Hearing aids have come a long way from the boring beige of years ago. They’ve become as fashionable as eyeglasses. When I ordered new hearing aids, this time, I went all out. Blue, pink, and aqua.
You see, I spent the first 19 years of my life hiding the single hearing aid I had in my right ear. I disliked, (very intensely, okay, let’s call it hated) the piece of plastic that blasted sounds into my head. Back then, hearing aids merely amplified sound and it was very difficult to get a customized fit according to one’s hearing needs. As a result, I often ended up with headaches. The throbbing pain, combined with the stress of hiding the contraption, created some not-very-fond memories of growing up hard of hearing.
When I became deaf at 19, I had a major paradigm shift. I woke up one morning and decided to stop hiding and start embracing, instead. So for the first time, I put my hair in a ponytail, slapped on the hearing aid, and went on with life.
It wasn’t easy. I had spent a lifetime fitting in instead of standing out. I had to learn to become comfortable with people looking at the hearing aid and asking questions. Slowly, but surely, the paradigm shifted to the point where I no longer cared who stared at my ears or my signing.
Then a beautiful thing happened. I started CELEBRATING the shift.
I was excited when I went in to get fitted for my new hearing aids, but I really didn’t expect much. My hearing was so far down on the charts that I mostly used the hearing aids for environmental sounds and to help me lipread. The audiologist, Solange Anderson, who is from Switzerland also had hearing aids and could sign. It was such a treat to have an audiologist who understood all aspects of being deaf/hard of hearing.
“I have to warn you, sometimes people become very emotional when they hear new sounds,” she said.
Yeah right, I thought. I’m so deaf that I doubt I can hear much that is new.
The first thing that startled me was my own voice. I sounded different. Solange did some tests to see if I could understand the difference between “s” and “sh.” I could actually pick those out. I couldn’t remember the last time I heard an “s” sound.
Solange introduced me to the Roger Pen. It’s a personalized, wireless microphone that transmits sound directly into the hearing aids. It looks like an ordinary, elegant pen. You can stick it in the pocket of someone you’re talking to and their voice will go directly into the hearing aids. You can put it on the table in a conference room and it will pick up the voices of people who are speaking.
But what really blew me away was the music.
Solange played John Denver’s “The Gift You Are,” one of my favorite songs. Then she played another favorite, Collin Raye’s “In This Life.”
Silly me, I reached for the tissues.
Today, we often see deaf and hard of hearing children with colorful hearing aids and cochlear implants. The hearing industry has come a long way with design and color choices. We now have the ability to completely customize hearing devices with SkinIt.
Yet, according to Hearing Health Foundation, we’ve got 50 million people out there who are deaf and hard of hearing. One in five teens. One in five adults. Noise-induced hearing loss is on the rise. It’s the 2nd most prevalent health issue globally.
Why don’t we see more color perched on the ears?
Because the stigma still exists. People want to hide it.
For many people, hearing loss creeps in often unnoticed. In fact, family and friends are often the first to notice when someone isn’t hearing like they used to. After all, if you’re losing your hearing, you don’t know what you miss!
So, if people in your life are telling you to get your hearing checked, it is time to listen. You can even screen your hearing online: Hearing Test. Today’s hearing aids have so many features–and they’re packed into even smaller devices than before. So if you’re not ready for pink, blue, and aqua hearing aids, you can choose the discreet options. Hey, if that’s what it takes for you begin to use technology in the ears, go for it.
Before I left, Solange reviewed all the settings and options (speech in noise, music, Roger Pen, phone, and mute) and how to use the Roger Pen with music, in the car, and at home.
“Does it make tea?” I jokingly asked Solange.