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No Hearing Loss Stigma for Us! An Advocate's Perspective

Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein

In honor of World Hearing Day (3/3/24), CHC presents a series of posts on the topic of hearing loss and stigma—perspectives by CHC professionals, a hearing access advocate, and a CHC client to help us better understand misconceptions and inspire positive change.

Hearing Loss Isn't Something I Hide

Headshot of hearing access ambassador Ruth Bernstein smiling outdoors
Ruth Bernstein, Hearing Access Ambassador

Merriam Webster defines stigma as “a set of negative and unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something." 

Fortunately, I do not believe having a hearing loss is a negative, something I should hide or that slows me down. It is part of who I am—advocate, writer, artist, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend.

I want people to know having a hearing loss is not an impediment to life. That’s why I wore rabbit ears at the 2015 Disability Pride Parade.

It's About Support

am fortunate to have a strong support network, which has included my M.A. clinical practice supervisor when I was a student speech therapist at Teachers College/Columbia, where I was diagnosed with a hearing loss; a hearing aid dealer in NJ, who saw me through a very difficult period in my life when my hearing fluctuated wildly; and, for the past forty-five years, the staff at CHC, which has supported all my hearing loss needs. 

Embrace Problem Solving

Ruth at the 2015 Disability Pride Parade

I have always felt that if there was a way to solve a problem, I would use it. Right now, I’m using a walker because my balance is off. I don’t love, it but I’m not willing to risk falling because I’m going to my grandson‘s wedding in Israel on June 7th.

Josh Gendel, CHC's assistive technology expert from the 1970s to the 2010s, kept me communicating, giving me my first FM device and keeping me in the necessary equipment over the years. At one point, he gave me a mic on a wire that plugged directly into my hearing aid. I loved it and used it in noisy situations. I would point the mic at a person and say, “You’re on CNN,” and then explain what the mic was about. I was at a party with my sister, who hid her hearing loss. She came running over to me with a horrified look on her face and said, “What are you doing? Everyone will know you have a hearing loss.” My response: “I can hear.”

It's Okay to Ask for Help

If you have trouble hearing, people may think you are "old, stupid, uncooperative, lacking a sense of humor” and other upsetting things. That is not true! We are people with many skills. One of them is to ask for help in improving our communication abilities by using hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive devices and all the exciting technology that is now available on smart phones, computers and other devices. The Center for Hearing and Communication and HLAA-NYC are good resources for finding the assistance you need (e.g., assistive listening technology).

Take Pride in Your Accomplishments

I’m grateful you are reading this blog because it means you are interested in learning about hearing loss stigma. You don’t have to advertise your hearing loss like I do. Just look at your own life and realize how well you cope and how much you accomplish every day. 

Take pride in your accomplishments. I hope you will share them with me at Thank you.

Ruth D. Bernstein Hearing Access Ambassador

World Hearing Day Blog Series

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