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?