Lipreading Mom has a love-hate relationship with wearing ponytails. I love them because they keep my hair out of my mouth when I’m eating. I love them because they keep my face, neck, and shoulders cool in the mid-July humidity.
I hate ponytails because I have a square-shaped face that looks like a box without flowing hair to soften it. I once hated ponytails because they revealed my behind-the-ear hearing aids to the whole world. How embarrassed I became at people’s double-takes at my aids, how vulnerable at showing this much of myself, how… exposed.
Today I know better. It’s 95 degrees with a heat index of 110, and I have to love my ponytail. My hearing aids sit proudly behind my ears, my hair bunched up and twisted into a rubber band. To attempt to engage in a conversation with my kids, husband, or neighbors in the heat of the day without said ponytail and aids would be a disaster. To engage in friendly banter with the bank teller, store cashier, or any person on the street would be a struggle without my exposed, unaided ears.
For the record, I like my hair. I like it a whole lot more than my squarish face and flawed ears. For the first few years after my hearing loss diagnosis, that hair hid my hearing aids and boxy chin. I wore it long and in my face. It was my mask. No one would stare twice at my hearing aids if they couldn’t see them. Long hair combed over my ears was the style of choice in winter, fall, spring, and the hottest days of summer.
If I had to wear a ponytail back then, the hearing aids came out. I didn’t want them to ever be seen by anyone but me.
The same people who couldn’t see my hearing aids and didn’t know I couldn’t hear well may have wondered why I didn’t answer their questions. If they couldn’t see the aids, they may have assumed I was rude, prude, or just plain stupid. They had every right to since they didn’t know what only I knew. (I can’t hear well.) They couldn’t see what only I could see (hearing aids).
Living with my mask of hair was usually easy. I did it almost every day for six years. But sometimes that mask was too much work to maintain; the thick hair to brush and style just so-so, to carefully hide any hint of ear. Wearing the same hairstyle year after year became boring. And uncomfortable when eating or being out in the wind and attempting to enjoy a hot July day. Awkward. Difficult. Confusing. Wrong.
Finally one day, I decided to pull my hair up, put my hearing aids on, and walk outside. Here I am, World, take a look.
Lipreading Mom has learned to love what she used to hate. With hearing loss, being exposed is better than hiding.
Take a look: I’m the one with the shaggy ponytail, box-square face and exposed hearing aids. Do you think I’m beautiful?