The hearing aid diaries

The+hearing+aid+diaries

Photo taken by Editor-in-Chief Jordan Meaker

 1 out of 3 people over age 65 have some degree of hearing loss. (source)

Okay, but what about the other people, you know, from ages 1-64? Why do hearing aids immediately become associated with the elderly? It’s a nuisance, to have to have people asking you when you are going to go deaf, because of how early on your hearing-loss started. Anyone who has ever had bad eyesight knows the annoying interaction of:

“Whoa you have glasses/contacts? Wait can you see me? How many fingers am I holding up?”

– and they can understand the immense restraint one needs in order to not slap that person square in the face. Well, being a young person with a hearing aid, the same interaction happens, but the annoyance level is generally ten-fold. It usually goes something like this:

 

 

Me: *Hearing aid runs out of battery at an inconvenient time*

*Has to remove hearing aid in front of someone who hasn’t seen it before, and try to nonchalantly change the battery*

Person: Whoa what is that? Is that a hearing aid? I’ve only seen old people with those.

Me: *already not in the mood* Uh yeah it is, and a lot more younger people have them than you think.

Person: Huh, that’s pretty cool. So can you like not hear when you take it out? Can you even understand me right now, do I sound really quiet?

Me: Oh no that’s not how it works its not a volume –

Person: *whispers* Do you know what I’m saying? – What about now? *gets louder* How about now?

Me: No it doesn’t work like that, it’s more of an idea of pitch and frequency. So if some noise is high pitched and quiet, like a whisper, I can’t hear it. Certain high and quiet beeping noises I can’t hear either, if it was louder I probably could, just not as well as you. If there’s a lot of background noise in any situation, but especially the one I was just saying, the same issue happens. So this doesn’t just turn up the volume, it finds the lacking areas of pitch and frequency and aids those.

Person: Wow that’s pretty cool.

Me: *smiles awkwardly to both end the conversation swiftly, and also because not being able to hear is nowhere near ‘cool’*

 

 

Now if anyone reading this is that person, don’t feel bad. It is not your fault, it’s not like they teach a class on the proper way to respond in this situation. My advice is to simply think for a little bit before you engage in this conversation, if you are considerate; the person with a hearing aid will be happy someone finds them fascinating and is interested in learning.

I still understand that even I, a hearing impaired person, don’t have all the information and experience to be an expert in the subject. But let me tell you my story.

I’ve had hearing loss for as long as I can remember. I’ve been having hearing tests since I was four years old. It runs in my family on my dad’s side, but he has never gotten a hearing aid of any kind. I have Sensorineural hearing loss, which is explained here:

Sensorineural hearing loss results from missing or damaged sensory cells (hair cells) in the cochlea and is usually permanent. Also known as ‘nerve deafness,’ sensorineural hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe or profound.”

For the longest time my family believed that it wasn’t substantial enough to need any correction, but by 5th grade, it appeared that I should have a hearing aid for both ears. I decided against it at that time, because I was at my prime of awkward, with heavy-duty braces, glasses, a terrible fashion sense, and some dandruff.

So I waited. Until my 8th grade year, but I didn’t get two, only one. I have a hearing aid in my right ear, which is the most damaged.

The transition did take longer than I expected, because I never relatively understood how much I was missing.

As a teenager, the adjustment was odd – I will not lie about that. It was initially harder to have both a hearing aid and glasses over my ear, mostly because of the thickness of my frames. Having to fit both over my right ear made the hearing aid more noticeable, especially when I pulled my hair up with a tie.

Hearing Aid Styles

I have a dark brown colored Non-Wireless Open Fit RIC BTE. The wire and inner dome is clear, but the larger end is dark brown to match my hair, which I highly advise anyone to do, especially if their hair does fall over their ears.

Things did turn around with the issue of comfort, especially when I got contacts my freshman year. It became more integrated into my daily life, and my friends didn’t have much of a reaction anymore when I would have to change the battery, or if they noticed that I had one. It became easy to see that the small discomforts were greatly worth the ability to hear so much more.

The greatest moments became when I listened to live music. Music in general has led the way to where I am today, a huge theatre geek with an obsession of music. I think the first time I went to church after I got the hearing aid made me cry. I can’t explain the sensation to anyone else, because no one really has the same exact level of hearing loss as I do. For years when I was weighing the thought of getting a hearing aid, I had always assumed everything would just be louder. What happened was that music became much more full and round, and it carried such a drive and power that I was never able to truly understand and experience until I got my hearing aid.

Another time I was brought to tears was about a year after first getting my hearing aid. I was a little freshman in my first musical production with Lambert, and it included a live orchestra. The music composed for the show, Little Women, is already stunning in itself. However, when the cast did their first musical run through with the live orchestra, the string instruments were what I could only say was closest to perfection.

It is moments like those that made me step back and understand how beautiful gift such a simple sense is. It is moments like those that make me feel extremely thankful that my hearing loss is not severe enough that I would never get to experience music. Music has been my heartbeat ever since I was a child, and sometimes I do sit back and think about how life would be different if I could never hear it.

Call it survivor’s guilt, if you will. But it has given me the motivation not only to be thankful for what I have, but also to hopefully learn sign language during my years in college. It is not only a valuable business skill, but more importantly, it creates greater accessibility to those who do not have the ability to hear. I feel like society today has built a great divide between the hearing and non-hearing. I never seem to see any non-hearing people out and about, and why is that? Even the simplest tasks become difficult, and it creates less of a want to go out and enjoy things that any person should be allowed to enjoy.

If anyone reading this is on the fence about getting a hearing aid, please do it. Do it for the people who will never get the chance to hear the music that you will. Do it for the birds that will be happy that you can hear their songs. Do it for the whispers of your family telling you they love you. Do it for yourself.

Read more about hearing loss, and the little stories that make this world feel like a better place:

Hearing loss among kids and teens

Hearing aids improve memory, speech

Man’s tattoo supporting deaf daughter goes viral

Starbucks barista’s good deed for deaf customer goes viral

Watch one of my favorite videos of all time, a woman who was born deaf gets cochlear implants at age 29, and is hearing for the first time. This is the first of these videos I ever watched, and I sometimes look back to make myself smile and remember how lucky I am as a person.

Watch here!