ASHA–YouGov National Poll: Most Adults With Communication Disorders Report Facing Stigmas

Association Stresses Simple Steps That the Public Can Take to Help Mitigate Stigmatization of People With Hearing, Speech, and Language Difficulties

May 1, 2024

[en Español]

A multimedia version of this press release is also available.

(Rockville, MD) Sixty-five percent of people ages 18 years and older with hearing, speech, and/or language disorders say that they encounter stigmas, according to a new national poll commissioned by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and conducted by YouGov. The results are being released as National Speech-Language-Hearing Month begins today.

The following experiences were among those reported by 65% of poll respondents:

  • feeling like an outcast and feeling judged
  • being viewed as less intelligent
  • left unrecognized for their achievements
  • being labeled, bullied, or treated with condescension

Conducted in late February, the poll had a sample size of 1,004 adults with hearing, speech, or language difficulties.

Millions of Americans have communication disorders. They include approximately 2 million who have aphasia, more than 3 million who stutter, and approximately 38 million who have some trouble hearing. Although these disorders can make communication more challenging, they do not reflect a person’s intelligence. Many people develop or acquire problems in adulthood for a variety of reasons—including stroke, brain injuries, neurodegenerative diseases, and/or as part of aging. ASHA chose to poll adults because information about the stigmatization that they experience is not as available as it is for children.

“It is most fitting that we spotlight stigmas associated with communication disorders for National Speech-Language-Hearing Month,” said ASHA President Tena L. McNamara, AuD, CCC-A/SLP. “Stigmas are completely unacceptable and generally the result of misinformation and misunderstanding. By listening and learning more, and challenging stereotypes, all of us can help create a more inclusive environment that elevates the quality of life for people with communication difficulties. According to the people we polled, giving them adequate time to communicate and not making assumptions about them—small but effective steps—would stand to improve their lives significantly.”

A 21-year-old poll respondent wrote, “I wish people knew that, in moments when my speech or language difficulties become apparent, understanding and patience mean a lot.” A 53-year-old person wanted people to understand “that I’m not stupid. I just have trouble hearing if more than one person is talking at the same time.” For another respondent, age 61, “every little bit of acknowledgment goes a long way.”

And the public can provide such help, the polling suggests—in numerous settings. More than 80% of the people polled said that their communication difficulties impact their lives; almost half reported that important relationships are being affected; and 67% reported the same for their daily interactions with people outside of immediate loved ones. Nearly 60% said that social gatherings and events can be stressful, and an equivalent number wished that other people were more willing to accommodate individuals with communication difficulties.

The poll results also indicate that more public education is needed about treatment options. More than half of those with hearing, speech, and/or language difficulties reported that they did not have enough information about treatment options.

“Educating the public is much needed,” ASHA President McNamara said, citing ASHA’s Myths About Stuttering toolkit as one example of an educational tool to use—as well as the efforts of a new coalition of organizations, including ASHA, that are working together to raise awareness about stuttering. McNamara strongly encourages visiting for information and resources like ProFind, a directory of certified audiologists and speech-language pathologists by geographic location.

For more information, read this full report [PDF] about the polling.

Polling Methodology: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,004 U.S. adults ages 18+ years with hearing, speech, and/or language difficulties. Fieldwork was undertaken between February 21 and February 26, 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of U.S. adults ages 18+ years with hearing, speech, and/or language difficulties.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 234,000 members, certificate holders, and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology assistants; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) identify, assess, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders.

About YouGov
YouGov is a global provider of analysis and data generated by research in over 40 markets. As online market research pioneers, YouGov’s data consistently outperforms others on accuracy, as concluded by Pew Research. YouGov’s custom research specialists conduct a full spectrum of quantitative and qualitative research, providing comprehensive market intelligence to the world’s leading businesses and institutions.

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