The stigma of hearing loss

Gerontologist. 2010 Feb;50(1):66-75. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnp107. Epub 2009 Jul 10.


Purpose: To explore dimensions of stigma experienced by older adults with hearing loss and those with whom they frequently communicate to target interventions promoting engagement and positive aging.

Design and methods: This longitudinal qualitative study conducted interviews over 1 year with dyads where one partner had hearing loss. Participants were naive to or had not worn hearing aids in the past year. Data were analyzed using grounded theory, constant comparative methodology.

Results: Perceived stigma emerged as influencing decision-making processes at multiple points along the experiential continuum of hearing loss, such as initial acceptance of hearing loss, whether to be tested, type of hearing aid selected, and when and where hearing aids were worn. Stigma was related to 3 interrelated experiences, alterations in self-perception, ageism, and vanity and was influenced by dyadic relationships and external societal forces, such as health and hearing professionals and media.

Implications: Findings are discussed in relation to theoretical perspectives regarding stigma and ageism and suggest the need to destigmatize hearing loss by promoting its assessment and treatment as well as emphasizing the importance of remaining actively engaged to support positive physical and cognitive functioning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hearing Aids*
  • Hearing Loss / psychology*
  • Hearing Loss / therapy
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Concept*
  • Stereotyping*