THE BLOG
07/08/2016 01:09 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2017

It Is Time To Stop Shaming People With Hearing Loss

It is time to stop humiliating people with hearing loss. Radar Online's recent headline said, "Photo Shocker: Caitlyn Jenner Caught Wearing Hearing Aid." The photo showed a close up of Caitlyn's ear with a hearing aid mold located in the middle as if we were viewing a crime scene. Did Caitlyn Jenner shoplift? Did she brutalize someone in a smack down? No, her offense was that she simply wore a hearing aid.

The UK's Daily Mail's headline exclaimed, "She's listening! Caitlyn Jenner, 66, wears hearing aid while showcasing fit figure in skinny jeans while out and about in Malibu." This headline implies that a person with hearing loss must be old, yet here is Jenner in "skinny jeans," which are apparently not intended for someone who is about 66 years old.

The UK's The Telegraph was shocked that Prince Phillip would possibly leave his home with a hearing aid in October 2014: "Hear, hear to the Duke of Edinburgh for going out with his new aid." But then in August 2015, The Telegraph -- which must have received an earful from readers with hearing loss --proclaimed, "We need to have more sympathy for those with hearing loss ... We must be more tolerant of those going deaf as they grow older, says Alan Titchmarsh." People with hearing loss do not want sympathy -- they want access to hear, including inexpensive quality hearing aids and hearing induction loops. Hearing loss requires equal access, just like the other protected classes based on gender, religion, sexual orientation, race, and disability.

There is a misperception that hearing loss is primarily experienced by older adults. Perez Hilton pronounced in "Jodie Needs Some Aid" that, "the actress is turning 46 this November and she's already being spotted wearing a hearing aid ... Is she really just getting old or did she have some sort of accident?" However, the majority of people with hearing loss are under the age of 65. One in five teens now has some degree of hearing loss, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. Would Perez Hilton (who is gay) tolerate trashing gay people? Then why are people with hearing loss fair game?

It is time for the media to stop shaming people with hearing loss. It takes an average seven years from the time someone thinks they need a hearing aid until they obtain one. One of the reasons? The stigma associated with hearing loss prevents people from obtaining the assistance they need.

As Congressman John Lewis once told me, in order to effect change, "Make people uncomfortable." It is time the public made the media uncomfortable for humiliating people who wear hearing aids. We cannot eradicate the stigma associated with hearing loss until the media stops calling people out for wearing hearing aids. Media, do you "hear" me?