Hearing loss still the butt of jokes

Photo credit: Neil Moralee licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Dr. Daniel Fink has raised the question about whether hearing loss is an “inevitable part of aging.”  He makes the argument that a lifetime of noise exposure contributes significantly to poorer hearing in one’s later years. Thus, people who are careful to protect themselves from noise exposure during their earlier years should expect “good hearing” when they are older.

But whatever the reason for hearing loss later in life–I suffer hearing loss in my right ear because I developed an acoustic neuroma in my later years–it should never be acceptable to make fun of older people who do not hear well. Thus, one can understand Shari Eberts anger when she heard dialogue in “And Just Like That…,” which revisits the “Sex and the City” crew many years later, that described the now older Steve’s personality in “an outdated punchline about his inability to hear what’s going on around him.”

Shari Eberts tells readers that she started wearing hearing aids in her mid-20s. She also lets her readers know that her father, who wore hearing aids, was ashamed of his hearing loss, and he most likely passed his stigma on to her. But she overcame this stigma and says she was able to “live better because of my hearing devices.” Long and short, hearing loss can be experienced by younger people and they should attend to their hearing loss immediately.

Eberts also lets us know that David Eisenberg, the actor who plays Steve, wears hearing aids. While this was viewed as a positive, she asks why the writers portrayed the older Steve as they did, in a “negative and unrealistic view of people with hearing loss.”

While “And Just Like That…” considers itself woke in that one character’s daughter has a “fluid gender identity” and the main characters now have “new friendships with a plethora of diverse characters,” Eberts wonders why they still treated a disability with disrespect.

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