My hearing-loss journey began as a child, watching my father struggle with the stigma of his hearing loss. His hearing loss developed in early adulthood, an unwanted nuisance he inherited from his mother. I vaguely remember him wearing one hearing aid, and then two, and proceeding to grow his sideburns long over his ears to hide the evidence. This looked okay in the 1970s, but his sideburns stayed long his entire life, even as fashions changed. Despite my father’s severe hearing loss and his difficulty communicating in a variety of environments, hearing loss was an unmentionable topic in our household. His generation was not eager to highlight weaknesses, particularly the men. This led to awkward situations where I would observe him smiling and nodding to a conversation partner, but clearly not understanding what was said. Over the years, he retreated more and more into himself, preferring isolation to the possible embarrassment that could come from mishearing something. Nobody in my family knew what we needed to do to ease his burden and he never asked for any help. Looking back on it, I wish we had made more of an effort. I remember one family party where my father sat alone at a table with his back to the festivities. When I asked him why he was sitting all alone, he replied, “If someone wants to talk to me, they know where to find me.” At the time, I thought he was feeling shy or upset, but now that I have hearing loss, I know the real reason. He was probably exhausted from all the listening effort and just couldn’t bring himself to bother any longer. When my own hearing difficulties began in my mid-20s in graduate school, I was distraught. Would I also lead a life of social isolation? My first trip to the audiologist was a relief—the verdict was mild hearing loss, but it was too early to treat—a perfect opportunity to deny and ignore my hearing issues, which I did for the typical seven to 10 years. Eventually my hearing loss worsened to the point where I began wearing hearing aids, but I hated them and wore them as little as possible. I was following in my father’s footsteps of shame and stigma. This content is an exclusive benefit for American Academy of Audiology members. If you're a member, log in and you'll get immediate access. Member Login If you're not yet a member, you'll be interested to know that joining not only gives you access to top-notch resources like this one, but also invitations to member-only events, inclusion in the member directory, participation in professional forums, and access to patient resources, tools, and continuing education. Join today!