By Indi / Lipreading Mom Guest Blogger
Did you know that over half of the people who need hearing aids don’t wear them? There are several factors that contribute to that – the expense, having hearing aids that aren’t adjusted correctly, uncomfortable ear molds issues, denial about hearing loss, etc. But one of the common reasons why people don’t wear their hearing aids is that they feel embarrassed and self conscious about them.
There is still a lot of stigma attached to hearing loss and wearing hearing aids. Think about it—how many ads for hearing aids have you seen that point out how the hearing aid is so small no one has to know you’re wearing it? Why does it matter if anyone can see it? The message is that hearing loss is something to hide, something to be ashamed of. You don’t want to wear your hearing loss for all the world to see – people will treat you differently.
That’s certainly how I felt when I got my first set of hearing aids. I felt self-conscious about them. I was still trying so hard to deny that I had hearing loss at all that wearing these big instruments felt like a big neon sign – something is different about me. Something is wrong.
It didn’t help that the hearing aids were not adjusted as well to my hearing loss as they should have been. Usually, when you get a new set of hearing aids, you go through several fittings to get the settings adjusted to your hearing needs. It’s a process. It takes time, and patience, and time to learn to process the way the world sounds through the new instruments. I didn’t know this. I had my first fitting, and off I went… and certain sounds were painful. Others were distorted. And they felt like giant stigmas attached to my head. So… I didn’t wear them, most of the time. And when I did wear them, I tried to keep them inconspicuous. (Then they were eaten by a cat, but that’s a different story).
As I’ve slowly come to accept my deafness, and myself, I stopped feeling embarrassed about my hearing aids.
Really, they’re just high-tech versions of my glasses. I am a whole, perfectly imperfect person, and now I celebrate my ears.
I was told that these are the last set of hearing aids I will be able to wear, so I decided to have fun with them. When my audiologist told me I was getting Oticon Safari SPs (Super Power), I pictured them in tiny red capes, doing good deeds. I opted for bright purple, to feel like I’d added some of my personality to them. I claimed them as part of myself. And now, I wear them with pride. They’re my SuperPower gadgets, and I’m the most awkward deaf ninja you’ll ever meet.
Do you wear your ears with pride?
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I love her “cochlea” jewelry too!
Me too, Denise. 🙂
I was so determined – desperate, even – to be able to hear that I didn’t care what anyone else thought about my hearing aid (or aids when I tried bicross). I’m sort of an iconoclast, though – the one who would wear an elegant purple blazer to a federal court instead of a black jacket. Hey, judges remember me.
That being said, I remember lots of folks, particularly older folks, being embarrassed about wearing hearing aids. Now I see people of all ages with CI’s in their skulls and hearing aids on their ears and they do not seem the least bit put off about it. They’re grocery shopping and getting tattoos and getting their ears pierced and … whatever. Life is better for us.
I’d like to think that society is changing. I’d like to think more folks can accept that hearing loss happens. I’m as open about my hearing loss and communication needs as I am about other non-standard parts of my life. It is part of who I am and others need to get a grip and understand.
I considered bright colors, but really – no one ever noticed my aids to begin with – not unless I took them out and waved them in their faces.
Good for you, Marsha. I agree that society is changing.
I am happy to see it. I had to fight too hard and too long as a HoH young person to get a decent education. I had teachers in college refuse to face me and speak (I quit the class and threw a hissy fit in the Dean of Student’s office), so I was all about anything that made life better for me. Now I’m looking at ASL as the thing that, in the final analysis, is going to make life better for me. I think everyone should learn it in grade school. JMO.
In my job, I encounter quite a bit of people wearing hearing aids for the first time, and I hear their reasons being that they don’t know how to really use them, and with that said, I think they just need to take the time to get used to them. In my line of work, it’s phones for those with hearing loss, and I notice that some take the hearing aids off, and I will ask them why they do this, and they say that it is not programmed right to work with the phones and a variety of reasons. There are just several of reasons that I have heard coming from different people with hearing loss. Everyone is different. I feel like with my CI, I have come to a point that it seems like I don’t struggle as much as I did with the hearing aid as I do admit I hear much more and much better with the CI. I hated being on the phones with my hearing aids since the feedback was awful, and I had to turn down the hearing aid, and then I could not hear on the phone, and it defeated the whole purpose of talking on the phone and I could not hear who I was talking to by the time I got everything adjusted. I never could find a cell phone that did not buzz with my hearing aid and just gave up and just texted all my conversations. I could not go bluetooth because I still got that background buzzing and could not hear which was still bothersome. Finally, when I went the cochlear implant route, when I lost the rest of my hearing, a whole new world was opened, that I found no more feedback and was able to gain my phone confidence back! I now can hold the cell phone up to my CI processor without any type of feedback and talk for a long period of time without going through a neckloop etc. Crazy how things ended up. I share my story with my hearing aid friends and acquaintances that I meet that are struggling with their hearing aids and tell them they just need to communicate with their audiologists and try to find the right settings for all situations.
Julie – Thank you for your insight. I can understand about the compatibility issues of hearing aids with phones. Personally, I also prefer texting. Blessings to you.
I do need them, but I cannot afford almost $4000.00 for two of them. I did do what you said and called your audiologist in Olathe and never heard back.
Gloria – I encourage you to please give Hometown Hearing (Brent) a call again. He may have been out of town and didn’t get your message. Blessings to you.
Costco has one of the best values around and a quality product too.
After working in the field of hearing loss/deafness/Deaf for 30 years, I’ve come to the conclusion, that its more than just vanity. I wholeheartedly believe that many of the problems lay in the programming of the aids. A combination of poor programming and the wearer’s expectations of the length of time it takes to acclimate to the aids, as well as, the hearing impaired individual’s age are some of the reasons one out of three hearing aids land up in the night time dresser, never to be worn.
Pearl – Those are excellent points. An audiologist should work with the hearing aid user for as long as it takes to make sure the HAs work and feel as comfortable as possible.
Between my love for technology and my love for antique technology, I’ve done some research into hearing aids gone by. I’m here to tell you – you don’t know how good you’ve got it. The earliest ones weighed in at about 2 pounds, were black and you had to hold the ear piece up to your head like a phone. In fact, that’s basically what they were. Phones for Deaf people. At one point, I sent Shanna a picture of one. Or maybe I posted it on my site. Anyway…
David – Thanks for the insight. We do have it so much better than the earliest hearing aid users. What a blessing technology is!
Oh, on the subject, Beethoven used to wear a massive metal collar while at the newly invented Piano-Forte so he could hear what he was composing. It focused the sound, so he could make out the notes. Think about that for a moment. Arguably the greatest composer music has ever known, was deaf (small “d”).
In my experience they don’t wear hearing aids because they don’t want to hear. At least that’s the case for my husband!
That is common, Noelle.
I wore mine with pride but two things happened. One…I ended up being allergic to the plastic molding. Not good. Made my ear canal swell terribly. Then my hearing worsened in ability to distinguish sounds that they really didn’t help much. I could tell there was sound there, but not understand it. So between the pain and the worsening conditions, I stopped wearing them.
CountryMom – I can only imagine how that must have felt. Thank you for telling about your experience.
awkward deaf ninja, love it!
Me too! 🙂
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Lipreading Mom – I have nominated your blog for the “One Lovely Blog” award! See my post here:
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I don’t wear my hearing aids, not because I also wear glasses and find it uncomfortable they keep slipping and my glasses don’t fit properly, I am unable to afford to go private and have to struggle in my work place it is embarrassing having to ask people to repeat them self’s all the time. I was not given any choice by the provider
Ruby – Your experience is shared by other readers. Hearing aid choices are important and necessary. Thank you for commenting.
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