It’s an unfortunate reality that many children – and even adults – with hearing loss are the targets of bullying. Whether they’re made fun of for not being able to hear well or because they wear hearing aids, bullying is a problem that many with hearing loss regularly encounter. But it is by no means something we need to accept. As October is National Bullying Prevention Month, now’s the time to speak out against bullying and find ways to stop it.
Why bullying happens
Bullies may pick on other kids with hearing loss to feel better about themselves, to gain a sense of control, or because they think it will make them more popular. And bullying isn’t limited to schools. Adults can be bullied by co-workers and overlooked for promotions due to their hearing challenges.
One of the main causes of bullying is a lack of understanding of those who are different. Someone who has trouble hearing may stand out if they frequently ask people to repeat themselves or don’t respond to verbal prompts. Even people who wear hearing aids to help with those issues may be targeted because of the devices in or behind their ears.
The impacts of bullying
Some of the side effects of hearing loss include social isolation and depression. When people are bullied or purposely left out of social gatherings and conversations because of their condition, those feelings can be amplified. Meanwhile, the longstanding effects of bullying include the following:
- Self-esteem issues
- Changes in sleep and eating patterns
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
These effects can be prevented by combating bullying whenever we see it. It’s certainly in everyone’s best interests to do whatever we can to increase understanding and acceptance of those with hearing loss and hearing aid wearers.
How to prevent bullying
If ignorance is the main reason for bullying, raising awareness at both the community and individual levels is critical. Schools and companies can provide education about the effects of bullying and how it impacts the emotional wellbeing of those with hearing loss. These institutions should also encourage a better understanding of hearing challenges and how they impact many people on a daily basis—including the fact that anyone could someday experience hearing difficulties themselves due to noise-induced hearing loss, the aging process, or other factors. To further prevent bullying and discrimination, leaders should establish defined rules against bullying and clear repercussions for such actions.
Kids and adults with hearing loss should also be encouraged to serve as their own advocates and report incidents of bullying or discrimination. While it may be difficult to come forward, ignoring such occurrences only empowers the bully and makes them think what they’re doing is okay.
It is important to note that you needn’t have hearing loss or even know someone who does to take a stand. Anyone can play a role. Check out the National Bullying Prevention Center for resources and ideas on what you can do to raise awareness and prevent bullying in your community throughout October – and all year long.