearing aids proudly on the show.
We’re excited about this for a number of reasons. Most importantly, representation in the media could help to address an unfortunate barrier to people wearing hearing aids – hearing aid stigma.
Breaking down the stigma of wearing hearing aids
Nearly 40 million Americans have hearing loss, and unfortunately, only about 20% of those who would benefit from hearing aids have them.
Meanwhile, evidence shows that untreated hearing loss is tied to a number of health risks – from dementia to depression and social isolation to falls in the elderly. Outside of these risks, hearing loss can be devastating to one’s quality of life, making it difficult to hear and communicate with loved ones, coworkers, and just about everyone else in daily life.
With so many reasons to do something about your hearing loss, it’s very unfortunate that stigma poses a barrier for such a significant amount of the population with hearing loss.
One of the reasons hearing aids are stigmatized is due to a misconception that they are a sign of getting older, when in fact, people are losing their hearing at younger ages (according to the World Health Organization, nearly 50% of people aged 12-35 years – or 1.1 billion young people – are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds).
Perceived stigma for hearing aids also appears to impact men more than women. Some estimates suggest that by age 65, about one-third of men need hearing aids. However, only half of this group wears them.
Hearing better with hearing aids – something to be proud of
The good news is that recent actions like the over-the-counter hearing aid regulation are making hearing aids more accessible than ever. And the more people wear hearing aids, the more accepted they will become as part of everyday life.
Which brings us back to The Golden Bachelor. Just like the cultural moment when Mattel unveiled its first Barbie wearing hearing aids last year, representation on this show may help to further break down any stigma associated with hearing aids.
We hope this is a moment to demonstrate how hearing aids help people to hear and communicate well, and that they are life-changing devices to be worn proudly and enjoyed.