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The Stigma of Hearing Aids and Other Such Stigmas

I have been spending time in the hospital these past days – not as a patient but rather the advocate for my husband as he grapples with might be a reaction to medication. Lots of different people have come to visit – a good thing as it was a visual for my husband to affirm the fact that he has friends.

Also what has come to my attention is the number of unconscious stigmas different areas of our society have. For instance, the hearing aid. It is okay for a young child to have a hearing aid to assist them in hearing but it is not okay (especially if you are the person who is asked to wear one) for an older person to wear one. Apparently it is a sign of old age and is not to be tolerated.

It is okay for a person with muscle problems or a disease that affects their gait to use a cane but it is not okay for an older person to use a cane to navigate icy and dangerous walkways.

Many of these stigmas spring from ignorance and pride and a misunderstanding of old age.

The list could go on and on and tacked onto every item is the stigma of getting old.
And this dangerous stigma impacts heavily on whether an older person seeks treatment for depression or whether they hide the fact, claiming that everything is okay.

Depression at any age is an illness. It doesn’t mean something is lacking in the person. It doesn’t mean that you should be able to handle it yourself. Much like the hearing aid, the cane and other things that people use to make their quality of life better, dealing with depression at any age means that the illness will be treated and hopefully cured or brought under control.

Someone who visited reflected this weekend that young people who get cancer or another illness see it as something to be dealt with and to be gotten out of the way so they can get on with their lives. On the other hand, they said, old people who get sick just see it as something to be endured and, all too often, die from.

We need to erase the stigma of old age. We need to erase the stigma of depression. Awareness to the fact that we create these unconscious stigmas should help, but aging people themselves have to become aware of the fact of the valuable and needed contributions they can make to the world, making the necessary adjustments so that is possible.

And even more importantly, the rest of society has to recognize the wisdom and wealth of those older people regardless of the canes and the hearing aids….and the depression.

– Bernadette

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