By Janice S. Lintz
South Africa’s Freedom Charter was adopted in 1955. The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990. The United Kingdom followed five years later with the Disability Discrimination Act. Yet where are all the great leaders championing access for people with hearing loss?
Nelson Mandela wore hearing aids but he is only known for overcoming apartheid in South Africa. Malala Yousafzai wears a cochlear implant, but she never mentions it when she speaks about educating girls. Academy Award Winner and actress Jodi Foster stood up at the Oscars to declare she was a lesbian but never mentioned that she wears a hearing aid despite its prominence in a Daily Mail photograph.
There are 360 million people worldwide with some form of hearing loss. How can an issue be so pervasive but with no recognizable role models or leaders? There are great advocates within the insular hearing loss community but no person who captivates the world.
Why are people willing to discuss their race, religion, gender, age and sexual orientation but unwilling to discuss their hearing loss? Is hearing loss so stigmatized that we have created what Dr. Julie Gurner, a leadership consultant, calls a “culture of shame”? She explains: “Prominent figures hide their hearing loss so perhaps other people feel maybe they should hide theirs as well.” The press ridiculed Prince Philip when he was first seen wearing hearing aids.