“Sex and the City” was one of my favorite shows when it first came out, so I was looking forward to its “And Just Like That…” revival series. It was an incredible disappointment in so many ways, including its stereotypical and negative portrayal. hearing aids and hearing loss.
I’m referring, of course, to Steve, a lovable character from the original series whose whole personality seems to have been reduced to an outdated punchline about his inability to hear what’s going on around him. For a show that aims to celebrate the lives of people in their 50s, this was a huge faux pas.
Here’s the dialogue from the first time we see Steve, a hearing aid wearer, on screen:
“Steve-o, long, not seen. What’s up?”
“Hey, I have hearing aids. I’m an elder now.
Later in the scene, Stanford turns to Steve and says, “Steve, would you ever leave Miranda? Oh man.”
“What? What does he say?” is Steve’s answer.
And later, Miranda whispers to him during a performance, “Tell your son to stop.”
Guess it didn’t take the actor long to learn his lines.
As a hearing aid wearer, I’m angry. It took me decades to make peace with my own pair. I would hate this unattractive and inaccurate portrayal of living with hearing aids to stop anyone from adopting these life-enhancing devices.
I started using hearing aids in my mid-twenties, but my negative view of them started in childhood, watching my dad do whatever he could to hide his own pair under his hair. he had grown long over his ears for this purpose. Society and its portrayal of people with hearing loss as stupid and incompetent had taught him to be ashamed of his hearing loss. He did everything to hide it.
I remember family celebrations where he retired to a corner, sitting alone. As a child, I didn’t think much about it, but once I developed hearing loss, I understood why. He was probably having trouble hearing in the reverberant space and hearing badly or needing to ask for a rehearsal just wasn’t worth the risk of someone finding out about his well-kept secret.
My dad passed his stigma on to me, so when it was my turn to get hearing aids, I was terrified. Would my opinions now be taken less seriously at work? Would my friends reject the adjustments they had to make to communicate with me? Would I now be the one in the corner at parties hiding my devices behind my long hair?
I was for many years, until I met other hard of hearing people and learned that it didn’t have to be. Many people I met were successful businessmen, entrepreneurs, musicians, teachers – all living dynamic lives because of their hearing aids. This new vision of the world changed my life.
Soon I was wearing my hearing aids with pride, asking for repeats when needed, and living my hearing loss life out loud. It’s not always easy―hearing loss makes communication difficult and hearing aids don’t solve all hearing problems―but I live better with my hearing aids. They help me stay connected and engaged with the people and activities I love. I am very grateful to them.
“And just like that…” is updated in many ways. Recent episodes have celebrated Miranda’s gray hair, Charlotte’s daughter’s fluid gender identity, and new friendships for the main characters with a plethora of diverse characters. How about Modern Hearing Loss Treatment and Steve’s Hearing Aids? Why should hearing loss remain the punchline of the joke?
Spreading a negative view of hearing aids could deter viewers (many of whom are likely in the age bracket that will soon need them) from treating their hearing loss for fear of looking as dumb and out of touch as Steve does. with his.
This week, major entertainment publications reported that the idea of giving Steve’s character hearing aids was inspired by actor, David Eigenberg, who recently started using hearing aids in real life.
Great idea – art imitating life – but why did writers do it in an inauthentic and stereotypical way? By all accounts, the actor is very happy with his hearing aids. Why doesn’t Steve seem to have the same advantage?
Perhaps it has to do with the lingering stigma that still surrounds hearing loss. Stereotypes about people with hearing loss include being perceived as ‘old’, ‘slow’, ‘rude’ or ‘disconnected’ and ‘not worth the time it takes to communicate with them’.
In “And just like that…Steve embodies all of these qualities. Not hearing the question – check. You look confused and out of it – check. Being fired while unable to participate – check. Steve personifies everything we hope not to be.
It was this stereotypical treatment of hearing loss that kept my father from seeking the help he needed and kept me hidden in my own hearing closet for years. This prevents people from accepting their hearing loss and doing something about it.
Shame on the writers who propagate this negative and unrealistic view of people with hearing loss.
And just like that, I changed channels.
Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and an internationally acclaimed author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with hearing lossa popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of We hear you, an award-winning documentary about the experience of hearing loss. His book, Hear and Go Beyond: Living Skillfully with Hearing Loss (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.