I sat in my audiologist’s office, thumbing through the catalog he had just handed to me. We had just decided to move on to new hearing aids and I was trying to pick a style. Technology sure has come a long way, I thought as I viewed my selection.
I didn’t have these kinds of options when I was growing up. Some of my deaf and hard of hearing peers at my elementary school opted for bright or sparkly ear molds but I was never brave enough to join their ranks. Beige hearing aids and clear ear molds suited me just fine, blending in to my dark blonde hair and fair skin. As I got older, I wore my hair down so I could cover my ears, too shy – and at times, too embarrassed – for anyone to see that my ears weren’t like theirs.
I didn’t like to stand out or feel “different.” I wanted so badly to be just like everyone else and as far as I was concerned, my hearing aids were ruining those plans. I tried to hide my ears, to pretend I wasn’t hard of hearing, to blend into the background. Back in the audiologist’s office, my fears overwhelmed me and I chose beige once again.
I’ve had my not-so-new-anymore beige aids for over two and a half years now, but I wonder sometimes what it would be like if I’d chosen differently. Would electric blue hearing aids clash with my dark blonde hair? How would I look with red or purple or zebra stripes behind my ears? What if my ear molds were pink or orange or green? Would people look at me differently? What would colorful ears tell others about my personality? About my hearing loss?
Since then, I’ve decided I want to be the kind of person who would be brave enough to add some bling to my hearing aids. I’m less shy to speak up and ask for clarification. I’m quicker to explain my communication needs instead of clamming up. I know that my experiences as a hard of hearing person aren’t abnormal compared to everyone else’s – I just live a different version of normal. Don’t we all?
I wish now that I had I had chosen my hearing aid style more carefully. Not because I wear my hearing loss as a badge of honor or because I take pride in being hard of hearing. No, I wish I’d been bolder in my selection because over time, my hearing aids have become less of a sworn enemy and more of an old friend. Colorful ears would remind me, I think, that I’ve called a truce and made peace with my hearing loss. I can have fun with it now. It’s too late for me to get zebra-striped hearing aids, but what do you think? Can I pull off purple ear molds? 😉
How about you? Do you trick out your hearing aid(s) or cochlear implant? Do you hide them or show them off?
Show them off, definitely! If I have to wear something all the time–why should it be boring? I’d much rather wear something fun and stylish that reflects my personality.
I read an article by a young lady who was making jewelry to augment the hearing aids she wore. That activity grew into a business if my memory is correct. Below is a letter I wrote in support of her. I am sorry to say I did not send it. Perhaps she will see this.
Jan 28, 2011
I have been wearing hearing aids a long time and have noticed people could not tell that I am deaf. Many times my “hidden” hearing aids made conversation difficult.
Once when I was in the audiologists office I saw a chart with a choice of skin toned aids to select from and asked if I could get a bright red or green pair. He gave me the oddest look. I really think that people would like to know at first sight that I am wearing hearing aids and told the audiologist that making my hearing aids bright colored including the molds and tubing would alert people of my condition and make things proceed more smoothly.
Well, he had been dispensing aids longer than I have been using them and never had this conversation before, so of course I was nuts and everyone else wants their aids to be invisible. “Here is the skin tone that best suits you”.
I am a seventy year old man and I think invisible aids are not helpful in my every day life.
Hayleigh, what you are doing is a great idea. But at age seventy I am set in my ways and kind of frown on the idea of “me” wearing jewelry on my ears. But bright colored aids will be my next choice.
I just recently wrote this and wanted to share
Today after 14 years, I acquired new hearing aids. Why did it take so long to get new ones? Partly because I was too stubborn to actually update technology and give in to change. Growing up as a child to an adult, my parents would always get me new ones every 5 years. That was my reality. After my last purchase, my husband said to me, why fix what ain’t broke. Half heartedly I agreed. So i was bound and determined to keep my old hearing aids as long as i could. And I could still keep on going like the duracell bunny.
It was in the last year or so, I noticed that my hearing was not quite up to par as I remember it. Slowly but surely, the inpatience of my family to my repeated “what” questions became annoying to them. I knew that I needed new devices but…. What was the straw that broke the camels back you ask. Hubby wanted to take a trip to Hawaii. I thought about it and Hawaii is my favorite place in the whole world. I love to go there. The amount of money I would spend on a trip to paradise would almost cost if not more a set of new hearing aids. What would happen if I went to Hawaii and then luck would have it, the aids died. I would be in the financial hole and not a happy camper. I broke the news to my husband that while I would love to romance the beaches of Kauai with him and sip pina colada’s, I felt that this was the time to invest in me.
I wasn’t going to publicize the fact that I ordered these new hearing devices to my family but my excitement could not be contained. Many of you who know me, know that I don’t do things simple. I have to make a statement or “dare to be different”. I am not afraid to be different and I am not afraid to stand out. My nails every two weeks take on a different look, some colorful, some crazy, some cool and some well let’s just say it’s out there. So what is the reason for my excitement? I ordered my new devices in the color purple. Wow! I have had chocolate brown for 14 years and tan before that. I’ll never forget my mother in law, who i love dearly, asked me why I got brown hearing aids. I was kind of embarassed because brown is really ugly but I was told it matched my hair. In those days, you could get silver, tan, brown, black, and white. I promised myself that when i got new hearing devices, I was NOT going to get brown.
Why purple? Well purple has and always will be my favorite color. Next to black, I adore purple. My house is decorated in purple and black. Everything in my life is purple. Purple is a very calming color. Not like red which screams, “hey look at me” or yellow which causes one to want their sunglasses. Purple in every shade and hue is calming. Now one can order hearing devices in almost any color. Little kids who have to wear them, want colors. I know I am a 52 year old woman and not a kid anymore. But i had to have purple. It doesn’t matter to me what anyone else thinks. I have to wear these approx 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the next say 10 years minimum. Why not have some fun? Did I mention that I want to bling them as well. Bling is so “in” and I love anything that sparkles.
In order to bling them, I have to figure out a way to make a cover or casing that is removable. But i am getting way ahead of myself here. I am still in the first 24 hours of wearing these new devices. One of the beauties of technology is that anything is possible with hearing devices. Bluetooth enabled devices will allow me to seamlessly hear on the phone without having to hold a phone to my ear. I can even use my ipod or mp3 player without headphones. Are you hearing me? This is amazing. I still have a lot of fine tuning to do to these devices. They hook me and my girls(hearing devices) to a computer and can manipulate frequencies of sound specifically to each hearing device. According to my audiogram, I have a 75 to 80 decibel loss in both ears. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s pretty gruesome. I am sooooooooooo severly hearing disabled.
I was diagnosed with my disability at a young age of 3. I had the measles when I was 18 mos old and had a high fever. Even though I was born in 1959, the measles vacinnation developed in the same year, was not available to me. My mother suspected something was wrong when she entered my room and did not look up see where sound was coming from. If she asked me something and looked at me, I responded appropriately. Little did anyone know that I taught myself how to read lips. Wow, thats pretty intelligent for a small toddler to be able to do…Mom took me to the pediatrician and he asked me if I wanted a lollipop. I shook my head yes and he told her to take me home, there is nothing wrong with me. Mom didn’t listen to him and stuck to her instincts. Her little baby, me, had something wrong with my hearing. After a brief visit to John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, the diagosis confirmed my mother’s worse fears.
Jump fast forward, I am into the first few hours of wearing these purple ladies. While my head is spinning a bit, i can hear the air conditioner of my car roaring in my face. Then my engine sounds like a porsche even though i drive a toyota mini-van. Wow. The dogs bark and I feel like I am on a roller coaster ride going through a dark tunnel and everything echo’s. Oy. This is going to be hard. Now the true test comes when I answer the phone. Before I had to manually switch the devices to turn to a telecoil switch so that it would convert the magnetic field to that of the telephone. With my new ladies, i just put the phone up to my ear and it automatically converts the channel for me. This area still needs fine tuning. I can’t hear anyone on the other end and it might just as well be for the best. Do I really want to talk to people? Ha.
I am so aware of sounds in my home. I still cannot hear that stupid beep of the microwave when it’s finished cooking (high frequency sounds are not discernable). I went to take a look at my purple ladies in the mirror. To my horror, I saw that there was a flashing red light. OMG! I remembered what Cathy told me in her office, they flash so the teachers would know if the batteries were still working on their students hearing aids. Well jeez, I am not a student and I can change my own dead batteries. Then I thought, oh my God! I am going to the Synagogue tomorrow night to usher in our Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana. If I have these flashing red lights on my hearing aids, people are going to think I am wired like a bomb. Uh no! This is not going to go over well at all. I called Cathy at her office and told the receptionist that i had to come in and disable these lights asap.
Well fast forward, I disabled the alarming red lights, attended services and played around with the different settings. Directional sound or surround sound. When I selected surround sound, i could hear the people behind me talking. That was distracting. So I settled for directional to really hone in on the beautiful voice of our Cantor. It’s day 3 of wearing my new ladies and so far I haven’t taken them off and retrieved my old brown ones. I have to admit, I love the color. I will continue to blog on these in a few days. Bye for now.
I loved reading this story. It reminds me so much of my life and how i felt about my hearing aids. In high school i decided to face my fear and try something new and i went for colored hearing aids. They were Orange and blue (school colors) i liked them at first but then everyone would stare of course and ignorant kids that didn’t know better would ask if i had play doh stuck in my ears. i said never again would i choose to get colored ones i went back to beige and clear for the longest time. Just recently my husband convinced me that i should try colored ear molds and i chose pink and at first let me tell you i wasn’t so happy. i felt embarrassed because i knew i couldn’t hide it like i always tried doing my whole life. Eventually, i got over it and now i like my new pink hearing aids and i cant wait to get another color! i am thinking of the blue with glitter 🙂